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Issue Date:  March 10, 2006

Quebec priests criticize exclusion of gays


Nineteen priests in Quebec have signed a public letter charging that recent church statements on homosexuality, including a Vatican document on the admission of gays to the priesthood, have produced “perplexity and dissent.”

The letter was published in the Feb. 26 issue of La Presse, the leading French-language Montreal newspaper.

In addition to the Vatican document, the priests also cited recent interventions by the Canadian bishops in response to a measure legalizing gay marriage, saying both reminded them of the “prophets of doom” referred to by Pope John XXIII in his address opening the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Canada legalized gay marriage in 2005, a move leaders of many religious groups opposed.

“Not a paragraph, not a phrase in your memo takes into account the historical discrimination suffered by homosexual persons, and the tragedy of the exclusion deeply felt by many of them from both society and the church,” the priests said.

The priests quoted from an essay by the former master general of the Dominicans, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, in response to the Vatican document.

“I do not have any doubt that God calls homosexuals to the sacrament of Holy Orders,” Radcliffe wrote in a November issue of The Tablet. “We can suppose that God will continue to call homosexuals as much as heterosexuals to the priesthood, because the church needs the qualities of both.”

The 19 priests challenged assertions that homosexuality is contrary to natural law, asserting that “the human person never finishes searching for his or her true nature.”

“There is nothing ‘given’ about the human condition, only the bias of a specific culture -- something that does not cease to evolve in time,” they write.

Further, the priests said, church teaching has proven erroneous in the past, once maintaining that slavery was consistent with natural law.

The priests said they went public to tell Catholics who disagree with the church’s stance on homosexuality that they are not excommunicated, and to request a dialogue with church authorities on the subject.

There are roughly 13 million Catholics in Canada, about 43 percent of the population, and nearly half live in the French-speaking province of Quebec. In 2004, Quebec legalized gay marriage.

Canadian sources told NCR that the 19 priests are generally known in Quebec as liberal critics of church leaders on many issues.

“We do not want to go back to the 19th century. Ultramontanism had its time,” the priests wrote, referring to the movement for strong papal authority that led to the 1870 proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility.

John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2006

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