The New York Times has an unbelievable story today about the seminary application process and the concentration on whether someone is homosexual or not. Here’s a snip with a few snarky comments of my own in parentheses.

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist at Catholic University who has screened seminarians and once headed a treatment center for abusive priests, said the screening could be “very intrusive.” (Ya think?) But he added, “We are looking for two basic qualities: the absence of pathology and the presence of health.” (Pathology, here, is defined as gay.)

To that end, most candidates are likely to be asked not only about past sexual activities but also about masturbation fantasies (OK, THAT’S going to be awkward), consumption of alcohol (Better search a lot of rectories, Catholic schools and homes first), relationships with parents and the causes of romantic breakups (Wow! So if she broke up with me because she didn’t think I was ambitious enough, would that be a negative?). All must take H.I.V. tests and complete written exams like the 567-question Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which screens for, among other things, depression, paranoia and gender confusion (good to know that they weed people out who have treatable mental illnesses too). In another test, candidates must submit sketches of anatomically correct human figures (I’d fail on this part alone. I can’t draw a straight (or gay) line WITH a ruler, never mind a penis or vagina).

In interviews by psychologists — who are usually selected because they are Catholic therapists with religious views matching those of the local church leadership (What a surprise!) — candidates are also likely to be asked about their strategies for managing sexual desire.

“Do you take cold showers? (Only in Nicaragua and Miami)Do you take long runs? (Not if I can help it! And not since the last time the cops were chasing me.)” said Dr. Plante, describing a typical barrage of questions intended both to gather information and to let screeners assess the candidate’s poise and self-awareness — or to observe the tics and eye-avoidance that may signal something else.

Yeah, because the creepy people asking these embarrassing questions will make candidates want to look you right in the eye. And if the candidate is able to answer in that manner –then good Lord, RUN FOR THE HILLS!

Harvard’s Mark D. Jordan hits the nail on the head later in the column:

“A criterion like this may not ensure that you are getting the best candidates,” said Mark D. Jordan, the R. R. Niebuhr professor at Harvard Divinity School, who has studied homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood. “Though it might get you people who lie or who are so confused they do not really know who they are.”

Bingo. And guess who those people are most likely to become?

Yep, you guessed it, PEDOPHILES.

Wake up, Bishops. You are STILL asleep at the switch. Perhaps the folks at the Dallas Charter might want to take some time to write a nice little op-ed here?

And since they haven’t answered that call, Fr Jim Martin has and has done so admirably here.

34 thoughts on “Seminary Application: Question #1: Are You Gay?”
  1. This makes me sick. Here I am, awash in theology of creation, that sin is separating from God and conversion is falling more deeply in love with God… and what is the question asked of seminarians?

    Are? You? Gay?


    Anything, and I do mean ANYTHING that points pedophile behavior towards homosexuality infuriates me. And I do mean infuriates me. I say this as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and one who has studied it as a path of healing.

    My abuser(s) were all heterosexual people with their choice of partners. My primary abuser lived in my own house.

    The conflation of gay and abuse is wrong, wrong, wrong and a most immature and thoughtless way of pursuit.

  2. Doesn’t look like there are any questions about Jesus, or conversion. Not that those are relevant, I suppose ….

  3. Via Facebook:

    From Matt Abid Sr

    “Mike i used to think I understood where you were going, but now I dont.

    To many that question seems unfair, but to be a priest, they do credit checks, background checks, talk with friends, and make sure your hands are missing and you have all your male parts.

    doesn’t being a priest mean answering tough questions, and being different?

    I dont think they are talking about overt discrimination, i think they are trying to protect our kids. Thats what everyone wanted after the scandal. Safer kids.”

  4. Via Facebook:

    From: David Dawson

    Point blank questions will only create liars. There are many methods on psych analysis tests that can answer that question without having to ask it directly.

  5. Of course, David. But are they really trying to find healthy individuals who are healthy? I don’t think so. They are convinced that gay men are the problem when in essence the problem is men who HIDE their sexuality DESPITE their sexual preference. It’s about integration–and people who can’t deal with themselves who HIDE their sexuality are the problem. This only encourages that behavior.

