But Stephen Brady, of Roman Catholic Faithful, said church leaders need to confront homosexuality. "Anyone entering the priesthood now should be told point-blank if you are homosexual we do not want you in the priesthood," said Brady, of the orthodox Catholic group based near Springfield. "We have so many gays in the seminaries because we have so many gays controlling the seminaries and the chancery offices."
For all the areas of discord, most people agree on this: The priesthood draws a relatively large percentage of gay men.
The numbers are imprecise and a matter for disagreement over methodology, but Rev. Donald Cozzens, an author and priest, has reported on about five studies that suggest gay men make up between 30 and 50 percent of the priesthood.
That's significantly higher than most estimates of gay people in the overall population--which range up to about 10 percent.
Whatever their sexual orientations, priests pledge lives of celibacy. That, the liberal side says, should deem a priest's orientation irrelevant.
Sex disorder experts say there is no evidence of a link be tween being gay and molesting minors.
But church teachings also deem gay sex wrong and some conservatives point to the church's sexual abuse scandal, which has revealed abuse of numerous boys and young men, as at least tangentially connected to the number of gay priests.
Beyond the priesthood, Roman Catholic leaders have navigated a difficult course on the subject of homosexuality.
Church teachings denounce homosexuality as an "objective disorder" and gay sex as sinful, as are any sex acts that don't lead to procreation, including masturbation. In 1986, the Vatican issued a letter saying that "the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin," but that all homosexual acts were immoral.
At the same time, the church began reaching out to gay parishioners.
No one is sure when the ratio of gay men became so high in the priesthood.