The Vatican said Tuesday that it is drafting new guidelines for accepting candidates for the priesthood that will address the question of whether gays should be barred. The brief statement by the Vatican's press office gave no indication what the conclusion may be despite news reports that the document will include directives against the admission of gay men. Several Vatican congregations have been studying the issue for several years, but the question has received renewed attention in the wake of the clerical sex abuse scandal in the United States. Most of the victims of molestation by priests have been adolescent boys. Experts on sex offenders say there is no credible evidence that gay men are more likely than heterosexuals to abuse children, but several church leaders have argued that gay clergy are to blame for the scandal.
The Vatican press office said the Congregation for Catholic Education has only begun drafting the document and that it is not known when it will be published, though it won't be until at least next year. A Vatican official, requesting anonymity, said the question of admitting gay men as well as other issues will be addressed in a letter to seminaries. The press office issued the statement after the Rome newspaper La Repubblica published an article Wednesday saying an initial draft had concluded that seminaries should bar men with "homosexual tendencies" and that Vatican officials were rushing to complete the document because of the U.S. scandal. The U.S. Catholic News Service reported last month that a draft document containing directives against admitting gays was circulating among various Vatican consultants but that it was not clear when it might be published.
As an indication of the debate going on, an American staff member of the Congregation for Bishops, the Reverend Andrew Baker, published an article in September in the Jesuit magazine America arguing that gays should not be ordained. If a man is gay, "then he should not be admitted to holy orders," Baker wrote, "and his presence in the seminary would not only give him false hope but it may, in fact, hinder" the therapy he needs. America took up the issue in an editorial last week, declaring that healthy, dedicated gay priests "make an important contribution to the life of the church."