“IF THERE IS DOUBT ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY, BETTER NOT TO ENTER THE SEMINARY”

“IF THERE IS DOUBT ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY, BETTER NOT TO ENTER THE SEMINARY”

Following is my translation of an article that appeared yesterday in the online edition of the Italian daily, La Stampa, in its section called “Vatican Insider.” The piece is by Salvatore Cernuzio and is entitled, “If there is doubt about homosexuality, better not to enter the seminary.”

(A little footnote for history: In June 2011 when La Stampa wanted to inaugurate its new section about the Vatican, the papacy and Catholic Church, they wanted to name it “Vatican Insider.” However, we at EWTN had copyrighted that name with my weekend radio show “Vatican Insider,” and thus they had to ask us for permission to use that name.)

I took the time to translate this piece because I feel that what the Pope has said in the past about homosexuality, and what Church documents say, especiallyt vis-à-vis homosexuality and candidates to the priesthood, might calm the waters that have reached boiling temperatures over words allegedly spoken by Pope Francis to Juan Cruz, a victim of clerical sex abuse in Chile, when he was in Rome with two other victims as a guest of the Holy Father earlier this month. Cruz had quoted the Holy Father in a recent interview.

Neither Pope Francis nor the Holy See Press Office has confirmed or denied the words the pontiff allegedly said to Cruz.

Re: the Vatican Insider article: Pope Francis’ opening remarks to the CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference, as it met Monday in the Vatican, have been reported in several languages. Following his opening remarks in which he spoke of three areas of “concern” for the Church in Italy, there was a give and take, a question and answer session. The author of this piece does not explicitly say so but I am surmising that what he writes (he says at one point “Vatican Insider has learned”) occurred during the Q&A session as these words are not in the formal papal address.

Here is my translation:

On Monday, May 21 Pope Francis spoke to the bishops of the CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference, during a three-hour session of their 71st General assembly. Pope Francis faced the delicate theme of admission of homosexual young men into seminaries.

Pope Bergoglio expressed his opinion on the question, in fact repeating what he affirmed several years ago, though in a manner more implicit. “An eye on seminary admissions, open eyes,” is what he told the Congregation for Clergy.

Vatican Insider has learned that, with the Italian bishops Francis, speaking of the decline in vocations – one of his “three preoccupations for the Italian Church,” was clearer on this and he invited the prelates to take care of the quality of future priests over quantity. He explicitly mentioned the cases of homosexual persons who wish for various reasons to enter the seminary and he therefore invited the bishops to an attentive discernment, adding “If there is doubt about homosexuality, better not to enter the seminary.”

This indication by the pope expresses his great concern: these tendencies, when they are “deeply rooted” and the practice of “homosexual acts” can compromise the life of the seminary, in addition to that of the young man and his eventual future priesthood. And these acts can generate those “scandals” about which the pope spoke in his speech opening the CEI general assembly in the New Synod Hall, saying these acts disfigure the face of the church

Between the lines one can read what Pope Francis wrote in his letter of meditation given to the bishops of Chile during their meeting in the Vatican. In a note added to that text, the pope denounced the problems occurring in seminaries where, he wrote, bishops and religious superiors entrusted the leadership to “priests suspected of practicing homosexuality.”

Naturally, cases are very diverse among themselves and one needs to avoid generalizations. The pope’s note to the bishops of Italy actually goes back to the Ratio Fundamentalis published in December 2016 by the Congregation for Clergy: a thick document with the title, “The gift of the priestly vocation” in which this dicastery updated norms, uses and customs for access to the seminary, furnishing practical suggestions on matters such as health, nourishment, sports activity and rest.

Paragraph 199 of the Ratio states: “In relation to persons with homosexual tendencies who want to enter the seminary or who discover in the course of their formation in the seminary, in coherence with her Magisterium, the Church, though profoundly respecting the persons in question, may not admit to the seminary and to Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture.”

These indications from the 2016 Ratio repeat what was established by the instruction published by the Congregation for Catholic Education in August 2005 on the same “criteria for discernment of a vocation regarding persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to seminaries and to Holy Orders.”

In nine pages with 20 notes, the document, approved by then Pope Benedict XVI, repeated the “no” of the Holy See to entrance into seminaries and religious orders of men who “practice homosexuality, have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or even outright support the so-called gay culture.”

Above all, a distinction was made between “homosexual acts” and “homosexual tendencies”: for the first one, the Church reaffirmed the definition of “grave sin,” “intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law,” whereas what was asked for those who show tendencies, in any case defined as “objectively disordered,” was an acceptance marked by “respect and delicateness,” avoiding “every sign of unjust discrimination.”

