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CFFC in the News - 2005

Reuters

Vatican Says Active Gays Not Welcome in Priesthood

Philip Pullella

22 November 2005

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Practicing homosexuals, men with "deep-seated" gay tendencies and those who support gay culture should not be allowed to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood, according to an eagerly awaited Vatican document.

But it will allow men who have "clearly overcome" homosexual tendencies for at least three years to proceed toward the priesthood.

Key excerpts from the official English-language version of the document, to be issued next week, were read to Reuters on Tuesday by a Vatican prelate in possession of the document.

The document reinforces standing policy that many in the Church believe has not been properly enforced. Its urgency has been highlighted by the 2002 sexual abuse scandal in the United States, which involved mostly abuse of teenage boys by priests.

The document, only 21 paragraphs long, restates Church teaching that deep-seated homosexual tendencies are "objectively disordered" and that homosexual acts are grave sins.

The official English version of the document then adds:

"In light of such teaching, this dicastery (Vatican department)...believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture."

The document, an "instruction" by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, makes a difference between deep-seated homosexual tendencies and what it calls "the expression of a transitory problem."

Tendencies Must Be Overcome

"Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the deaconate," it says, referring to a position just one step short of the priesthood which usually precedes ordination by about a year.

"In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the deaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity," it says.

The document, which covers one of the most sensitive issues in the Roman Catholic Church, does not affect those men who are already priests but only those entering seminaries to prepare for the priesthood.

Frances Kissling, president of the U.S. dissident group "Catholics for a Free Choice," said the document marked a "sad moment" for the Church because it would "exclude faithful and good men who are called to the priesthood."

The U.S. gay rights group Human Rights Campaign accused the Vatican of "using gay people as scapegoats."

"It sets a very dangerous precedent," said Harry Knox, director of the religious and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign. "The church is not acting like Jesus Christ would. Jesus would never exclude."

The English title of the Vatican document is: "Instruction Concerning Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders."

It is divided into three chapters -- "Affective Maturity and Spiritual Fatherhood," "Homosexuality and Ordained Ministry," and "Discernment by the Church Concerning the Suitability of Candidates."

It says heads of seminaries have a serious duty to ensure candidates for the priesthood do not "present disturbances of a sexual nature which are incompatible with the priesthood."

"If a candidate practices homosexuality, or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding toward ordination," it says.

In his book "The Changing Face of the Priesthood," Father Donald Cozzens estimated that 40 percent of U.S. priests were gay but that only a tiny minority were Practicing homosexuals.

Other estimates have been as low as 10 percent and as high as 60 percent.

"I think this policy will lead to a tremendous amount of deception and a 'don't ask, don't tell' kind of a regime in the Catholic Church," said Daniel Maguire, a professor of moral theology at Marquette, a Jesuit university in Wisconsin.

This article courtesy of Reuters.