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The Longenecker Exception

by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 19, 2016

The “integrated” homosexual appointed head of the papal household.

This column has more than once examined the sophistical method of popular neo-Catholic blogger Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who seems to specialize in advancing radically liberal positions under the guise of “conservative” Catholicism.

Fr. Longenecker has now employed his method to neutralize the Vatican’s repeated instructions that homosexuals are not to be admitted to the seminary and, if detected, are not to be allowed to advance to ordination. In discussing the just-released document “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation” (Gift), Fr. Longenecker’s article begins by noting that Gift “re-affirmed the ban on the admission of homosexuals to seminary.” Indeed, the most recent instruction in that regard, issued in 2005 under Pope Benedict and quoted verbatim in Gift, provides that the Church “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.”

By the time Fr. Longenecker is done, however, he has construed not only Gift but the Church’s entire traditional discipline to allow precisely for what the Church does not allow: the admission of homosexuals as homosexuals to the seminary and priestly orders. Here is how our sophist proceeds:

First, he begins well enough by providing the usual conservative window-dressing for the usual liberal opinion:

“In the spiritual dimension, it is therefore crucial that God is ‘masculine.’ While God transcends human sexuality, Jesus Christ reveals him as ‘Father in Heaven.’ We therefore relate to him as sons and daughters. This is important because we can love a Father, but we cannot love an amorphous being like ‘The Energy Force of All Creation.’

“All relationships are therefore integrated with our human sexuality.

“Homosexuality stands these relationships on their head. A homosexual man finds himself attracted sexually to men not women. His relationship with all men and all women must therefore be distorted.”

Excellent! But readers familiar with Fr. Longenecker’s brand of “conservative” Catholicism know what is coming next: the liberal exception that swallows the conservative rule. Thus he writes:

“Does this mean that all homosexual men are freaks and must be barred from priesthood? I don’t think so. The question is whether this attraction is ‘deep-seated.’ Without doubt there are many seminarians and priests who experience same sex attraction.”

Notice, first of all, the sophistical use of caricature: homosexuals are all freaks who must be barred from the priesthood. Well, they’re not freaks — are they? — so how can they all be denied Holy Orders? But the answer, as Longenecker himself notes only a few sentences earlier, is that they must be denied precisely because they are homosexuals whose disordered sexual condition renders them unfit for the priesthood.

Notice also how Fr. Longenecker plays word games with the phrase “deep-seated,” suggesting that there are “homosexual men” whose homosexuality is not “deep-seated.” But how could a man be called a homosexual if his disordered attraction to other men is not “deep-seated”? 

The suggestion is nonsense, but nonsense is precisely what Fr. Longenecker requires to issue a pass to what he admits are “many seminarians and priests who experience same-sex attraction” — that is, many “homosexual men” in seminaries and parishes. No problem: Simply declare that your homosexuality is not “deep-seated” and you qualify for the Longenecker Exception! And here it is:

“For some it is a phase they pass through. Others, by God’s grace, have learned to integrate their feelings, and have grown into a mature love for God and others which transcends erotic attachment. Indeed many have spoken of their homosexuality as being a paradoxical gift [!] which has enabled them to look beyond conventional sexual expressions to a love for God and others that transcends mere physical instincts. Furthermore, they witness that it was their call to priesthood and the gift of celibacy which enabled them to make this journey.”

So there we have it: Buried in a flowerbed of pious rhetoric is the claim that “celibate homosexuals” — not just men with fleeting attractions whose sexuality has normalized with maturity but “homosexual men” as such — can be admitted to the seminary and ordained as priests.

But that is exactly contrary to the Church’s discipline, which, again, is based on the disordered homosexual condition in itself, not on whether one afflicted by it vows not to indulge his disordered inclinations. But as Fr. Longenecker would have it, homosexuals can be priests if they have “transcended” their intrinsically disordered condition even though they are still “homosexual men” — homosexual men, moreover, whose homosexuality is “a paradoxical gift,” according to the Longenecker Exception! Give me a break.

Further explaining his notion, Longenecker opines that a homosexual candidate for the priesthood need only demonstrate “successful integration” of his homosexuality by “accept[ing] his tendencies as ‘intrinsically disordered’…” But, once again, it is precisely the intrinsic disorder of his tendencies that unfits him for Holy Orders in the first place. Whether a homosexual recognizes his disorder is irrelevant to its existence as an impediment to ordination. 

Indeed, the very notion of a “homosexual priest” is a contradiction in terms, whether or not the man in question vows to accept “the gift of celibacy.” And it is implicitly obscene to ascribe the “gift of celibacy” to disordered men whose “celibacy” does not consist in embracing the higher clerical state rather than Holy Matrimony but rather in merely avoiding the commission of the abominable sin of sodomy. Refraining from sodomy is not God’s “gift of celibacy” to His sacred priesthood but rather a basic moral duty that binds all men under the divine and natural law — priests and laity alike, even savages in the jungle.

Fr. Longenecker, however, declares that a homosexual may be ordained a priest if he “understands his attractions as inconsistent with the natural order of human sexuality” and is “able to integrate them successfully and move beyond them. The document on priestly formation does not exclude this kind of mature integration, and only excludes those who, because of the deep-seated nature of their condition, will not or cannot accept the self discipline, formation and conversion of life that is necessary for such integration to take place.”

Of course that’s just a flowery restatement of the original claim that the Church does not forbid “celibate homosexuals” to be ordained — so long as they “integrate” their sexually perverse inclinations by recognizing them as disordered and by committing themselves to “celibacy.” Then they can declare that their homosexuality, thus “integrated,” is not “deep-seated.” Pure sophistry.

Now, to be perfectly fair to Fr. Longenecker, being a “conservative” liberal he posits the Longenecker Exception only to defend what he admits is the status quo of a Modernist-infested hierarchy that widely defies the Church’s teaching on this matter: i.e., homosexuals are routinely admitted to the seminaries and ordained on the pro forma understanding that they will be “celibate.” Their intrinsically disordered condition, which should be an absolute impediment to the priesthood, has become irrelevant in practice.

Nor can we suppose that Francis would see it any differently himself. As Sandro Magister has just observed, despite the publication of Gift “for Bergoglio, theory is one thing and practice another, considering the number of homosexual priests in the circle of his closest collaborators and confidants.” Among these, of course, is “the prelate of the gay lobby,” the infamous Monsignor Battista Ricca, the flagrant homosexual Francis made prelate [head] of his very household. Nor should we forget that it was Francis who, speaking precisely of “gays” in the Vatican, declared to the shock of the Catholic world: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”

And so we have in Fr. Longenecker a deftly sophistic defender of the continuing auto-demolition of the human element of the Church, whose leaders say one thing in principle while doing the opposite in practice, whose ‘yes’ means ‘no’ and whose ‘no’ means ‘yes’.

With “conservatives” like these, who needs Modernists?