11.23.2005

'And Stay Out!'


'Bye bye!'

Vatican Closes Door on Gay Seminarians

from The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is toughening its stand against gay candidates for the priesthood, specifying in a new document that even men with "transitory" homosexual tendencies must overcome their urges for at least three years before entering the clergy.

A long-awaited "Instruction," due to be released next week, was posted Tuesday on the Internet by the Italian Catholic news agency Adista. A church official who has read the document confirmed its authenticity.

Critics of the policy warned that, if enforced, it will likely result in seminarians lying about their orientation and will decrease the already dwindling number of priests in the United States. Estimates of the percentage of gays in U.S. seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent, according to a research review by the Rev. Donald Cozzens, an author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood.

The document from the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education says the church deeply respects homosexuals. But it also says it "cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or support so-called gay culture."

"Those people find themselves, in fact, in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women. One cannot ignore the negative consequences that can stem from the ordination of people with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies," it said.

"If instead it is a case of homosexual tendencies that are merely the expression of a transitory problem, for example as in the case of an unfinished adolescence, they must however have been clearly overcome for at least three years before ordination as a deacon."

For many gay-rights activists, the Vatican's distinction between deep-rooted and "transitory" homosexuality is without basis.

"For decades now, the scientific and medical community have said that sexual orientation is an immutable trait," said Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The new document underlines that long-standing traditions and church teaching consider homosexual acts "grave sins" and also intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law.

The document, called an "Instruction," is only five pages long, including footnotes. It was approved by Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 31.

The text makes no reference to current priests, directed instead to people entering seminaries and preparing for ordination.

In September, Vatican-directed inspectors started visiting all 229 American seminaries. Part of their mission has been to seek any "evidence of homosexuality."

The Vatican has often visited the issue of homosexuality, reflecting an unbending theological opposition but also an acknowledgment that discrimination based on sexual preference is not justified.

In 2003, homosexuality was described as a "troubling moral and social phenomenon" in a document by the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict this year.

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