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.

Commentary and implications

The 1961 Vatican policy document Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders[1] stated that homosexual men should not be ordained, although the document left enforcement to bishops. Most did not do so, holding homosexuals to the same standards of celibate chastity as heterosexual seminarians. There is no new moral teaching in the 2005 instruction: the instruction proposed by the document is rather towards enhancing vigilance in barring homosexuals from seminaries, and from the priesthood.

While the preparation for this document had started 10 years before its publication,[2] 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).[3] The document restricts discussion to homosexual candidates: as the vast majority of abuse victims were teenage boys, there is no specific instruction regarding nonchaste heterosexual candidates.

Two months before his death in 2005, Pope John Paul II, troubled by the sex scandals in the US, Austria and Ireland,[2] 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."[2]

Reactions to the document

The document has attracted criticism based on an interpretation that the document implies that homosexuality is associated with pedophilia.[4] There were some questions on 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.[5]

The Belgian college of Bishops elaborated that the sexual restrictions for seminary and priesthood candidates apply likewise for men of all sexual orientations.[6] Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has been quoted as saying that the Vatican's directive was not tout court a "no-gays" policy.[7]

In response to "numerous requests for clarification received by the Holy See", Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in 2008 that the Instruction applied to "all houses of formation for the priesthood".[8][9]

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.

See also


  1. Valeri, Valerio (February 2, 1961). Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders. Sacred Congregation For Religious, The Holy See. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "'Nothing Extraordinary'?" in Inside the Vatican (ISSN 1068-8579), January 2006
  3. In New York Times:
  4. "Statement From The Board Of Directors and Staff of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries" November 29, 2005. Accessed June 18, 2007
  5. The Guardian November 30, 2005 Editorial
  6. ""A propos de la recente instruction concernant l'admission de candidats à la prêtrise" – Regarding the recent instruction concerning the admission of candidates for priesthood". Website of the Catholic Church in Belgium (French). November 29, 2005. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. 
  7. Allen, Jr., John (2009-02-23). "Archbishop Timothy Dolan headed to New York". National Catholic Reporter. 
  8. Bertone, Tarcisio (April 8, 2008). "Rescriptum ex Audentia". L'Osservatore Romano. 
  9. "Vatican says prohibition against gays in seminaries is universal". Catholic News Service. May 19, 2008. 

External links

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