Consternation in US over gays in seminaries

"Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary?", one of 56 questions being asked during apostolic visitations of Catholic seminaries this year, has sparked unprecedented media attention.

CLICK HERECatholic News Service reports that one of the main purposes of the visitations is to assess how well US seminaries are preparing their students for a lifelong commitment to celibacy as priests.

"The church is trying to put out a very clear signal" that those seeking ordination "must embrace a life of celibate chastity," said Fr Stephen Rossetti, president of St. Luke Institute, a facility in the Washington suburbs that specialises in treating priests and religious who suffer addictions or behavioral, emotional or psychological problems.

"The question of homosexuality is an important one," he told Catholic News Service on Friday. He said there is a need to determine when it is appropriate and when it is not to ordain someone who is homosexually oriented.

"Certainly someone who has a problematic history of sexual acting out, or an orientation that is so powerfully homosexual that it really overshadows the person's relational life, then those would not be appropriate people" for priesthood, he said.

The Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education - which oversees seminary formation worldwide and is in charge of the visitations - outlined the nature, purpose, procedures and topics of the visitations in a 13-page "instrumentum laboris," or working paper. The working paper has been distributed to the 117 bishops and seminary personnel who will conduct the visitations, in teams of three or four per seminary or formation house. It has also been sent to the seminaries and formation houses for distribution to their faculty, students and recent alumni.

The education congregation named Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of the US Archdiocese for the Military Services, a former rector of two seminaries, as coordinator of the visitations.

The media flap over the working paper began just as the Vatican-appointed visitors were attending a two-day preparatory session in Baltimore on Thursday and Friday, meeting with Archbishop O'Brien and Archbishop J. Michael Miller, secretary of the education congregation, to review the topics and procedures for the visitations.

Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, communications secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who is serving as Archbishop O'Brien's media liaison for the visitations, told CNS that the question about homosexuality "is just relevant to the current time in which we live."

He cited recent trends in gay rights advocacy, more tolerance of a gay lifestyle and arguments that homosexual and heterosexual relations are equivalent.

"We do live in an era in which these questions are raised, and the seminary is a place that is preparing men for the priesthood and for a lifelong celibate commitment," he said. "So anything that affects that commitment, whether it relates to heterosexual behavior or homosexual behavior, I think, is appropriate to ask."

Homosexuality question for seminary visitations sparks flap (Catholic News Service 16/9/05)

Outrage at Vatican's US hunt for gay seminarians (Sydney Morning Herald/Boston Globe 17/9/05)
Catholic probe to look at gays in US seminaries (Big News Network/Reuters 15/9/05)
Vatican to Check US Seminaries on Gay Presence (New York Times 15/9/05)
Archbishop Dolan sees 'genuine renewal' of priests coming (Catholic News Service 13/9/05)
Homosexual men should not be accepted into seminaries, bishop says (Catholic News Agency 14/9/05)
US Prelate: Gays Shouldn't Be Ordained (Associated Press/Leading the Charge 12/9/05)
Vatican Document on Gay Priests Up in Air (Leading the Charge 10/9/05)
Archbishop: Seminaries should not accept even celibate homosexuals (Catholic News Service 7/9/05)

19 Sep 2005