Vatican defends ban on priestly candidates with ‘deep-seated’ homosexual tendencies
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican defended a policy statement designed to keep men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies from becoming priests, but said there would be no crackdown on gays who are already ordained.The Vatican document, the first major policy statement of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, was officially released Tuesday after being leaked earlier. Conservatives have said it may help reverse the “gay culture” of many U.S. seminaries, while liberal critics complain the restrictions will create morale problems among clergy and lead to an even greater priest shortage in the United States.The Rev. James Martin, a U.S. Jesuit who has written on the issue, said American theologians, canon lawyers and other Roman Catholics will “hope that the document won’t really mean what it says.” But he believes it’s clear the Vatican wants to keep gay men from being ordained – even if they’re committed to celibacy – and hopes bishops and seminary rectors will act accordingly.Martin predicted “a slow, silent attrition among celibate gay men who cannot accept the idea of staying in an organization that condemns their existence in the priesthood.”Matt Foreman of America’s National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the document “appalling,” saying it was an affront to thousands of gay priests. He accused the Vatican of “a calculated campaign to blame gay men for the church’s own criminal conduct in fostering and covering up decades of sex abuse.”The official “Instruction” from the Congregation for Catholic Education was released a week after an Italian Catholic news agency posted a leaked copy on its Web site.The document has been in the works for years, but its existence came to light in 2002 at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States. A study commissioned by U.S. bishops found most abuse victims since 1950 were adolescent boys.Experts on sex offenders say homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest young people, but that did not stifle questions about gay seminarians.The Instruction said men “who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture”‘ cannot be admitted to seminaries. The only exception would be for those with a “transitory problem” that had been overcome for at least three years.The head of the education congregation defended the document as a clear reflection of long-standing church teaching, saying that “in this field, in today’s world, there is some confusion.””Many defend the position according to which the homosexual condition is a normal condition for the human being, as if it were nearly a third gender,” Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski told Vatican Radio.He also made clear the Instruction was intended for candidates for the priesthood and not someone who “discovers his homosexuality after having been ordained.”The cardinal said such a priest “has to try to live in chastity … Maybe he will need more spiritual support than others, but I think he should be a priest in the best way possible.”The cardinal also elaborated on the meaning of “transitory” problems.”For example, during an adolescence not yet completed, some curiosity; or, under accidental circumstances, when drunk, or other particular conditions such as a person who has been in prison for many years. In these cases, the possible homosexual acts do not come from a deeply seated tendency, but are determined by the circumstances,” he said.”Or, these acts are made to please someone and obtain advantages … These acts in such cases do not originate from a ‘deeply seated’ tendency, but from other transitory circumstances, and these cases are not an obstacle to the admission to the seminary or to holy order. In this case though, they have to end at least three years before the diaconal ordainment.”Candidates for the priesthood who have slight homosexual tendencies could be “very talented, very able and very valuable” to the church, said Austrian Bishop Klaus Kueng.But Kueng acknowledged the difficulties such candidates might encounter. “It would undermine the celibacy requirement if a homosexual subculture were to exist in a seminary or a monastery,” he said.The Rev. Timothy Radcliff, former superior of the Dominican order, wrote in the British Catholic weekly the Tablet that the phrase “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” could be interpreted as concerning men with a “permanent homosexual orientation.””But this cannot be correct since, as I have said, there are many excellent priests who are gay and who clearly have a vocation from God.””Having worked with bishops and priests, diocesan and religious, all over the world, I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met,” he wrote.