Transcript of Post Interview With Bishop William Skylstad

Tuesday, November 29, 2005; 9:20 PM

Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke by telephone Tuesday with Washington Post Staff Writer Alan Cooperman. Here is the full text of the interview:

Q: What's the primary goal of this document from the Vatican?

Skylstad: "The purpose I think of the document from the Congregation of Education is to help in the discernment process of appropriate candidates for the priesthood, and especially those who might have homosexual inclinations or have, that, in general, that gay orientation."

Q: Is it still possible for a man who recognizes that he is gay and stably, permanently so, but who is celibate, to enter seminaries or religious orders?

Skylstad: "I think one of the telling sentences in the document is the phrase that the candidate's entire life of sacred ministry must be 'animated by a gift of his whole person to the church and by an authentic pastoral charity.' If that becomes paramount in his ministry, even though he might have a homosexual orientation, then he can minister and he can minister celibately and chastely.

"If he's principally defined, though, by a deep-rooted tendency toward homosexuality, then I think the church is simply saying that that person cannot effectively minister in priesthood."

Q: So you'd read 'deep-rooted tendencies' to mean those whose self-identification and personality revolves around being gay?

Skylstad: "Yeah, if that's the primary identification. It think the document itself really points to bishops and to vocation directors to help the candidate himself discern the appropriateness of his candidacy for priesthood. It's a document about the discernment, primarily, as one pursues the formation process  or enters into the formation process, perhaps that's more important. Those two, along with the spiritual director, who operates in the internal forum, as we say, with the candidate, can help the candidate and assist the candidate in determining whether he's called to priesthood."

Q: Should vocation directors and spiritual directors encourage gay men to leave seminaries?

Skylstad: "That would be part of the discernment process and whether or not there's a deep-seated condition in the person that would keep him from effectively ministering with authentic pastoral charity. I think that involves several aspects of his pastoral ministry  Does he relate well to people? Would he be consumed by, first of all, his orientation and, secondarily, be fully dedicated to ministry? As I mentioned before, the document specifically states that he should be 'animated by the gift of his whole person to the church and by authentic pastoral charity.' That's a discernment process that has to go on."

Q: What would you say now to priests who are both gay and celibate?

Skylstad: "I've already made a public statement about that regard. There are those in that situation who live very chaste and celibate lives and have lived, I think, a very effective and good priesthood, so those gifts we affirm in the church and we're grateful for their ministry."

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