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 Holy Orders
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 Holy Orders is a document published in November 2005 by the Congregation for Catholic Education, one of the top-level offices of the Catholic Church.
In part it denies ordination to men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies." While the preparation for this document had started ten years before its publication, this instruction is seen as an official answer by the Catholic Church to what was seen as a "pedophile priest" crisis. The document was criticized for what some see as its implying that homosexuality is tied to the sexual abuse of children.
Commentary and implications
The 1961 Papal encyclical Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders (Religiosorum institutio) stated that "Advantage to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers." Bishops had discretion in allowing the further instruction of offending but penitent seminarians, and held homosexuals to the same standards of celibate chastity as heterosexual seminarians. There is no new moral teaching in the 2005 instruction: the instruction proposed by the document is rather towards enhancing vigilance in barring homosexuals from seminaries, and from the priesthood.
While the preparation for this document had started 10 years before its publication, this instruction is seen as an official answer by the Catholic Church to several sex scandals involving priests in the late 20th/early 21st century, including the American Roman Catholic sex abuse cases and a 2004 sex scandal in a seminary at St. Pölten (Austria). The document restricts discussion to homosexual candidates: as the vast majority of abuse victims were teenage boys, there is no specific instruction regarding nonchaste heterosexual candidates.
Two months before his death in 2005, Pope John Paul II, troubled by the sex scandals in the US, Austria and Ireland, had written to the Congregation for Catholic Education: "Right from the moment young men enter a Seminary their ability to live a life of celibacy should be monitored so that before their ordination one should be morally certain of their sexual and emotional maturity."
Quotes from the Instruction
- The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies. Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved.
- In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it 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 practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture".
- 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. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.
Reactions to the document
The document has attracted criticism based on an interpretation that the document implies that homosexuality is associated with pedophilia. There were some questions on how distinctions between deep-seated and transient homosexuality, as proposed by the document, will be applied in practice: the actual distinction that is made might be between those who abuse, and those who don't.
The Belgian college of Bishops elaborated that the sexual restrictions for seminary and priesthood candidates apply likewise for men of all sexual orientations. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has been quoted as saying that the Vatican's directive was not tout court a "no-gays" policy.
In response to "numerous requests for clarification received by the Holy See", Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in 2008 that the Instruction applied to "all houses of formation for the priesthood".
- Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic priesthood
- Roman Catholic sex abuse cases
- Homosexuality and Roman Catholicism
- Gay bishops
- "'Nothing Extraordinary'?" in Inside the Vatican (ISSN 1068-8579), January 2006
- * "Vatican Issues New Psychological Screening to Weed Out Pedophiles". Associated Press/Fow news. October 30, 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- "Future priests should undergo psychological screening: Vatican". CBC News. October 30, 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- Hunt, Mary E. (December 9, 2005). "American Catholics: Time for a Stonewall Moment". Seattle Gay News, Volume 33, Issue 49. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
this document, while purporting to 'clarify' church teaching or 'purify' the priesthood, is really nothing more than an effort to link the criminal activity of pedophile priests with homosexuality, and to distract from the reprehensible behavior of bishops who covered up their misconduct. Mary E. Hunt is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force National Religious Leadership Roundtable and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
- "Vatican Sex Sting: An after-hours office meeting between a young man and a top Roman Catholic official has prompted a fresh inquiry into gay priests. What the investigation could mean for the Holy See.". Newsweek. October 17, 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- "Vatican approves gay tests for priests". The Australian. October 31, 2008.
Pedophile priest scandals that have hit the Catholic Church in recent years were not the “primary cause” behind the document, [ ... ] the Congregation's secretary, Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues, told a news conference. But they helped “accelerate” the process and were “certainly a determining factor,” he said.
- Owen, Richard (January 7, 2008). "Pope Calls for Continuous Prayer to Rid Priesthood of Paedophilia". The Times. Archived from the original on 2004. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
Officials said that the prayers were in addition to support for legal action against paedophile priests by their victims and a code adopted two years ago by the Vatican to try to ensure that men “with deep-seated homosexual tendencies” do not enter seminaries to train for the priesthood.
- Holusha, John (April 15, 2008). "Pope says church is reviewing sexuality of would-be priests". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- Witkowski, D'Anne (November 2, 2006). "Suffer little children: New documentary exposes pedophilia in Catholic Church (Film review of Deliver Us from Evil)". Pride Source. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
in the wake of the clergy abuse scandals, the Vatican issued instructions to weed out priests with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies.
- Gueco, Luverne B. (September 24, 2005). "Vatican to Bar Gays, and Even Those with Gay Thoughts, From Priesthood". Philippine Daily Inquirer. p. A10. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
The text reflects the view among some Catholics - but disputed by others - that the presence of gay clergy in the Church's ranks was to blame for the string of child abuse scandals.
- Horowitz, Jason (August 14, 2004). "World Briefing: Europe: Austria: Conviction In Seminary Sex Scandal". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- "Statement From The Board Of Directors and Staff of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries" November 29, 2005. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
- Valeri, Valerio (February 2, 1961). "Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders". Sacred Congregation For Religious, The Holy See.
- In New York Times:
- "World Briefing: Europe: Austria: Seminary Sex Scandal" (July 13, 2004)
- "World Briefing: Europe: Austria: Conviction In Seminary Sex Scandal" (August 14, 2004)
- "Statement From The Board Of Directors and Staff of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries" November 29, 2005. Accessed June 18, 2007
- The Guardian November 30, 2005 Editorial
- ""A propos de la recente instruction concernant l'admission de candidats à la prêtrise" – Regarding the recent instruction concerning the admission of candidates for priesthood" (in French). Website of the Catholic Church in Belgium. November 29, 2005. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007.
- Allen, Jr., John (2009-02-23). "Archbishop Timothy Dolan headed to New York". National Catholic Reporter.
- Bertone, Tarcisio (April 8, 2008). "Rescriptum ex Audentia". L'Osservatore Romano.
- "Vatican says prohibition against gays in seminaries is universal". Catholic News Service. May 19, 2008.
- English version of the Instruction on the Vatican website
- SFBG Cover Story The Vatican directive would threaten one of the most vibrant Catholic parishes.
- PLFAG New Vatican Instruction Drives Wedge Between Priests and Vocations, Families and Faith.
- A Dominican interpretation of the document Former Master of the Order of Preachers offers alternative view that not all gay men will be barred from the priesthood.