Homophobia in the Catholic Church.
> 9/15/2005 9:00:00 AM

September 15, 2005

Vatican to Check U.S. Seminaries on Gay Presence

Investigators appointed by the Vatican have been instructed to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United Statesfor "evidence of homosexuality" and for faculty members who dissentfrom church teaching, according to a document prepared to guide theprocess.

The Vatican document, given to The New York Times yesterday by apriest, surfaces as Catholics await a Vatican ruling on whetherhomosexuals should be barred from the priesthood.

In a possible indication of the ruling's contents, the Americanarchbishop who is supervising the seminary review said last week that"anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexualinclinations," should not be admitted to a seminary.

Edwin O'Brien, archbishop for the United States military, told TheNational Catholic Register that the restriction should apply even tothose who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.

American seminaries are under Vatican review as a result of thesexual abuse scandal that swept the priesthood in 2002. Churchofficials in the United States and Rome agreed that they wanted to takea closer look at how seminary candidates were screened for admission,and whether they were being prepared for lives of chastity and celibacy.

The issue of gay seminarians and priests has been in the spotlightbecause a study commissioned by the church found last year that about80 percent of the young people victimized by priests were boys.

Experts in human sexuality have cautioned that homosexuality andattraction to children are different, and that a disproportionatepercentage of boys may have been abused because priests were morelikely to have access to male targets - like altar boys or juniorseminarians - than to girls.

But some church officials in the United States and in Rome,including some bishops and many conservatives, attributed the abuse togay priests and called for an overhaul of the seminaries. Expectationfor such a move rose this year with the election of Pope Benedict XVI,who has spoken of the need to "purify" the church.

It is unknown how many Catholic priests are gay. Estimates range widely, from 10 percent to 60 percent.

The catechism of the Catholic Church says people with "deep-seated"homosexual tendencies must live in chastity because "homosexual actsare intrinsically disordered."

The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, a former seminary rector who set off acontroversy five years ago when he published a book asserting that "thepriesthood is or is becoming a gay profession," said in an interviewyesterday that many in the church had come to accept his observation.

But he said he was concerned that the seminary review would lead thechurch to ask celibate faculty members and seminarians to withdraw.

"That would be a major mistake from my perspective," said FatherCozzens, who teaches in the religious studies department at JohnCarroll University in Cleveland. "First, I think it's unfair if notunjust for committed gay seminarians and faculty who are leading chastelives. And secondly, I don't know how you can really enforce that."

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a sociologist who resigned in May aseditor of the Jesuit magazine America under pressure from the Vatican,said that with the shortage of priests, the church can hardly afford todismiss gay seminarians.

"You could have somebody who's been in the seminary for five or sixyears and is planning to be ordained and the rector knows they're ahomosexual," said Father Reese, now a visiting scholar at Santa ClaraUniversity in California. "What are they going to do, throw them out?

"It's much healthier if a seminarian can talk about their sexualitywith a spiritual director, but this kind of policy is going to force itall underground."

Archbishop O'Brien, who is supervising the seminary review, did notrespond to requests for interviews made to his office in Washington. Inan interview with The Associated Press, he said the Vatican documentwas being reviewed by the pope and could be released this year.

The seminary review, called an apostolic visitation, will send teamsappointed by the Vatican to the 229 seminaries, which have more than4,500 students. The last such review began about 25 years ago and tooksix years to complete.

At each seminary, the visitors are to conduct confidentialinterviews with every faculty member and seminarian, as well aseveryone who graduated in the last three years.

A 12-page document with instructions for the review is now beingdistributed to seminarians and faculty members. It asks whether thedoctrine on the priesthood presented by the seminary is "solidly basedon the church's Magisterium," or teaching, and whether teachers andseminarians "accept this teaching." Among the other questions are these:

"Is there a clear process for removing from the seminary facultymembers who dissent from the authoritative teaching of the church orwhose conduct does not provide good example to future priests?"

"Is the seminary free from the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality?"

"Do the seminarians or faculty members have concerns about themoral life of those living in the institution? (This question must beanswered)."

"Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary? (This question must be answered)."

The questionnaire also asks whether faculty members "watch out for signs of particular friendships."

The Rev. Thomas Baima, provost of the largest seminary in theUnited States, St. Mary of the Lake, in Chicago, where the Vatican issending nine interviewers, said such questions were no surprise.

"The reason we're having an apostolic visitation now is precisely inthe aftermath of the clerical sexual-abuse scandal," Father Baima said."Issues about screening our candidates, about formation for celibacy,about how we teach moral theology are going to get more attention thanhow we teach church history."

But one gay priest, who said he would not give his name because hehas been told by his order not to speak out, said the seminary reviewwould demoralize gay priests.

"It says to gay priests, many of whom are hard-working, faithful menwho live their promises of celibacy with integrity, that you shouldnever have been ordained," he said.

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