Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Catholic World News News Feature

Vatican document on homosexuals and seminaries-- full text December 01, 2005

The following is an unofficial translation by CWN of the full Vatican document.

Congregation for Catholic Education

Instruction concerning the criteria of vocational discernment regarding persons with homosexual tendencies, considering their admission to seminary and to Holy Orders


Following the teaching of Vatican II and, in particular, the decree Optatam Totius on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published different documents to promote an adequate formation integral of future priests, offering guidance and precise norms regarding their several aspects. In the meantime also the Synod of Bishops in 1999 reflected on the formation of priests in the present circumstances, with the intent to bring to fulfillment the conciliar doctrine on the subject and to render it more explicit and incisive in the contemporary world. Following this Synod, John Paul II published the post-Synodic apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis.

In light of this rich teaching, the present Instruction does not intend to linger on all the questions by nature emotional or sexual that require careful discernment throughout the whole period of the formation. It contains norms regarding a particular question, made more urgent by the present situation, that is that of the admission or non-admission to the seminary and Holy Orders of candidates who have profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies.

I. Emotional maturity and spiritual fatherhood

According to the constant Tradition of the Church, baptized males alone may validly receive Holy Orders. By means of the sacrament of Orders, the Holy Spirit configures the candidate, to a new and specific role, Jesus Christ: the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom of the Church. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the holy priest must be animated by the gift of his whole person to the Church and with an authentic pastoral love.

The candidate for ordained ministry, therefore, must reach emotional maturity. That maturity renders him able to put himself in the proper relation with men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood toward the ecclesial community entrusted to him.

II. Homosexuality and ordained ministry

From Vatican II until today, several documents of the Magisterium—and especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church— have confirmed the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. The Catechism differentiates between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented as grave sins. Tradition has constantly considered them to be intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law. These, consequently, may not be approved in any case.

Concerning profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, that one discovers in a certain number of men and women, these are also objectively disordered and often constitute a trial, even for these men and women. These people must be received with respect and delicacy; one will avoid every mark of unjust discrimination with respect to them. These are called to realize the will of God in their lives and to unite to the Sacrifice of the Lord the difficulties that they may encounter.

In light of this teaching, this department, in agreement with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, holds it necessary clearly to affirm that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, may not admit to the seminary and Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, show profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.

The above persons find themselves, in fact, in a situation that gravely obstructs a right way of relating with men and women. The negative consequences that may derive from the Ordination of persons with profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies are by no means to by ignored.

If, however, one is dealing with homosexual tendencies that may be simply the expression of a transitory problem, such as for example an adolescence not yet complete, such tendencies must be overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

III. Discernment of qualification of the candidates on the part of the Church

There are two indissociable aspects in every priestly vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible liberty of the man. Vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church. Responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to Him in love. The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient and there is no right to receive Ordination. It is the duty of the Church— in Her responsibility to define the necessary requisites for the reception of the Sacraments instituted by Christ— to discern the qualification of he who wishes to enter the seminary, to accompany him during his years of formation and to call him to Holy Orders, if he be judged to be in possession of the requisite qualities.

The formation of future priests must articulate, in an essential complimentarity, the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. In this context, it is necessary to reveal the particular importance of the human formation, the necessary foundation of all formation. To admit a candidate to the ordination to the diaconate, the Church must verify, among others, that he have reached emotional maturity of a candidate for the priesthood.

The call to Orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop or the major superior. Holding present the opinion of those to whom the responsibility of the formation is entrusted, the bishop or the major superior, before admitting a candidate to ordination, must reach a morally certain judgment on their quality. In the case of a serious doubt in this respect, they must not admit him to ordination.

The discernment of the vocation and the maturity of the candidate is also a grave duty of the rector and the other teachers of the seminary. Before every ordination, the rector must express his judgment on the quality of the candidate required by the Church.

In the discernment of qualification for Ordination, there is a grave duty for the spiritual director. While being bound by secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum. In meetings with the candidate, the spiritual director must especially remember the demands of the Church regarding priestly celibacy and the emotional maturity specific of a priest, as well as help him to discern if he has the necessary qualities. He has the obligation to assess all the qualities of the personality and to ascertain that the candidate does not present sexual troubles incompatible with the priesthood. If a candidate practices homosexuality or present profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, like his confessor, must dissuade him, in conscience, from proceeding towards Ordination.

It remains understood that the candidate himself has the first responsibility for his own formation. He must offer himself with faith to the discernment of the Church, the bishop who calls to Orders, the rector of the seminary, the spiritual director, and the other teachers of the seminary to whom the bishop or the superior general has entrusted the duty of forming future priests. It would be gravely dishonest if a candidate were to hide his own homosexuality to enter, notwithstanding everything, to Ordination. An attitude so inauthentic does not correspond to the spirit of truth, allegiance, and availability that must characterize the personality of he who believes to be called to serve Christ and His Church in the priestly ministry.


This Congregation confirms the necessity that the bishops, the superior generals, and all the responsible involved fulfill a painstaking discernment regarding the qualification of candidates for Holy Orders, from the admission to the seminary until Ordination. This discernment must be done in light of a conception of the ministerial priesthood in concordance with the teaching of the Church.

The Bishops, the Episcopal Conferences, and the Superior Generals must be vigilant that the norms of this Instruction be observed faithfully for the good of the candidates themselves and always to guarantee to the Church suitable priests, true pastors according to the Heart of Christ.

The Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI, August 31 2005, approved this Instruction and ordered its publication.

Rome, November 4, 2005, Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, Patron of Seminaries

- Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect

- Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB; Secretary