Posted November 30, 2005
Vatican says no ordaining homosexuals,
men who support 'gay culture'
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A long-awaited Vatican document said the church cannot
allow priestly ordination of men who are active homosexuals, who have
"deep-seated" homosexual tendencies or who support the "gay culture."
Such people have serious problems relating properly to men and women and
present a risk of "negative consequences" that should not be underestimated,
the document said.
The Vatican published the nine-page instruction from the Congregation for
Catholic Education Nov. 29 after more than eight years of internal
discussion and debate.
The document did not define what it meant by "deep-seated" homosexual
tendencies, but contrasted them with the "transitory" problems of
Such transitory tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years
before ordination as a deacon, it said. It did not explain what was meant by
"overcome" or how that could be determined.
The document was leaked to the Italian press earlier in November.
In the United States, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash.,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement
Nov. 29 that the instruction showed a "Christian realism" about what is
expected in candidates for the priesthood when it comes to their "affective
Bishop Skylstad urged bishops and major superiors to have a "prayerful and
honest" discussion of the new norms with their priests and seminarians. He
also made a point underlined by several other bishops: that many
homosexually inclined men are, in fact, good priests.
The Vatican document was signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of
the education congregation, which prepared the instruction for use by
bishops, religious superiors and seminary rectors around the world.
The instruction, dated Nov. 4, was approved Aug. 31 by Pope Benedict XVI,
but not in "forma specifica." That means the document carries the authority
of the education congregation and does not have precedence over the existing
Code of Canon Law, an informed Vatican source said.
In a letter accompanying the document, the Vatican made it clear that the
instruction does not challenge the validity of previous ordinations of
priests with homosexual tendencies, Vatican sources said.
The Vatican also communicated to bishops and seminary officials that
homosexuals are not to be appointed as rectors or educators in seminaries.
"This is a logical consequence of the instruction, that those involved in
formation of seminarians should have a personal situation in conformity with
the norms," a Vatican official told Catholic News Service.
The document cited the church's teachings that homosexual acts are gravely
sinful and that homosexual tendencies are "objectively disordered."
In the light of those teachings, it said, the church, while deeply
respecting homosexuals, "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.'"
"One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from
the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies," it said.
"Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with
homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory
problem -- for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded," it said.
"Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years
before ordination to the diaconate," it said. Ordination as a deacon
precedes priestly ordination by at least six months.
In an interview with Vatican Radio Nov. 29, Cardinal Grocholewski said
"transitory" homosexual problems might include episodes of youthful
curiosity, accidental acts related to a state of drunkenness, behavior by
someone in prison for many years, or acts committed in order to "please
someone in order to obtain favors."
"In such cases, these acts do not originate from a deep-seated tendency but
from other transitory circumstances," he said.
The instruction emphasized that the final judgment on ordination of
candidates for the priesthood fell to bishops and to major superiors of
religious orders. The bishop or major superior must arrive at a "morally
certain judgment" on the candidate's qualities, it said.
"In the case of a serious doubt in this regard, he must not admit him to
ordination," it said.
The document also said seminary spiritual directors have an important task
in discerning the suitability of priesthood candidates. While respecting
their relationship of confidentiality with seminarians, they should seek to
convince those with "disturbances of a sexual nature" to abandon a priestly
vocation, it said.
"If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual
tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, have the duty
to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding toward ordination," it said.
The document said the candidate himself also has a primary responsibility
for his own formation. It would be "gravely dishonest" for a seminarian to
hide his homosexuality in order to reach ordination, it said.
The text urged bishops, bishops' conferences and seminary officials to make
sure that the norms are faithfully observed "for the good of the candidates
themselves and to guarantee that the church always has suitable priests who
are true shepherds according to the heart of Christ."
The document said the need to issue specific norms on admitting homosexuals
was "made more urgent by the current situation"; it did not elaborate on
The full title of the document was "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for
the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons With Homosexual
Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Sacred Orders."