On Wednesday, I sent the following email to Father Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
I have a question I'm hoping you can answer in your capacity as diocesan spokesman. In a recent Post-Gazette article about the current seminary visitations and related comments made by Archbishop Edward O'Brien, Father Jim Wehner is quoted as saying,
"He is being very general. I would not challenge what he said, but I think we need to be more specific. You can have an orientation and never engage in homosexual acts. And you can have some young man who has too much to drink and engages in perversions he never would otherwise. That doesn't mean he's gay."
Domenico Bettinelli, Jr., managing editor of Catholic World News and editor of Catholic World Report, reacted to that statement with the following comments on his blog.
"Never mind that someone with a propensity for drunkness that leads to illicit sexual acts would have a whole other reason to be seriously re-considered for the seminary, what can the rector possibly be thinking? What normal heterosexual male suddenly finds himself a homosexual after having a few drinks? I'm sorry, but drunkenness doesn't change your personality, it lowers barriers and impairs judgment so that you're more likely to do things that are already in your mind."
"This is the kind of thinking that looks for loopholes and excuses, not elevated standards of behavior."
I am inclined to agree with Mr. Betinelli that not only is drunkenness a poor – and highly suspect – excuse for perverse acts, but is troubling on its own. However, I try as often as possible to hear all relevant sides of a story, and thus am loathe to accuse Father Wehner of offering an apologia for licentious behavior in seminaries. Furthermore, I do not think unchecked criticism of clerics is appropriate and provides opportunities for scandal in the Church. If Father Wehner was in any way misrepresented, I would like to know so that I might reply to Mr. Betinelli and others who were scandalized by the perceived apologia pro licentia. Would it be possible for a clarification of his comment to be offered? Thank you in advance.
Father Lengwin forwarded my email to Father Wehner, who responded to me today. He says that he must consult with the diocesan communications officer before clearing me to publish his response. However, I can state that Father Wehner was misquoted and his remarks were taken out of context. In fact, the (mis)quoted comment was made during a related conversation after he had, at the request of the reporter, commented on Archbishop O'Brien's statement that gay men should not be in a seminary. I'll publish his full response as soon as I'm permitted. I suppose technically speaking I don't need permission, but I wouldn't want to needlessly land Father Wehner in trouble with his boss, Bishop Wuerl.
Update 09/28/05: Father Wehner got back to me about publishing his clarification of the Post-Gazette article.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Busy days.
I did speak with our communication office and in agreeing with them I believe I have clarified my remarks in light of the Post Gazette taking them out of context.
Therefore, if anyone else needs this same clarification they can contact me. My remarks to you are not be published.
I again appreciate the opportunity to address the questions you raised.
Sincerely in the Lord,
His address is firstname.lastname@example.org.