VATICAN CITY – In 2005, the Vatican issued a long-awaited document saying the church could not ordain men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies. That document did not say, however, who should determine whether a candidate for the priesthood has homosexual tendencies.
On Thursday, the Vatican released an even longer-awaited document that partly answers that question. The “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood” states that psychological evaluation should be used when there is a suspicion of “psychic disturbances” or “grave immaturity” in a candidate — such as uncertain sexual identity or deep-seated homosexual tendencies.
It also said that in judging a candidate’s capacity for living the charism of celibacy with joy and faithfulness, his sexual orientation must be evaluated.
That prompted some questions at a Vatican press conference, and sitting on the dais to answer them was Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whose Congregation for Catholic Education issued both documents.
One lingering doubt about the homosexuality document was whether a homosexually oriented man who was nevertheless committed to celibacy could be ordained a priest. At Thursday’s press conference, Cardinal Grocholewski gave a rather forceful “no,” and here are the essential parts of his answer:
“The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains.”
Cardinal Grocholewski was then asked why, if a man with strong heterosexual tendencies but who is celibate can be ordained, the same could not be true of a man with homosexual tendencies? His answer:
“Because it’s not simply a question of observing celibacy as such. In this case, it would be a heterosexual tendency, a normal tendency. In a certain sense, when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity, and maintain that homosexuality is a type of deviation, a type of irregularity, as explained in two documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Therefore it is a type of wound in the exercise of the priesthood, in forming relations with others. And precisely for this reason we say that something isn’t right in the psyche of such a man. We don’t simply talk about the ability to abstain from these kinds of relations.”
Commenting on the 2005 document’s distinction between “deep-seated” and “fleeting” tendencies to homosexuality, the cardinal said fleeting tendencies could be overcome. He said there were two schools of thought on this, however:
“Today, some people say homosexuality is so `structured’ that it cannot be cured. On the other hand, many others say today that homosexuality can be cured, and we even have examples of this that have been presented. So we don’t exclude the possibility of a certain cure, but there is also needed a degree of certainty that someone’s psyche has been put right, because very often this homosexual tendency, as we know, begins to emerge later.”