ROME (BP)–A new Catholic document approved by Pope Benedict XVI would bar men from the priesthood “who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.'”
The document is meant to reaffirm and even strengthen Catholic teaching on homosexuality and, some say, is aimed at correcting problems of pedophilia among priests. Approximately 80 percent of the sexual abuse victims within the Catholic church have been boys, Reuters reported. The priesthood is limited to males.
Although the document isn’t scheduled to be released officially until Nov. 29, it was leaked and posted on an Italian Catholic website, AdistaOnline.it, according to The New York Times.
The document could have a significant impact on seminaries, which have been the source of charges of liberalism and leniency on homosexuality. The document would not apply to men currently in the priesthood, The Times reported.
“It’s a clear statement by the Vatican that gay men are not welcome in seminaries and religious orders,” James Martin, a Jesuit priest, told The Times. “It raises the bar so high that it would be difficult to imagine gay men feeling encouraged to pursue a life in the priesthood. It’s a very stringent set of rules they’re applying. Really the only people that would be able to enter, according to the document, would be people who had a fleeting homosexual attraction.”
The document leaves room for those who have had an “expression of a transitory problem” to become priests, presumably referring to men who have left homosexuality altogether.
“It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality, regardless of everything, to arrive at ordination,” the document says, according to The Times. “Such an inauthentic attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and availability that must characterize the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ.”
Conservatives applauded the document.
“I don’t think it’s anything new or different from the church’s constant teaching, but it’s new in the sense that the teaching has been widely disregarded in seminaries,” Joseph Fessio, editor of Ignatius Press, told The Times.
Said Catholic League President Bill Donahue, in a statement: “As I have said many times before, most homosexual priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters are gay. The John Jay Report made this clear: 81 percent of the victims are male and almost as many are post-pubescent. This is not called pedophilia — it is called homosexuality.”
Even Anglican conservatives said the document is a step in the right direction. Anglicans are in the midst of a heated debate over homosexuality.
“That’s a policy that we have been promoting and that we support wholeheartedly,” Tunde Popoola, director of communications for the Anglican Church of Nigeria, told Reuters. “It gladdens my heart to hear others coming up with such a policy.”