“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.”