Vatican Drafts Directives Against Admitting and Ordaining Homosexuals

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has prepared a draft document containing directives against the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood, informed Vatican sources said.

The document takes the position that since the Church considers the homosexual orientation “objectively disordered,” such people should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained, the sources said Oct. 8.

The question of excluding homosexuals from the priesthood had been quietly considered at the Vatican for years without finding a consensus. It received new and more urgent attention in the wake of U.S. clerical sexabuse cases, many of which involved homosexual acts.

The Congregation for Catholic Education prepared the draft document in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other Vatican agencies, the sources said. The draft was being circulated for comment in October among a wide range of consultants, including theologians, canon lawyers and other experts, they said.

At the same time, the education congregation has finished work on a separate document that examines how psychological sciences can be used in discerning vocations — another hotly debated issue at the Vatican in recent years. Its publication was expected before the end of the year.

The document on psychological testing will take the form of guidelines for bishops to use in their seminaries, the sources said.

The draft document on homosexuals, however, will take the form of norms, to be used throughout the universal Church, they said.

“The document's position [on admission of homosexuals to the priesthood] is negative, based in part on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in its revised edition, that the homosexual orientation is ‘objectively disordered,’” said one source.

“Therefore, independent of any judgment on the homosexual person, a person of this orientation should not be admitted to the seminary and, if it is discovered later, should not be ordained,” he said.

Last year Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, said in a Catholic News Service interview, “Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary.”

In September a U.S. Vatican official at the Congregation for Bishops, Father Andrew Baker, articulated arguments against acceptance of homosexuals as priesthood candidates in an article published in the U.S. Jesuit magazine America.

Father Baker said that if a man has a predominant or exclusive same-sex attraction, that in itself is grounds for bishops to have “a prudent doubt regarding the candidate's suitability” for receiving the sacrament of orders. Church law says if such a doubt exists the person should not be ordained.

Father Baker said homosexuality was a “disordered attraction” that can “never ‘image’ God and never contribute to the good of the person or society.” He cited potential difficulties for homosexual seminarians or priests; they included problems dealing with their tendencies in a largely heterosexual society, questions about adherence to Church teachings and possible temptations presented in male environments like the seminary or the priesthood.

Father Baker said his article reflected his personal opinion and not the official position of the Vatican. While some Vatican officials have expressed similar views, others are concerned that such an attempt to “weed out” candidates to the priesthood would rely too heavily on interpretive evaluations of an individual's sexuality.

The officials who spoke to Catholic News Service said there was no definitive time frame for the document on homosexuality and admission to the priesthood.

“Only the Holy Spirit knows that,” said one official.

Because of the sensitivity of the issues involved, Pope John Paul II and other top Vatican officials will be carefully reviewing it before publication, the sources said.

“There could be changes, especially because this is an interdicasterial [interdepartmental] work. There are some passages that must be written with very careful attention,” said one official.

The wording in the catechism that describes the homosexual inclination as “objectively disordered” was added when the definitive Latin text of the catechism was released in 1997. Earlier editions of the catechism said homosexual acts were intrinsically disordered and said homosexual tendencies represented a trial for most people.

The document on psychological testing, titled “Orientations for the Use of Psychological Methods in the Admission and Formation of Candidates to the Priesthood,” was discussed at the education congregation's plenary assembly in February.

At that time, the Pope told the congregation's members that guidelines on the use of psychology to evaluate seminary candidates could ensure that such decisions are made with “a wider sense of awareness.”

The Holy Father said the support from psychological sciences should be used in a balanced way as part of the overall vocational path, integrated in a candidate's formation program. He said recourse to psychological methods should only be understood in the context of the “climate of faith” that marks the vocational decision.

Psychological methods “do not eliminate every type of difficulty and tension, but favor a wider sense of awareness and a freer exercise of liberty” when it comes to the challenging choice of a priestly vocation, he said.

Many Vatican officials have privately voiced apprehension about over-reliance on psychological methods to screen candidates to the priesthood. The document is said to address those concerns by stressing a balanced approach that recognizes the potential contributions of psychology, but within a limited sphere of competence.