Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders
is a document published in November 2005
by the Congregation for Catholic Education
, one of the top-level offices of the Catholic Church
Although the preparation for this document had started 10 years before its publication, this instruction is seen as an official answer by the Catholic Church to several sex scandals involving priests in the late 20th/early 21st century, including the American Roman Catholic sex abuse cases and a 2004 sex scandal in a seminary at St. Pölten (Austria).
Two months before his death in 2005, Pope John Paul II, troubled by the sex scandals in the US, Austria and Ireland, had written to the Congregation for Catholic Education: "Right from the moment young men enter a Seminary their ability to live a life of celibacy should be monitored so that before their ordination one should be morally certain of their sexual and emotional maturity.
Quotes from the Instruction
- The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies. Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved.
- In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture".
- Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.
Commentary and implications
There is no new moral
teaching in the instruction: the instruction proposed by the document is rather towards enhancing vigilance in barring homosexuals
from seminaries, and from the priesthood.
The document restricts itself to homosexual candidates. It does not mention paedophilia as a separate topic, nor any instruction regarding nonchaste heterosexual candidates. The Belgian college of Bishops elaborated that the sexual restrictions for seminary and priesthood candidates apply likewise for men of all sexual orientations.
There is some question how distinctions between deep-seated and transient homosexuality, as proposed by the document, will be applied in practice: the actual distinction that is made might be between those who abuse, and those who don't.
The document has also attracted criticism based on an interpretation that the document implies that homosexuality leads to pedophilia.