Signs of the Times

Vatican Prepares Draft Against Admitting Gays to Ordination

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 to be “objectively disordered” such people should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained, the sources said on 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 sex abuse cases, many of which involved adolescent boys.

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.


“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 an interview with Catholic News Service, “Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary.” In the September 30 issue of America, a U.S. Vatican official at the Congregation for Bishops, the Rev. Andrew R. Baker, articulated arguments against acceptance of homosexuals as priesthood candidates.

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, which 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.

Meanwhile, the bishops of Switzerland said people of homosexual orientation can carry out church ministries, as long as they live celibate lives. People living in homosexual unions cannot be involved in church ministries, however, because it would give a bad example to the Catholic faithful, the bishops said in a statement on Oct. 3. The statement said the church can bless homosexuals but not their partnerships. The blessing of gay unions might resemble a marriage ceremony and cause confusion, it said. While the bishops were open to the possibility of legally registering homosexual partnerships to prevent social discrimination, they said society should never treat such unions as marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman has a unique character and must be unconditionally protected by the state, they said.

Vatican Commission Completes Document on Creation, Bioethics

The International Theological Commission is wrapping up work on a document that explores environmental and bioethics issues in light of the theology of creation. Titled Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, the document says human beings have a special responsibility to care for the created universe and to protect the integrity of human life—especially given the new risks posed in areas like genetic engineering and embryonic research. After a few final changes, it is expected to be approved by a mail-in vote in November.

Ratzinger Defends Catechism Against ‘Hostile Rejection’

On the 10th anniversary of publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger defended the text against some theologians’ “hostile rejection” because of its alleged failure to incorporate modern biblical research and ecumenical sensibilities. The cardinal, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, also said the catechism has been welcomed in many parts of the church and eventually may help eliminate “deviations” in liturgical practice. Cardinal Ratzinger made his remarks at the opening session on Oct. 8 of a four-day Vatican meeting to assess the reception of the catechism a decade after its release.

Latinos: Liberal on Social Issues, Conservative on Family

A majority of Latino registered voters favor either outlawing abortion totally or heavily restricting it, according to a new national survey. The survey also reported that education and the economy are the two most important political issues among Latinos. Generally, the Latino electorate tends to be conservative on family and sexual issues and liberal regarding social issues, said the survey. It cited respondents’ support for a bigger federal government that provides more services, even if this entails higher taxes. The survey, titled The Latino Electorate, was conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Sacred Cows

Cows in Europe receive more in government subsidies than more than half the world’s population earns, according to a new report published by the official aid agency of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales. The report, Dumping on the Poor, highlights the problems caused for farmers in the world’s poorest countries by cheap, subsidized food being exported from the European Union. It was published by CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.

News Briefs

• The U.S. State Department’s fourth annual report on religious freedom notes that much of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedom is restricted or prohibited.

• Of the more than 3,000 Catholic bishops who attended at least one session of the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65, only 60 or 61 are still living, the Vatican’s Central Statistics Office said. The uncertainty is caused by the fate of Archbishop Francis Hong Yong-ho of Pyongyang, North Korea, who is listed by the Vatican as “missing.”

• John Porter, the director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said he is hopeful about collaboration between Catholic organizations and the department in the future. A department audit, instituted shortly after the center was created—a mere 10 days after President Bush took office—revealed “the same old organizations were getting the funding year after year” because of a “hesitancy” among those groups “to work with faith-based groups” and a lack of familiarity with the grant application process.

• Oklahoma’s Gov. Frank Keating, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ national review board on clergy sexual abuse, said on Oct. 4 at Regis College in Weston, Mass., that he is “not afraid of confronting anyone or anything” in dealing with the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

• A Guatemalan appeals court annulled the conviction of three military officers and a priest in the 1998 murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of Guatemala City.

• Cardinal Desmond Connell of Dublin has asked for forgiveness for failing to deal appropriately with the issue of sexual abuse of children by clergy.

• The U.S. government appealed to the Vatican to intervene in a standoff over food assistance to Zambia, which has rejected tons of U.S.-produced genetically modified grain to feed millions of people at risk of starvation.

• Maria del Carmen Tapia, a former high-ranking Opus Dei member frequently cited as one of the group’s fiercest critics, said she supported the Oct. 6 canonization of Opus Dei’s founder and has never doubted the group’s “divine origin.”

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11 years 11 months ago
Thank you for the recent exchange of views regarding gay priests. As witnessed in the numerous letters published in reply, a great majority of readers and reasonable Catholics see right through the Rev. Andrew R. Baker’s archaic, fear-based thinking. People often ask, “How can a priest be gay if he is celibate?” Surely your recent articles provide a great deal of clarification about the issue of identity versus activity of the homosexual person and should help people finally understand more fully that a gay identity is surely neither a detriment to a clerical calling nor an inclination toward sexual activity. (If anything, it may provide a special charism that enhances their effectiveness as ministers of the Gospel.)

The real issue with regard to sexual abuse by priests is more likely celibacy, not homosexuality. In my view, some are called to the virtue of celibacy, and some are called to clerical service. Sometimes, but not often, both callings occur in the same person. I know celibate persons who are not called to ordination and ordained persons who are not necessarily called to celibacy. They are simply two different callings.

The news story in your Oct. 21 issue (Signs of the Times) about the Vatican preparing a document against admitting gays to ordination fans the fires of this debate again. How hypocritical and un-Christian to state that “independent of any judgment on the homosexual person” they “should not be admitted to the seminary.” Removal of gay seminarians (without any examination of their psychosexual maturity) would, in any estimation, be an extremely harsh judgment on them as persons, since it would destroy their ability to follow the calling to the priesthood that God has given them. Again, some are trying to justify heterosexism by separating an intrinsic part of people’s nature from their identity as unique human persons and, in this case, also threatening to worsen the already grave shortage of priests. Claiming that gay people have particularly strong or uncontrollable sexual urges or that they cannot “image God” or “contribute to the good of society” is ludicrous. Michelangelo, as well as all the gay priests, bishops and prophetic spiritual leaders of the past, would beg to differ.

Continuing to label homosexuality as a “tendency,” an “inclination,” a “problem” or a “question” rather than an orientation, as this and other church documents do, subtly reinforces the spiritual abuse that has been and continues to be perpetrated against gay and lesbian persons. All of these terms seek to disconnect persons from their God-given nature, causing untold psychological and emotional damage (ironically, the very damage that may cause the kinds of true sexual aberrations at the heart of the current scandal). At a time in history when issues of justice and peace are so crucial, some in our hierarchy choose to put their energies into vindictive, fear-based declarations, instead of healing and hopeful dialogue respectful of the inherent (and coherent) dignity of each of God’s human creations (the first and most essential tenet of Catholic social teaching).


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