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Posted October 6, 2005

Recently there has been much speculation about a “witch hunt” to eliminate anyone who is a homosexual from the seminary. One reason for the flurry of interest in this issue was a statement made by Archbishop Edwin O’Brien. The following Catholic News Service story adds clarification to the proposed visitations of church officials to U.S. seminaries ordered by Rome. In a day and age in which “hot issues” immediately make the press, prudence would dictate to wait before jumping to conclusions and to seek out as many sides to an issue as possible. Hopefully the following information connected with other information on our website will help to get to the truth of the matter.

Archbishop says he's not speaking for Vatican
on gays in seminaries

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The archbishop overseeing a Vatican-run inspection of U.S. seminaries said that he was not speaking for the Vatican or the U.S. bishops when he said he opposed admitting to seminaries men who have engaged in homosexual activity in the past or who have strong homosexual tendencies.

"I was reflecting my personal opinion and offering a prudential practice based on 12 years experience as rector (president) of two U.S. seminaries," said Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, in a Sept. 30 statement.

Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spokesman, told Catholic News Service Oct. 3 that currently in the United States, decisions regarding the admission of homosexuals into seminaries "are made at the diocesan level and at the level of religious superiors."

Archbishop O'Brien is coordinator of the apostolic visitations of more than 220 U.S. seminaries and houses of formation that began this academic year under the supervision of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education and with the cooperation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

His statement was posted on the USCCB Web site. It did not retract his position regarding the suitability of homosexual candidates for seminary admission.

"I do not speak in an official capacity for either the Holy See or the USCCB on this matter," he said regarding the admission of gays into seminaries.

"It is an extremely serious error for the media or any segment of the public to reduce the visitation to one issue," he said.

The archbishop added, however, that homosexuality will be an important issue investigated in the seminary visitations because the current cultural environment has created ambiguities about it.

"There can develop, even among men preparing for the priesthood, an ambiguity both about the church's teaching with regard to homosexuality and even whether some homosexual activity could be compatible with celibacy," he said.

"Such ambiguity is not consistent with helping men to develop a mature commitment to living out celibacy every day for the rest of their lives," the archbishop said.

Archbishop O'Brien criticized linking the visitations to news reports that the Vatican may soon issue a document about the admission of homosexuals to seminaries. He noted that the news reports said the document has been in preparation for several years and is aimed at the entire church.

"Connecting the possible release of this document to either the visitation or the sex abuse crisis in the United States in 2002 ignores these facts," he said.

"The visitation is an assessment of institutions, and not of individuals, to see whether our seminaries and houses of formation are doing the work they were established to do -- to train men to be Catholic priests who accurately and fully convey the church's teachings to their people and who live out their lifelong priestly commitments, especially with regard to celibacy," he said.

The archbishop said his role in the visitations is limited to overseeing the logistics of the inspections. He added that he will not see the reports the teams of visitors send to the education congregation and that the congregation has the responsibility of writing the final evaluation.

Archbishop O'Brien made his remarks about homosexuals in an early September interview with the National Catholic Register.

"I think anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not be accepted into a seminary," he told the Register.

He added that "the Holy See should be coming out with a document about this."

The visitations were organized after the child sex abuse scandals involving clergy erupted in 2002 to check on the training future priests were receiving.