  6. Matt–

    This won’t give us safer kids. This will give us priests who aren’t integrated sexually because they are afraid of telling someone that they are really homosexual. These are the guys who are self-hating, the guys that claim straightness when secretly they are gay.

    Also, let’s say you get a guy who is kinda asexual. In other words he hasn’t really been into dating women and it didn’t seem like such a big deal to him. He didn’t date because he was simply uninterested. Maybe he wasn’t around anyone he was attracted to.

    But then on entering the seminary, his homosexuality comes to light–especially being around men only. What do you do then? Well, in this climate, he represses his sexuality and in the course of trying to integrate himself in a healthy way he never gets there and gets stunted sexually.

    Well that will eventually have to work itself out. And we all know how it will.

    Or the man who simply can’t deal with the fact that he is gay–and he represses that immensely. You can run from your sexuality but you can’t hide. If he simply isn’t comfortable with his sexuality, that’s not gonna work well and it might not come out in a psych exam. It could, of course. But I don’t think you’ll get most cases.

  7. I’m speechless. It’s only going to make things worse. Come to think of it, I don’t know any priests who can draw much beyond stick figures, either.

    Pray for the Church, I guess.

  8. Cool! St. Joseph’s or St. Ben’s? They’re both pretty cool. Then again I’ve yet to meet a Benedictine I didn’t like. 😉

  9. A certain young adult ministry that I know of asks that question first when screening new recruits to volunteer. I can’t imagine why the Church is in the shape it’s in.

  10. Via Facebook

    From David Dawson

    I discussed this issue with a priest the other day. His insight is that a lot of this stems from guys who entered in high school seminaries and he makes a valid point. As 13 year old boys in a seminary, everything they saw, read, or were exposed to was controlled…including their sexuality. They never got a chance to develope themselves or find out who they are. Fast forward 15-20, now they are in a parish. The young boys are where they are at sexually even though they are much older. In addition, these boys were readily accessible.
    I am not saying this is the answer, but I believe there is some truth to this. And notice how it seems most of the men who did this were formed in the years in which this type of education occurred. I am curious if any of the abusers have been younger, meaning currently in their 30s.

  11. Via Facebook

    from: Mary Cotter Naughton

    David, I agree with that priest. But although entering at 13 is no longer the norm, the gay witch hunt is evidence that lying and hiding the truth is still preferable to healthy sexual integration, whether gay or straight.

  12. Via Facebook from David Dawson ….and like I said before, this will all change with the late vocations that are occurring more frequently.

  13. Well…we pray and hope so David. But older pedophiles can hide just as effectively and older gay men who are well integrated can also serve the church well.

  14. Via Facebook

    From John Wilson

    Hi Mike,

    As a guy who’s going through the seminary application process right now, I can tell you you’re off base on this one. “Are you gay” was nowhere near the first question I was asked. Did it come up? Of course, along with a lot of other really personal stuff. I’m sort of mystified as to why you think that level of “intrusiveness” is inappropriate. I’m asking to enter into something with a level of commitment analogous to a marriage here. What honest and open couple at some point doesn’t have the “previous boyfriends/girlfriends” talk? And do you really think that the Church shouldn’t know whether a potential priest has a potential drinking problem? Based on the length and depth of the interactions I’ve had with my vocations director, I find it hard to believe that too many guys would be able to lie their way through the application process. You can fake a questionnaire, but it’s a lot harder to fake a detailed and coherent account of your spiritual journey — especially in the face of lots of difficult questions. It’s the ones without the integrity or capacity for self-reflection to face those questions that I would worry about entering the priesthood.

    I can’t say too much about how the application process goes for discerners who are gay, but if you get past the smoke and the spin, you’ll notice that the Times piece doesn’t, either. If you actually read the 2008 document that the Times says “clarifies” the Vatican’s position on gays in the seminaries, it’s hard to see how it does any such thing. It’s not even clear that it means the word “orientation” in the gay-vs.-straight sense. Sure, the reporter got the Brooklyn guy to say some strident things, but the sure tell that he’s either lazy or agenda-driven is that he didn’t even mention the public comments Archbishop Timothy Dolan made on this exact subject only a few months ago, which have the unfortunate consequence of making the Church sound far more reasonable.


