US seminary visitation "mired in controversy"

An investigation of all 229 seminaries in the US begins this week in an effort, according to Vatican officials, to ensure that future priests remain celibate and obediently accept church teaching on all sexual matters.

CLICK HEREThe Tablet's correspondent Robert Mickens reports that the "Apostolic Visitation" - requested in 2002 in the wake of the US clergy's sex abuse crisis - is already mired in controversy after it was discovered this week that investigators will be looking specifically for "evidence of homosexual-ity" in the seminaries.

The request for such evidence is part of a 13-page working paper, or "instrumentum laboris" (IL), that the Congregation for Education in Rome formulated to guide the visitations. It has fuelled speculation that the Vatican is set to issue an official ban on homosexuals entering seminaries, even if they have never engaged in sexual activity. An unconfirmed report last week from Catholic World News said Pope Benedict had already approved the stricture in the form of an "instruction", which would be published later this year by the Congregation for Education.

Several American commentators have claimed that the Vatican is orchestrating a gay witch-hunt, while several prominent Church leaders have expressed fears that homosexually oriented priests were being unfairly targeted as scapegoats for the sex abuse crisis.

"The public discussions that have taken place so far have indicated a kind of discrimination, not against behaviour, but against identity," said Fr Bob Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils in the US.

Mickens says the IL, which was leaked to The Tablet, includes more than 50 possible questions that Vatican-selected visitors are free to ask seminarians and faculty members. But it singles out six particular queries that "must be answered" in the final report visitors send to Rome, including: "Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary?" Among the other five mandatory questions is one that asks for specifics on psychological testing used in admissions procedures, another on whether "seminarians or faculty members have concerns about the moral life of those living in the institution", and a third that asks visitors to judge whether the seminary provides "adequate formation that will enable the seminarians to live in celibate chastity".

US seminary visitation mired in controversy (The Tablet 24/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Instrumentum Laboris

NZ gay community worried about ban (TVNZ One News 25/9/05)
The Forum: The investigation of US seminaries: what not to expect (Catholic World News 23/9/05)
The NZ Impact of Church's Gay Ban (GayNZ.com 25/9/05)
John L. Allen: Homosexuals in the seminary (National Catholic Reporter 25/9/05)
Gay ban has Catholics worried (stuff.co.nz 25/9/05)
Don't dare to speak its name (The Tablet 24/9/05)
Vocations Director suggests one year preparation period for priesthood candidates (catholicireland.net 25/9/05)
Vatican to bar homosexual priests-New York Times (Reuters 22/9/05)
Officials outline gay Vatican ban (Gay.com UK & Ireland 22/9/05)
Vatican to Tighten Rules on Gay Men in the Priesthood (New York Times 22/9/05)
Vatican officials: No publication date for gay seminarians document (Catholic News Service 22/9/05)
Vatican to bar homosexual priests-NYT (Leading the Charge 22/9/05)
Gay priests face ban worldwide (Sydney Morning Herald 23/9/05)
Vatican gay review derided (Sydney Star Observer 22/9/05)
'Vatican to bar gay priests' (London Telegraph 22/9/05)
Married priests call on pope to end celibacy rule (Expatica/DPA 19/9/05)
Report: Pope bans gay seminarians (Newsday 20/9/05)
Pope approves barring gay seminarians (Catholic World News 19/9/05)
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 U.S. seminaries (Big News Network/Reuters 15/9/05)
Vatican to Check U.S. Seminaries on Gay Presence (New York Times 15/9/05)

26 Sep 2005