An interesting take on the Vatican through the lens of Italian law.
Although this is a difficult point for many Anglo-Saxons to grasp, when the Vatican makes statements like “no gays in the priesthood,” it doesn’t actually mean “no gays in the priesthood.” It means, “As a general rule, this is not a good idea, but we all know there will be exceptions.”
Understanding this distinction requires an appreciation of Italian concepts of law, which hold sway throughout the thought world of the Vatican. The law, according to such thinking, expresses an ideal. It describes a perfect state of affairs from which many people will inevitably fall short. This view is far removed from the typical Anglo-Saxon approach, which expects the law to dictate what people actually do.
Catholic cultures are based on the passionate quest for spiritual perfection, Dawson writes, unlike the “bourgeois” culture of the United States, which, shaped by Protestantism and based on practical reason, gives priority to economic concerns. As one senior Vatican official put it to me some time ago, “Law describes the way things would work if men were angels.”
This value system means that while Vatican officials often project a stern moral image on the public stage, in intimate settings they can be strikingly patient and understanding. Policymakers in the Vatican tend not to get as worked up as many Americans by the large numbers of Catholics in the developed world who flout church regulations on birth control, for example. It’s not that Vatican officials don’t believe in the regulations. Rather, they believe the very nature of an ideal is that many people will fail to realize it.
Of course, one can debate whether a ban on birth control, or on gays in seminaries, ought to be the ideal. The point is that although Vatican officials will never say so out loud, few actually expect those rules to be upheld in all cases.
We’ll see how this pans out when it comes to gay men in the church.
Amy Wellborn tosses in her non-sensical two cents as well:
Why is it considered unfair to expect priests and seminarians to live by the values of the institution they serve? Others may call it a purge, but I call it truth in advertising.
A seminary has a dual responsibility. It owes the future priest preparation for a life of sacrifice, unique witness and engagement with other human beings at moments of joy and pain in a society that has no respect for his vocation.
But a seminary also owes us, the people in the pews, psychologically mature priests who aren’t engaged in an eternal and ego-driven struggle with their own problems, who are prepared to serve, to teach and preach – with integrity and honesty.
But… I thought the whole Catholic view was that “gay is ok — unless you act on it”? Your average gay semarian isn’t acting on it any more than a straight one is. Where’s the false advertising? Where’s the lack of service and sacrifice? Perhaps this is what the previous author was talking about when he referenced American’s Protestant-based bourgy view on laws and rules.
At least Amy does us all a favor by being truthful — she views gays as psychologically immature egomaniacs who lack integriy and honesty.
p.s. I do love serving as your latest hobby, but I think it’s time to move on, pal.