    PS: When they had me draw the pictures, no gave me any indication that my figures should be anything other than fully clothed. Just FYI.

  15. John…I’m not saying that they shouldn’t delve into this. I’m saying they shouldn’t EXCLUDE properly and psychologically integrated people–hetero or homo sexual. In the same manner they shouldn’t exclude recovering alcoholics who have a handle on their addiction or people with mental illnesses who actually go to therapy and/or take prescribed meds.

    The way they have this set up is that being a homosexual becomes a litmus test that EXCLUDES people from ordination. That encourages people to lie and also encourages a continued pederasty–meaning people with a repressed homosexual attraction who can’t deal with that fact.

    Now all of this being said, most of those who abused children were people who entered a seminary before the psychological aspects were as strident as they are now in the formation process. My opinion is that it’s not the question or the delving into the personal sexuality of these men in formation that is the problem, but rather it’s the assumption on the part of the hierarchy (many of whom are gay themselves) that homosexuals are ineligible for ordination and the fact that these questions aren’t being given to assess the psycho-sexual health of the individual (which could be quite normal with a homosexual orientation and quite disturbing with a heterosexual one depending) but rather, to weed out gay candidates from straight ones.

    But your point, more journalistic in nature is valid about Archbishop Dolan’s comments.

  16. Via Facebook

    from Edith Figueroa

    Mike, this is a very sensitive subject indeed. However, I think you are comparing apples and oranges here.

    Someone that is homosexual is a psychologically disordered person. Just because the disorder was removed as a diagnostically billable and treatable procedure code doesn’t mean that it isn’t one. This was done some years back by a strong gay lobby.

    Yes people who have addictions and certain mental illness can manage to work and integrate into society with the proper medication and psychotherapy. Other times they cannot. Many times (especially with mental illness) the need for the medication and the psychotherapy is lifelong.

    However being a priest is a very special vocation you simply cannot compare that to another job or trade. The responsibilities and the ramifications of those responsibilities are incomparable to those of most other vocations. We need to start out with someone that is fit for duty. Many other professions/jobs require it, why not the priesthood?

  17. Via Facebook

    from Faith Howard

    How is a homosexual psychologically “disordered”? I don’t think a homosexual would be any more disordered than the average human.

  18. Edith,

    See here is where the crux of the argument really lies between the church hierarchy and many in modern culture and thanks for getting to the heart of it.

    I hardly think “a gay lobby” succeeded in getting the American Psychological Association and other Psych orgs worldwide to say that psychologically homosexuality is not considered a “disorder”. I’d like to see the proof there that is more than right-wing propaganda and features solid science.

    Most psychologists will also note that nobody is 100% straight or gay. That our sexual orientation is far more deeply profound than that. This is not a consensus yet of course but it’s certainly getting close to being so. While the church remains in dialogue with the psychological community and knows it’s science very well, we should be critical enough to understand two things: 1) The church is very slow to move on a scientific finding until there is wide consensus and 2) Homosexuality is a recent study in general among scientists, only really being examined over the past 50 years or so. So there is much for all sides to continue to explore and understand here.

    With regards to mental illness, my point is that it shouldn’t be an automatic dismissal in any vocation, profession, or way of life. Many people seek treatment and are fine and ALL mental illnesses are lifelong struggles that need constant attention. MOST people with mental illnesses do this and are fine and function well in society. SOME do not and they end up stealing headlines in the paper and making a bad name for those who take care of themselves. BTW–if we eliminated those who take meds or are in therapy from the fray then we’d have a lot of priestless Sundays. That doesn’t mean that we are carefree about this of course, each case needs to be examined critically. But none should be an automatic dismissal.

    That’s the main point: no AUTOMATIC dismissal because someone is gay, has mental illness, or even is a recovering addict or alcoholic. BTW, the church has been served by members of all three clubs for years and those who have taken care of their problems are not responsible for the tragic flaws of others who did not.

