Vatican City, Dec. 5 (Reuters): An influential Vatican department has said homosexuals and men with gay tendencies should not be ordained as priests — an opinion seen as a foretaste of things to come in the Roman Catholic Church.
The view was contained in a letter published without fanfare in the latest bulletin of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship as an official response to a bishop’s request about whether gay men should be ordained.
“The ordination...of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent and from a pastoral point of view, it is very risky,” said Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez.
“Therefore a homosexual person or a person with homosexual tendencies, is not qualified to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders,” he said.
While the opinion of Medina Estevez, who retired in October, was not definitive, it could influence a future Vatican document on homosexuals in the clergy.
The Catholic Church’s traditional teaching says that homosexual orientation is not sinful but homosexual acts are.
The church’s Catechism says homosexual tendencies are “disordered” and some Vatican officials have said that men with homosexual inclinations should be barred from the priesthood.
The Vatican did not publicise Medina Estevez’s letter, but the fact that it was published in an official organ of the Holy See was seen as a bad omen by those who support the admittance of gay men to the priesthood as long as they remain chaste.
According to Vatican sources, the Holy See is preparing a document that could prevent men with homosexual tendencies from becoming priests.
“These comments seem to be either aimed at preparing people for this document or pressuring the rest of the Vatican to accept their points of view,” said Father Tom Reese, editor of America, the influential magazine of the Jesuit order.
“It looks like this document is coming and it looks like it is going to say no to gays in the priesthood,” Reese, a theologian, told Reuters from his office in New York.
Reese is among those in the Church who support gays in the priesthood as long as they obey the vows of celibacy that apply to all men in the clergy, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
The issue of gay men in the priesthood, long one of quiet discussion, was thrown into the open this year following paedophilia scandals in the US.
While Church officials insist there is no link between paedophilia and celibacy, the scandals have opened debate on many aspects of sexuality among the all-male clergy, particularly because most abuse cases concerned homosexual acts. The Vatican document is being worked on by several departments, including the Congregation for Divine Worship.
The text is at an early stage of drafting and it is not clear when it will be released. Significantly, Medina Estevez said he had formulated his response after consulting the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the key department in issues of doctrinal orthodoxy.