In any case, even just a doubt about the homosexual orientation of the candidate to priesthood – according to indications furnished by this instruction – can be considered an obstacle on his path towards ordination. One paragraph states: “If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him, in conscience, from proceeding towards ordination.”

In another paragraph of the same text, aspiring seminarians (with homosexual orientations) are invited to not lie to their superiors just to enter the seminary. “It is understood that the candidate himself is the first one responsible for his own formation” says the Vatican text. It would therefore be “gravely dishonest if a candidate hides his own homosexuality to arrive at – notwithstanding everything – ordination. Such an inauthentic behavior does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and availability which must mark the personality of those who believe they are called to serve Christ.”

What must not be forgotten – another risk indicated by Pope Francis in the previously quoted speech to the Congregation for Clergy – is that often “there are young men who are physically ill and seek strong structures that will defend them.”

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VATICAN ISSUES NEW GUIDELINES FOR PRIESTLY FORMATION

VATICAN ISSUES NEW GUIDELINES FOR PRIESTLY FORMATION

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy has issued an updated instrument for the formation of priests. The document, entitled Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis or ‘The Gift of Priestly Vocation’, was promulgated on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8 and published in L’Osservatore Romano.

“The gift of the priestly vocation, placed by God in the hearts of some men, obliges the Church to propose to them a serious journey of formation,” the opening line of the document reads. In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, says the updated Ratio Fundamentalis is meant to provide guidelines for the formation of priests, which “needed to be revamped, renewed, and restored to the center.”

Click here to read the full interview.

Updated norms

The last Ratio was published in 1970 and updated in 1985. Cardinal Stella said the new norms seek to take into account the rapid evolution in “historical, socio-cultural, and ecclesiastical contexts.”

He said inspiration was drawn from Pope Francis’ teachings and spirituality, especially regarding “temptations tied to money, to the authoritarian exercise of power, to rigid legalism, and to vainglory.”

Innovation and continuity

Cardinal Stella said the guidelines take up “the content, methods and orientation produced up to this day in the field of formation”, while at the same time building on the “existing patrimony” of the Church. He said that, “in the life of the Church innovations are never separate from Tradition, but, on the contrary, integrate it, and enhance it.”

The document, he said, draws on Pastores dabo vobis from 1992 to promote an “integral formation,” that is, “the ability to unite, in a balanced way, the human, as well as the spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions, through a gradual instructional personalized course.”

One important innovation is the introduction of a “propaedeutic period upon entrance to the Seminary.”

The Ratio Fundamentalis proposes the propaedeutic stage of formation be “not less than one year or more than two” and is meant to validate the vocation of candidates. The document also emphasizes the need for dioceses and religious orders to guard against admitting potential sex abusers to the priesthood.

“The greatest attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” it says, “being vigilant lest those who seek admission to a seminary or a house of formation, or who are already petitioning to receive Holy Orders, have not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behavior in this area.”

Ratio Fundamentalis restates the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the ordination of persons with homosexual tendencies.

“The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’. Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” (cf. Ratio Fundamentalis 199; CCC nn. 2357-2358).

Cardinal Stella said the guidelines have added three stages to priestly formation: “the “stage of discipleship,” “configuration stage,” and “pastoral stage,” each of which has a corresponding itinerary and formative content, orientated toward an assimilation with the image of the Good Shepherd.”

In brief, he said, “to be a good priest, in addition to having passed all the exams, a demonstrated human, spiritual and pastoral maturation is necessary.”

Humanity, spirituality, discernment

Cardinal Stella told L’Osservatore Romano the three keywords he would choose to describe the document are: ‘humanity, spirituality, and discernment.’

He recalled Pope Francis’ recent address to the Society of Jesus: “I am noticing,” he said, “the lack of discernment in the formation of priests. We are risking, in fact, becoming accustomed to ‘black and white’ and to that which is legal. We are quite closed, by and large, to discernment. One thing is clear, today in a certain quantity of Seminaries, a rigidity has been re- established which is not related to situational discernment.”

Word for priests

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy concluded with a word for priests. He said, “To each one of them I would like to say above all: do not become discouraged! The Lord never offers less than his promises, and if you have called upon him, he will make his light shine upon you, whether you live in darkness, aridity, fatigue or a moment of pastoral failure. I would like to recommend to priests that they not let the healthy disquiet, which maintains their progress on the right path, be extinguished!”