November 4 Letter From the Vatican's Congregation on Catholic Education
Thursday, December 1, 2005; 7:55 PM
We are happy to present you with the enclosed 'Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.'
The new document is the result of a long process of preparation. Already in 1996, in fact, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith invited this congregation to prepare an instruction concerning the criteria for the discernment of vocations with reference to those with homosexual tendencies. Subsequently, the same congregation forwarded abundant documentation on the question.
The draft versions of the document were submitted, for examination, to the fathers of this congregation at the plenary sessions held in 1998, 2002 and 2005. Furthermore, the texts were sent for evaluation to the following dicasteries: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. In the plenary assembly of 2005 the fathers approved the instruction, acknowledging it to be helpful and very useful.
The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on Aug. 31, 2005, approved and ordered the publication of the present document, which had been presented to him by the prefect of this congregation.
The instruction is based on the conciliar and post-conciliar texts concerning the priesthood, as well as on those texts that refer to the problem of homosexuality, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The document does not treat all questions in the area of affective maturity and sexuality that require an attentive discernment during the entire period of formation. It only contains norms concerning a specific question, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is: whether to admit to the seminary and to holy orders candidates who 'practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture.'
The aforementioned document does not call into question the validity of the ordination and the situation of priests who, in fact, have been ordained with homosexual tendencies or of priests in whom such tendencies have manifested themselves after ordination. Like all other priests, they must remember the promise that they made on the day of their ordination to live perfect chastity in celibacy. They are to continue to exercise their ministry, taking care to live with integrity the mission they have received, in faithfulness to the Gospel and to the magisterium. Because of the particular responsibility of those charged with the formation of future priests, they are not to be appointed as rectors or educators in seminaries.
The Congregation for Catholic Education, in publishing this document, wants to offer bishops, major superiors and all superiors whom it may concern, a useful tool for carrying out an attentive and prudent discernment regarding the suitability of candidates for holy orders, from their admission to the seminary until their ordination. The norms of the instruction, therefore, must be taken into consideration in the drafting or updating of the 'Ratio Institutionis Sacerdotalis' of every country. Moreover, it is clear that the aforementioned norms are to be faithfully observed by all superiors to ensure a suitable preparation of future priests in view of the good both of the candidates themselves and of the church.
The text of the document will be published on Nov. 29, 2005, in L'Osservatore Romano. Until that date, it remains strictly confidential.
Hoping that this latest document will contribute to an even greater improvement of the formative path to holy orders, we willingly take the opportunity to express to you our sentiments of highest esteem, remaining
Yours most devotedly in Christ
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, secretary.