Vatican says sexually active gays unwelcome as priests, but doesn’t rule out admitting ‘transitory’ homosexuals | VailDaily.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Vatican says sexually active gays unwelcome as priests, but doesn’t rule out admitting ‘transitory’ homosexuals

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican is toughening its stand against gay candidates for the priesthood, specifying in a new document that even men with “transitory” homosexual tendencies must overcome their urges for at least three years before entering the clergy.A long-awaited “Instruction,” due to be released next week, was posted Tuesday on the Internet by the Italian Catholic news agency Adista. A church official who has read the document confirmed its authenticity; he asked that his name not be used because the piece has not been published by the Vatican.Conservative Roman Catholics who have decried the “gay subculture” in seminaries will likely applaud the policy because it clarifies what the Vatican expects of seminarians and their administrators.Critics of the policy warned that, if enforced, it will likely result in seminarians lying about their orientation and will decrease the already dwindling number of priests in the United States. Estimates of the percentage of gays in U.S. seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent, according to a research review by the Rev. Donald Cozzens, an author of “The Changing Face of the Priesthood.”The document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education says the church deeply respects homosexuals. But it also says it “cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture.””Those people find themselves, in fact, in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women. One cannot ignore the negative consequences that can stem from the ordination of people with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies,” it said.”If instead it is a case of homosexual tendencies that are merely the expression of a transitory problem, for example as in the case of an unfinished adolescence, they must however have been clearly overcome for at least three years before ordination as a deacon.”For many gay-rights activists, the Vatican’s distinction between deep-rooted and “transitory” homosexuality is without basis.”For decades now, the scientific and medical community have said that sexual orientation is an immutable trait, what some of us might call a gift from God,” said Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Foundation.”This new policy causes candidates for the priesthood to be deceptive, and that should not be what the church should be about,” he said.Vatican prohibitions on sexually active gays becoming priests are not new, and a 1961 document says homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood. But the issue came to the fore in 2002, at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States.A study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found most abuse victims since 1950 were adolescent boys. Experts on sex offenders said homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest young people, but that did not stifle questions about gay seminarians. In addition, some Catholic researchers said “gay subcultures” in seminaries were alienating heterosexuals, prompting them to drop out.The new document underlines that long-standing traditions and church teaching consider homosexual acts “grave sins” and also intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law.Thomas Plante, a psychologist who for more than 15 years has conducted evaluations of prospective seminarians for U.S. dioceses and religious orders, said the document would have an “enormous” ripple effect on the future U.S. priesthood if it is followed.”Sexual orientation in almost all the evaluations I’ve done over 15 years hasn’t really mattered,” he said. “Now what’s coming out of the Vatican is that it matters in a big way. That’s a real challenge because we think that there are many, many, many gay men who are fabulous priests.”He questioned how seminary directors would apply the new regulations, and suggested that many may resort to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The candidates too, may try to hide their sexual orientation because homosexuality is now a deal-breaker, said Plante, who is chairman of the psychology department at Santa Clara University in California.The document, called an “Instruction,” is only five pages long, including footnotes. It was signed by the prefect and secretary of the congregation on Nov. 4, and says it was approved by Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 31.The text makes no reference to current priests, directed instead to people entering seminaries and preparing for ordination. Its title reads: “Regarding the criteria of vocational discernment regarding people with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the seminary and to sacred orders.”The sex abuse scandals have forced an unprecedented introspection into the clergy and how to train future priests. In September, Vatican-directed inspectors started visiting all 229 American seminaries. Part of their mission has been to seek any “evidence of homosexuality.”The Vatican has often visited the issue of homosexuality, reflecting an unbending theological opposition but also an acknowledgment that discrimination based on sexual preference is not justified.In 2003, homosexuality was described as a “troubling moral and social phenomenon” in a document by the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict this year.Vail, Colorado


Support Local Journalism