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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 2, 2005

Vatican releases rule barring
gay men from seminaries

The Vatican has released its new policy rejecting gay men and those who support �gay culture� from seminaries �unless they have overcome their homosexual tendencies for at least three years.�

The document, leaked to several publications in the last few months, was released November 29. Pope Benedict XVI approved it on August 31.

It applies only to seminarians, not to priests.

The policy, ostensibly instructions to seminary directors, intensifies a campaign that the uppermost levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchy have promulgated against gays for several decades.

�The church, while deeply respecting the people in question, cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred order those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or support so-called gay culture,� read the document.

The reaction from gay Catholics and their supporters was universally negative.

�The Vatican continues to be obsessed about homosexuality, misguided about human sexuality, and misdirected regarding the sexual abuse crisis in the church,� said Debbie Weill, executive director of Dignity USA.

�It seems that the intent is really to keep homosexuality quiet, to silence gay priests and gay seminarians,� said Frank DiBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry. The group works for the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Catholic church.

He believes the policy is likely to screen out those seminary candidates who are most well adjusted to their sexual orientation, but allow through those who have not yet grappled with those issues.

�I believe that the document shows a lack of understanding of sexuality,� New Ways cofounder Sister Jeannine Gramick told the Los Angeles Times. �It perpetuates the problem of a secret institution that has tried to cover up problems of molestations by priests.�

New York City GLBT activists gathered outside of St. Patrick�s Cathedral on Sunday, November 27, in solidarity with gay priests and religious orders and to protest the hypocrisy and antigay prejudice of the policy. They plan to return on December 4.

Organizer Brendan Fay said that some of the most gifted members of the clergy have been gay. He mentioned Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died during the September 11 attacks. �Rather than condemn, exclude, and reject, we call on Catholic church leaders to celebrate the gifts that many gay persons bring to the Catholic church.�

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez tried to translate the policy. �If you have short-rooted gay tendencies rather than the deep-rooted variety, enjoy the theater but don�t get carried away, or if you�re capable of living in denial for periods of three years or longer, grab a robe and a pair of sandals and let�s talk.�

Lopez saw it as an attempt to scapegoat gays for the pedophilia scandals over the last few years.

�I think the Vatican, or whoever wrote this statement, should spend a little more time listening to its gay and lesbian members rather than putting out statements,� openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson told Reuters. �This strikes me as language from people who profoundly do not understand gay and lesbian people . . . who know next to nothing about being gay or lesbian.�

�The Catholic church is showing an aversion to both the teaching of Christ and science,� said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. He called it �an attempt to close down open debate� and linked it to the church�s failure to take responsibility for the sex abuse scandals initiated and covered up by members of its hierarchy.

 

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