  19. Via Facebook

    from John Wilson


    Can you clarify a bit what you think the fruit of a Church-scientific community dialogue on the subject of homosexuality might be? I’m all in favor of the Church learning from science (like you said, it does this very well), but there’s also the idea out there that scientific discovery is eventually going to lead to some Copernican revolution in Church teaching on sexual morality — that some point the Church is going to say, “You know what, the scientists are telling us that gay sex isn’t sinful after all. Our bad.” This sort of perspective seems to be the zeitgeist in the “modern culture” you refer to.

    It also strikes me as remarkably silly. Psychology isn’t a hard science like geology; there are shrinks who would earnestly tell me I have some sort of sexual disorder because I’m contemplating a life of celibacy. This is where scientific judgments need to be filtered through the Catholic understanding of the human person: “Not as the world judges…” and all that. With sex, the core practical takeaway of authentic Church teaching — that sexual relations outside a marriage that’s open to the creation of life are against God’s plan — holds up remarkably well, and I don’t see how “science” assaults it.

    This is not to say that the Church can’t learn from science in some sense. The theory you cite that no one is 100% one way or the other is interesting to me — and would seem to shed new light on the Catholic belief that our sex lives are a product not just of our impulses, but also of our free will and reason. Like you, I’d be surprised if the APA’s de-listing of homosexuality was the result of some gay-lobby “conspiracy.” But I don’t think Edith’s wrong to treat the pronouncements of the “scientific community” on this issue with some suspicion.

  20. No-no John…that’s not my point about the dialogue per se (although Galileo didn’t live to see the church admit they were dead wrong about what he claimed, so your “our bad” comment indeed COULD one day have some merit–but that’s another story).

    My point here is that science could certainly dialogue with the church about the healthy side of gay men committed to celibacy. Can gay men be celibate and do they have a track record of doing so and what is their psychological health like?

    I like your point about marriage and psychology not being a “hard science”–which many psychiatrists might debate you on while psychologists may be closer to your view–but again, that’s another story .

    But let’s widen this a bit and look at the historical matters and more psychology:

    The psychological community informed the church horribly on those who were pedophiles and told that they could be reassigned and that it was OK for them to interact with children. Now was that because there wasn’t a clear psychological problem or because of a desire for the church to sweep it under the rug? In this case is the matter a “hard science” when it comes to pedophilia? With the response of “zero tolerance” it sure seems to be the case and the church has paid attention.

    Which leads to another point–most of the abusers when asked would have told people that they were straight men. Is that because they were hiding their gayness—or because they had a serious disorder that didn’t allow them to admit gayness. I would say that most would say the latter.

    If a man before the psychological tests were administered (pre-1972 or so) had been admitted that he was gay would he then have been allowed into the seminary? I don’t know the answer to that but my guess is that with the culture it didn’t even come up. So gay men would either lie outright or not bother applying is my guess. That creates a culture of secrecy–which only comes back to bite you.

    I do think there’s a lot that is NEW in our discoveries of our psycho-sexual makeup and perhaps the church is listening to this and applying this appropriately–but also perhaps discoveries may in fact lead the church to consider their teaching in the light of indisputable evidence that may in fact be more of a “hard science” than a soft one. While you weren’t questioned directly in this manner it seems to me that the Times story is suggesting otherwise with other candidates.

  21. Wow, rabble rousing at its finest. Look, the MAJORITY of so-called pedophilia abuse cases were not in fact cases of pedophilia. The majority of victims were teenage boys, which means you’re dealing with an offense that concerns teens undergoing or past puberty and so it no longer qualifies as pedophilia but a particular class of homosexuality.

    It is also ENTIRELY inappropriate for an open homosexual to be in the priesthood. What planet are you people from? Are you unaware of the Church’s position on homosexuality? It’s not an issue up for debate or democratic vote. And stop playing expert psychologists. Testing will not result in pedophiles accumulating in the churches. The previous crisis was a result of the laxity of the post-Vatican II Church and the sexual revolution along with preceding modernist garbage infiltrating the RCC. Read some of the encyclicals (such as Humane Vitae) instead of getting together in your lesbian “parish meetings”, talking about your feelings and singing Kumbayah. The smoke of Satan has indeed entered the Church. The solution isn’t pumping more filth in. The solution is to open the windows, seal the cracks, and kick out the man with the pipe.

