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Bishop Says Edict Allows Some Gay Priests

Asked whether that means the archdiocese will still accept gay seminarians, the cardinal's spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said: "We don't anticipate our admissions policy changing based on the document. There can be people whose orientation is homosexual if it's not such a strong part of their makeup that it interferes with their ability to live out church teaching. It's part of the larger picture we have to look at."

Skylstad took a similar approach. He said the barring of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" refers to those who are "principally defined by" or whose "primary identification" is their sexual orientation. Although the document does not say so, he said, the same implicitly applies to men who have deep-seated heterosexual impulses.

William S. Skylstad, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said a gay priest-to-be must show that he
William S. Skylstad, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said a gay priest-to-be must show that he "can minister celibately and chastely." (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)

"Absolutely, it cuts both ways. . . . I think if the orientation dominates one's personality, whether that be homosexual or heterosexual," then the candidate is not suitable for ordination, Skylstad said. "You know, a heterosexual person who cannot live the celibate life in fidelity to his mission, in fidelity to appropriate boundaries, is not going to be called by the church to priesthood, either."

The same point was made by Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, N.Y., in a statement on his Web site; it noted that the Vatican's instruction requires all candidates for the priesthood to show emotional maturity.

"I must concur, and add that such criteria also would be applied to a heterosexual man whose sexual behavior would in any way interfere with his celibate service to the Church and to those to whom he would minister," Clark wrote.

But in Rome, the head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, said that the problems of homosexual and heterosexual candidates are not equivalent. Although many people think homosexuality is a "normal condition of the human person," he told Vatican Radio, it "absolutely contradicts human anthropology" and violates "natural law."

For the church, denying ordination to gay men is no more discriminatory than "if a person who suffers from vertigo is not admitted to a school for astronauts," the cardinal said.

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative Catholic journal First Things, said that "human nature being what it is, those who want to evade the clear statement of the instruction will have ample opportunities to seek loopholes, evasions and rationalizations."

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and generally a liberal commentator on church affairs, agreed.

"Over the next few months we will hear from plenty of canon lawyers and theologians and bishops, as we have already, arguing, out of a genuine and compassionate desire to help the church continue to accept celibate gay men into the priesthood, that the document needs to be interpreted in the most positive light possible," he said.

"But it is impossible, after reading the Instruction, to escape the fact that when the Vatican says men with 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies,' it means what it says."

Special correspondent Sarah Delaney in Rome contributed to this report.

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