Pope criticised for gay seminary ban
Pope Benedict XVI is under fire from critics of a new policy statement which bars homosexuals and those who 'endorse gay culture' from training for priesthood in the Catholic Church.
The five-page document, drafted by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education and due to be published on 28 November 2005, describes homosexual acts as 'grave sins' that cannot be justified under any circumstances.
'If a candidate practises homosexuality, or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination,' it says.
It continues: 'Such persons in fact find themselves in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women.'
Though the Catholic Church has officially deemed homosexual practice 'gravely disordered', there is currently no bar on those of non-heterosexual orientation becoming priests provided they adhere to celibacy.
The only exception to the new blanket ban is for those whose 'tendencies' are 'merely the expression of a transitory problem such as ... uncompleted adolescence' and have been 'clearly overcome' well before ordination.
Today the Rev Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) in the UK said that the Catholic Church's hard line would lead people to deny their sexuality for their vocation, contributing to a culture of abuse.
He said that research suggested that up to 40 per cent of US Catholic priests might be gay, adding: 'All those who know [the church], know it is staffed top to bottom by gay people.'
Other estimates say that the figure is nearer 25 per cent - significantly higher than the national average of 5-10 per cent.
The new document, entitled ëAn Instruction Concerning 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', was actually seen and approved by the Pope in August, as reported on Ekklesia at the time.
It has been the subject of rumour ever since, having been circulated to the Catholic hierarchies in different parts of the world so that they can prepare pastoral responses.
Frances Kissling, who heads up the pressure groups Catholics For A Free Choice and Religion Counts, said the statement constituted a sorry moment for the Church because it will 'exclude faithful and good men who are called to the priesthood'.
Human rights groups are also joining the criticism. Opinion surveys also indicate that many of the Catholic faithful want to see a new approach. In April 2005 a survey of traditionally conservative priests in Scotland showed that 41 per cent said the pope should allow priests to wed, while 26 per cent supported the ordination of openly gay men.
Last month the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, declared that being gay should not prevent a person becoming a Catholic priest.
The Vatican's instruction on homosexuality and priesthood does not directly affect those who are already ordained.
[Also on Ekklesia: Tutu calls on Anglicans to accept gay bishop; Nigerian gay and lesbian Christians challenge Archbishop Akinola; Gay Christians send Archbishop stiff Christmas message; Church group builds bridges at gay festival; Pro-gay Anglicans say Nigerian Church 'obsessed' with gays; Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Blessings for same sex relationships increasing in C of E; Senior Anglican sanctions liturgy for gay couples; Anglican Primates deny attack on Archbishop of Canterbury; Charles and Camilla day not gay, Tatchell demonstrates]