Gays not excluded
If a candidate says he is gay, that does not exclude him from entering the seminary, said Canary. But, if a gay candidate acknowledges any history of homosexual activity, he will be asked to leave, he said.
The same rule does not apply to heterosexual candidates, he said. "But we would have to have an assurance of at least several years of chaste living," Canary said.
A handful of theologians and writers have suggested since
the 1980s that a "gay subculture" exists within the priesthood, but the idea gained new attention when Cozzens, then president-rector of a Cleveland seminary, devoted a chapter to the topic in his 2000 book, "The Changing Face of the Priesthood." Some priests and seminarians were intimidated by the numbers of gay men in the clergy, Cozzens suggested, and that became a factor in their decision to leave the priesthood.
One former priest, who declined to be named, said in an interview that he watched as seminarians who joined certain cliques, including a gay clique, were promoted over heterosexuals.
Ed Dimler, a former seminarian, said about half the students were gay at the St. Louis seminary he attended in the 1980s. Despite the celibacy provision, some of the gay students were known to have sexual relationships with each other, said Dimler, now 36 and married. Dimler said he found the environment awkward for other students who were working to live by the vow of celibacy.
Rev. Charles Dahlby, a priest at two parishes in southern Illinois, said that the notion of a "gay subculture" is real--and he doesn't like it. "There's a common perception that the priesthood is a homosexual occupation, like hairdressers and interior decorators," said Dahlby, who said he is celibate and heterosexual.
Some gay men choose the priesthood, Dahlby said, because "where else can you go as a homosexual where you have respect you never earned, where no one questions why you're not married and why you're not dating, and where you're surrounded by an incredible number of young men?"
But other former seminarians and priests describe an entirely different, less threatening landscape in the seminaries. They reject the expression "gay subculture." Yes, some gay priests and seminarians are friends, but mostly because they share common issues. The cliques were no different, these seminarians say, than anywhere else in life.
All the talk of a homosexual "subculture" sounds wrongly sordid, said Nancy Smiegowski, who was to become a nun but left before taking her final vows. As with gay priests, friendships sometimes form between lesbians in convents, she said.
"But it's not a sordid subculture or something," said Smiegowski, a 40-year-old lesbian who grew up on the Northwest Side. "Whether it be Catholic nuns or priests, people tend to align ourselves in relationships with people we feel most comfortable with. There's nothing wrong in that. You have to remember, celibacy and a vowed life, whether you're gay or straight, is celibacy and vowed life."
This article continues from :
page 25, Gay priests? And what with that?
page 26, Group opposes gay priests
page 27, Issue rarely discussed
By Monica Davey, Darlene Stevens and Don Terry, Tribune staff reporters
May 7, 2002
© 2002, Chicago Tribune