The Vatican on
Tuesday published its long-awaited document on gays in the
priesthood, saying that men with "deep-seated" gay
tendencies shouldn't be ordained but that those with
"transitory" tendencies could be if they had been
shown to overcome those tendencies for three years.
The official release of the "Instruction" from
the Congregation for Catholic Education came a week
after an Italian Catholic news agency posted a leaked
copy on its Web site. As a result, the document's
contents were already known.
Reaction has been mixed, with conservatives
saying it may help reverse the "gay culture" that has
grown in many U.S. seminaries. Liberal critics have
complained that the restrictions will create morale problems
among existing priests and lead to an even greater priest
shortage in the United States.
Some observers have also raised questions about
just what the document means by a "deep-seated
homosexual tendency," since a definition isn't provided.
The Reverend Timothy Radcliff, former superior
of the Dominican order, wrote in the British Catholic
weekly the Tablet that the phrase could be
interpreted as concerning men with a "permanent
"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.
Pope Benedict XVI approved the "Instruction"
from the Congregation for Catholic Education on August
31 and ordered it published--one of the first
major documents he has approved for release since
being elected pope April 19.
The document has been years in the works, 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 that most abuse
victims since 1950 were adolescent boys. Experts on sex
offenders say that gay men are no more likely
than straight men to molest young people, but
that did not stifle questions about gay seminarians.
The document restates church teaching that those
with deep-seated homosexual tendencies are
"objectively disordered" but that gays should be
treated with respect and shouldn't be discriminated against.
"In light of such teaching...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," it reads.
Such men can't be priests because they are in a
situation that "gravely hinders them from relating
correctly to men and women," it says. But it
distinguishes such men from others with homosexual
tendencies "that were only the expression of a transitory
problem--for example, that of an adolescence not
yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be
clearly overcome at least three years before
ordination to the diaconate," it says.
The document is short--nine pages,
including the title page and the footnotes that make
up the bulk of the text. (AP)