ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has stressed that homosexuality should not automatically bar a candidate from the priesthood.
Speaking to The Tablet during a transatlantic conference of American and European bishops in Brussels last Friday, the archbishop said: “You don’t write off a candidate for the priesthood simply because he is a gay man.” Archbishop Martin said it was important that priests come to terms with their own sexual maturity and their orientation in order to ensure their celibate chastity. He reflected that in the past not enough attention was given to helping priests towards maturity in their own sexuality.
“We need to provide services of support for these priests and this will involve helping them along their personal journey and reassuring them,” said Archbishop Martin. “Priests at times live a very lonely existence and they have to find their own spirituality and contact with God and deepen that day by day.” Archbishop Martin expressed keen concern at the lack of vocations within the Irish Church. “This is the first year in the history of Dublin archdiocese that we haven’t ordained a priest, which is a major concern for me.
“A Christian community is built around the Eucharist and you can have no Eucharist if you don’t ordain priests.” He argued that in the long term, Catholic communities have to generate their own priests, and did not think importing priests from abroad was a viable solution.
However, he stressed that the shortage of priests shouldn’t lessen the quality and the formation in seminaries, saying that the level of maturity required to be a priest in today’s world was higher than before.
Referring to the clerical sex abuse crisis in Ireland, Archbishop Martin said the problem could not be fully resolved until it was established exactly what happened.
“You have to say that horrendous damage was done to people, and there can be no other response until that is established,” he said. “If you read statistics about sex abuse that’s one thing, but when you hear the stories that’s another.
“There’s no way you can spin that, the only thing to do is say that they were horrific. Then you need to take steps to ensure this will never happen again.” He emphasised, though, that paedophilia was a specific issue that needed to be dealt with carefully, and not subjected to witch hunts within the Church nor pinned down on to purely homosexual priests.
“It’s not a result of homosexuality, and nor is it a result of celibacy. We must address paedophilia for what it is. You cannot identify homosexuality with paedophilia. It’s a very specific thing and it must be addressed on a case-by-case basis,” the Archbishop added.