    For the record, the Church distinguishes between homosexual activity and homosexual inclinations. The jury is still out on the later, no one knows the cause(s), but the former can be evaluated morally and objectively. It also follows that someone with homosexual inclinations is unsuitable for certain positions. Stop believing the lie that everyone is suited for everything. That’s just utter crap. One is not entitled to be in the priesthood. If the tests reveal a few false positives, that’s fine. It’s better to miss out on a few good cases instead of letting a few bad in. Some will make it through the cracks, no doubt, but don’t exaggerate by saying the test selects for psychopathic people. Use your brain. The incidence of psychopathic pedophiles is incredible low, even if they were somehow specifically attracted to the Church (which, frankly, is not likely, given the media exposure; why return to the scene of the crime). And to be frank, the rate of abuse in other institutions, such as public schools, other religious organizations that are not Catholic, etc, is the same or even higher. Have some perspective, for Christ’s sake.

    Furthermore, don’t invoke the name of Galileo. Not only does it show a profound ignorance of the history of science, but of the actual truth of the Galileo affair, a truth which is as far from the commonly held myth as you can imagine. Stop believing propaganda, start looking at reliable sources instead of reading garbage and believing it like a mindless soldier taking orders without question.

    1. Actually Bob the Butcher, (Can you make me a nice beef on weck?)

      The difference in question is between Ephebophilia, Hebephilia and pedophillia. I’ll explain.

      Pedophillia is a sexual attraction to CHILDREN…that’s people under the age of 10 or so.

      Ephebophilia is a sexual attraction to ADOLESCENTS–those 15-19 years old or so.

      And Hebephilia is an attraction to pre-pubescents. Those just about to reach sexual maturity. Say those at about the age of 11-13 or so.

      When someone is maturing and they get abused as a child their sexuality gets stunted. It literally cannot progress any further because of the abuse–not without help and even then it’s difficult. Damage was done, perhaps irreparable harm. This is what happens in Pedophillia when someone is abused as a child and Hebephilia when someone is abused as a pre-pubescent.

      The same thing can happen in Ephebophilia but also the teen age years, as we all know, is when we begin to discover ourselves sexually. For those with a homosexual orientation, this can be a difficult time obviously, especially when they are in a community that may berate them or tell them that their feelings are wrong. Many times, people just repress these urges–that doesn’t mean that they don’t act on their urges or participate in sexual behavior. What it means is that they don’t ADMIT to themselves that they have a same-sex attraction. Some guys might not even realize that they are attracted to other men, they just know they are not attracted to women. If they enter the seminary, they might even think that celibacy might not be a problem for them, but then when they are only around other men their homosexuality is discovered perhaps for the first time and they will need to integrate that in a healthy way–by “integrate” I mean admit that this is the case and identify as someone with a same-sex attraction and then decide how they are going to live–celibacy being the choice the church would ask them to make even if they didn’t pursue the priesthood.

      But for many, they don’t integrate. They repress. And then that’s when trouble happens because these feelings don’t go away no matter how hard you try to push them away. The result is that you become attracted to people of the same age as you were when you first noticed these feelings. Most of the time, that is when one is a teen. And therefore you have a great majority of gay men who claim straightness but who act out sexually with male teens.

      There are TONS of homosexual priests (some argue the majority) who live celibate lives and are integrated in a healthy way. The issue is integration of one’s sexuality or lack there of.

      The abused, abuse. That’s the bottom line.

  22. I was called by God many years ago to a vocation as a priest. But when I looked at what was going on in American seminaries, I realized I would never fit in. Now I am older, and God is still calling me. But I still wouldn’t fit in. For one thing, I realize that psychology is pseudoscience at best, and Satanic at worst. For another, I would never tell anyone anything about my sex life (or rather the lack thereof) outside of the confessional. But above all, I am a Christian, who believes in the Roman Catholic Church as it had existed for nearly 2000 years. I’m still a faithful Catholic and attend Mass. I just wish God would provide a seminary in which a “medieval throwback” like myself would feel at home. Because the modernist seminaries to me have the aura of the secular university or the corporation, not the aura of the Catholic faith.

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