Vatican Reaffirms Ban on Openly Gay Priests in Catholic Church

Pope Francis talks as he leads the general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican December 7, 2016.
Pope Francis talks as he leads the general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican December 7, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)

The Roman Catholic Church reaffirmed its longstanding ban on openly gay priests, stating that such individuals cannot be admitted to their seminaries.

In a paper released Wednesday by the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, the Church quoted a document released in 2005, when the Church was headed by Pope Benedict XVI, regarding openly gay clergy.

"[T]he Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture,'" stated the new document, titled "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation."

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"Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

The paper went on to state that the situation for a man with same-sex attraction planning to enter the seminary is different if "one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only an expression of a transitory problem — for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded."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," continued the document.

"It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality in order to proceed, despite everything, towards ordination."

Since becoming head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis was initially seen by many LGBT activists as an ally to their cause, especially because of remarks he made in 2013 where he appeared to endorse gay ordination.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis told reporters in an informal interview back in 2013.

Critics of this claim were quick to note that when put in context the quote was consistent with the Catholic Church's longstanding position that homosexuality was sinful.

Since then, Francis has reaffirmed the Church's theologically conservative views on sexual ethics, including opposition to same-sex marriage.

In response to the document, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement saying that the reaffirming of the gay ban would not help resolve the Church's issues regarding abuse.

"Scapegoating some adults protects no children. Behavior, not orientation, is what matters. Half of our 20,000 plus members are women who were sexually assaulted as kids by priests, nuns, bishops and seminarians. It's just wrong to assume or claim that most victims of child molesting clerics are boys," stated SNAP.

"This will almost certainly have no impact whatsoever on the Church's continuing child sex abuse and cover up crisis. Those who hope this will make kids safer will be disappointed."

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