Gay groups slam Vatican guidelines on priests
29 November 2005
ROME – The Vatican has reaffirmed its opposition to homosexuals becoming priests with a controversial document published on Tuesday and immediately slammed as “discriminatory” and “hypocritical” by gay activists.
Drafted by the Church’s Congregation for the Catholic Education and approved by Pope Benedict XVI, the 9-page document is an Instruction containing norms “concerning a specific question”; whether to admit to the priesthood “candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies”.
It is seen as offering Church officials the clearest guidelines yet on an issue “made more urgent by the current situation” – an apparent reference to a series of recent sex abuse scandals involving Catholic priests in the United States and in other countries around the world.
Noting that the Church traditionally considers homosexual acts as “grave sins” because they are “intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law”, the Instruction reiterates the Church’s ban on gays wishing to become priests.
“In light of such teachings … it is necessary to state clearly that 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’”.
The document states that “unjust discrimination” towards gays “should be avoided” while Church officials note that the priesthood is a gift, not a right.
The document, which does not apply to already ordained priests, makes an exception in the case of men who whose homosexual tendencies are “the expression of a transitory problem” and states that such people may become priests if such tendencies are “clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate” – the last step before becoming a priest.
It does not explain how the “transitory problem” may be overcome or how a candidate can prove that he no longer has homosexual tendencies, but notes that it would be “gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality”.
Vatican expert John L. Allen, of the U.S.-based National Catholic Reporter, argues that the document falls short of an outright ban on gay candidates while Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit scholar, has told the BBC that the fact that the document refers to “tendencies” rather than orientation “has left many people scratching their heads”.
But while many conservative Catholics see it as a welcome clarification on a ban first formalised by a Church document published in 1961, gay activists in Italy, Germany and elsewhere see it as a discriminatory document which will force many would-be priests further underground.
“It is to be feared that the requirements will lead to a climate of intimidation and secretiveness,” said a joint statement issued in Berlin by the Ecumenical Task Force of Homosexuals and the German Federation of Lesbians and Gays.
Franco Grillini, a leading Italian gay activist, psychologist and member of parliament, sees the Instruction as a “scientifically unsound” document that “racially discriminates gays”.
“People don’t choose to be gay, they are born that way. Just in the same way as some are born with brown or blonde hair,” Grillini told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
“This is a ridiculous document for a number of reasons. Studies have found that a person’s sexual orientation is formed at a very early age and I have never met someone who has stopped being gay,” Grillini said.
The French reformist Catholic magazine Golias, in a comment published in response to extracts of the Instruction published on the Internet earlier this month, described the Vatican text as “scandalous, discriminatory and insulting”.
The guidelines provided by the Instruction are thought to be the outcome of a review ordered by the late Pope John Paul II in the wake of the abuse scandals in the U.S., in which several men accused Catholic priests of having abused them as teenagers.
But according to Father Eberhard von Gemmingen of Vatican Radio’s German language service, the document is simply a response “to the growing number of homosexuals in the world”.
Asked by DPA whether the instruction might not make it harder for the Church to tackle the current global shortage of priests, von Gemmingen said: “It is true that this document might result in a fall in vocations, but what is important for the Church is quality, not quantity”.
Subject: German news