WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pennsylvania, DEC. 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Many priests grow in holiness and happiness in their ministry as a result of the healing of their childhood and adolescent male insecurity, loneliness and anger and, subsequently, their same-sex attractions.
So says Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist, author and contributor to the Catholic Medical Association’s document “Homosexuality and Hope.”
Fitzgibbons shared with ZENIT how some seminarians, candidates for the seminary, and priests can make strides in resolving their homosexual tendencies, and what bishops and religious superiors can do to help them.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.
Q: How can spiritual directors help seminarians or priests who have same-sex attractions?
Fitzgibbons: Spiritual directors can help seminarians and priests by understanding that same-sex attractions are treatable and are not genetically determined. They can encourage seminarians and priests to face their emotional pain with the Lord’s help, particularly their loneliness.
Spiritual directors who actively and honestly engage in inner healing prayer and who can help apply the healing graces of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s rules for the discernment of spirits can facilitate the healing process.
Q: The new Vatican instruction says that homosexual tendencies that are a manifestation of a transitory problem — for example, delayed adolescence — must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal ordination. What is your opinion of that?
Fitzgibbons: I believe that this statement means that it is not sufficient for the seminarian to be chaste for three years. He must also first know himself; that is, understand his emotional conflicts which cause same-sex attractions and have worked to resolve those conflicts.
Chastity for three years is not adequate because under stress in priestly ministry unresolved loneliness, isolation or insecurity from the adolescent life stage could lead to same-sex attractions — even attraction to adolescent males in an unconscious attempt to escape from one’s pain.
Dr. [Robert L.] Spitzer’s recent research findings and many clinical studies support this view that homosexual tendencies can be transitory and resolved.
Q: What would you recommend for priests who have same-sex attractions or homosexual tendencies?
Fitzgibbons: I would recommend that they become more knowledgeable about the emotional origins and healing of same-sex attractions, as well as the serious medical and psychiatric illnesses associated with homosexuality.
Also, in view of the John Jay report findings that 80% of the priestly abuse cases were with adolescent males, priests with same-sex attractions have a serious responsibility to protect the Church and youth from further scandal by working to understand and resolve their same-sex attractions. Adolescent males need to be protected from homosexual predation.
We have observed many priests grow in holiness and in happiness in their ministry as a result of the healing of their childhood and adolescent male insecurity, loneliness and anger and, subsequently, their same-sex attractions. This healing process has been described in the statement of the Catholic Medical Association, “Homosexuality and Hope.”
Our experience over 25 years has convinced us of the direct link between rebellion and anger against the Church’s teaching, and sexually promiscuous behaviors.
This appears to be a two-way street: Those who are sexually active dissent from the Church’s teaching on sexuality to justify their own actions, while those who adopt rebellious ideas on sexual morality are more vulnerable to become sexually active, because they have little to no defense against sexual temptations.
Growth in forgiveness and humility are essential in the treatment of such priests.
Q: How could bishops and religious superiors help their priests who have same-sex attractions?
Fitzgibbons: If bishops encouraged priests with homosexual tendencies to pursue appropriate therapy and spiritual direction with those loyal to the Church’s teaching, they too would witness healing of their priests.
Also, priests would be helped if the “crisis boundary” programs did not mask the role of homosexuality in the abuse of the adolescent male victims. Instead, these programs should describe why adult males might be sexually attracted to adolescents and how this conflict can be resolved.
In view of the John Jay report, bishops should consider protecting young men by not permitting priests with deep-seated homosexuality to have teaching or other ministries in schools, colleges and seminaries.
Finally, bishops should be aware that there are many “experts” who ignore medical science or are swayed by political correctness.
USCCB National Review Board member Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, stated recently: “I’m amazed that this fundamental bombshell” — of the abuse of adolescent males — “has not been the subject of greater interest and discussion.”
He told the National Catholic Register, “I’m astonished that people throughout America are not talking about it, thinking about it and wondering about what the mechanisms were that set this alight.”
There is every reason to hope that with this new document the Church will progress along the necessary path of purification described by John Paul II in April 2002 in his meeting with cardinals and bishops on the crisis.