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Catholic World News News Feature

Pope approves barring gay seminarians September 22, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to a new Vatican policy document indicating that men with homosexual tendencies should not be ordained as Catholic priests.

The new document-- which was prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education, in response to a request made by the late Pope John Paul II in 1994-- will be published soon. It will take the form of an "Instruction," signed by the prefect and secretary of the Congregation: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Michael Miller.

The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers.

Priests who have already been ordained, if they suffer from homosexual impulses, are strongly urged to renew their dedication to chastity, and a manner of life appropriate to the priesthood.

The Instruction does not represent a change in Church teaching or policy. Catholic leaders have consistently taught that homosexual men should not be ordained to the priesthood. Pope John XXIII approved a formal policy to that effect, which still remains in effect. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, that policy was widely ignored, particularly in North America. The resulting crisis in the priesthood-- in which one prominent American commentator observed that the priesthood was coming to be seen as a "gay" profession-- prompted Pope John Paul II to call for a new study on the question.

The Congregation for Catholic Education prepared the Instruction after soliciting advice from all of the world's bishops, from psychologists, and from moral theologians. A draft of the Instruction was then circulated among the Vatican dicasteries concerned with the issue, notably including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The pending release of the Instruction, in the face of certain criticism from liberal forces in America and Western Europe, demonstrates the determination of the Vatican to improve the quality of priestly ministry, and to protect the Church from some of the scandals that have recently shaken the Catholic community-- and no doubt deterred many men from entering priestly training.

Informed sources in Rome indicate that the Instruction probably will be made public after the Synod of Bishops, which meets in Rome from October 2 through 23.

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