Vatican document
may not bar gay clergy

An upcoming Roman
Catholic Church document does not decree a sweeping ban
on gays in seminaries, allowing those who have lived
chastely for at least three years to become priests, a
senior Vatican official said Friday. The official, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because the Vatican
document has not yet been released, confirmed a report in
the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della
that men who publicly show their
homosexuality and those who reveal an attraction to
living an openly gay life should be refused admission
to the clergy.

The report, by
the newspaper's chief Vatican correspondent, Luigi
Accattoli, cited sources who spoke to him about the document
from the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic
Education. The Italian weekly Panorama said Friday
that Pope Benedict XVI approved the document during
the summer. One Vatican official said the document
would be published very soon but refused to discuss the
contents. The senior official said, "Anyone who knows
Catholic teaching should not be surprised by what the
document says."

Several Vatican
documents and letters over the years have said gays
should not be ordained, regardless of whether they can
remain celibate. The key one is a February 2, 1961,
document, an "Instruction on the Careful Selection and
Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection
and Sacred Orders," which made clear the church's stance
that gay men should be barred from the
priesthood. "[Advancement] to religious vows and
ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted
with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since
for them the common life and the priestly ministry
would constitute serious dangers," the document said.

Vatican teaching
holds that homosexual acts are "intrinsically
disordered." The church, however, says gays and
lesbians should be treated with compassion and
dignity. The senior official said there is a lot of
"ambiguity" about the term homosexual and therefore
much depends on the individual in question, thus
making it difficult to come up with an "absolute,
sweeping policy."

The new document
has been in the works for at least three years. The
issue, though, has long been a subject of debate at the
Vatican. It received renewed attention after the U.S.
church sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2002. A study
commissioned by U.S. bishops by the John Jay College
of Criminal Justice after the scandal broke found most abuse
victims since 1950 were adolescent boys. Experts on sex
offenders said gay men are no more likely than
heterosexual men to molest young people, but that
did not stifle questions about gay seminarians.

Professor Dean
Hoge, a Catholic University of America sociologist who
studies the priesthood, says that if, as reported, the
forthcoming document emphasizes "responsible living
and not flaunting," then "most seminary rectors would
agree with this and it should be seen as good news for
everybody.... This is not too far from present policy."
In Hoge's view, "an outright ban is not possible. There is
no way of enforcing it."

Philip Lawler,
conservative editor of the U.S.-based Catholic World News
Web site, urged caution because he had been told the
document as approved by the pope "did not have that
sort of maneuvering room." Lawler believes "people who
have homosexual tendencies, whether or not they're
active, should not be in seminaries." He said that "what
the document says ends up as much less important than how
the document is followed up and enforced."

A gay American
priest, speaking on condition of anonymity because he
feared reprisals from church leaders, said the policy would
be a step forward for gay candidates for the
priesthood. "If they actually put something like this
out, it will be the first time that the church will
have formally said that gay men have been and can be
accepted by seminaries," the priest said. He said it
was impossible to know whether gays would feel
discouraged from enrolling in seminaries until the
full document was released. But he said the broad outlines
of the policy, as reported Friday, "sound like better
news" than the outright ban that had been anticipated.

Tags: World, World

Latest videos on Advocate

From our Sponsors