Roman Catholic Church Bans Gay Seminarians Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Roman Catholic Church publicly issued an official “instruction” that banned gays from admission to seminaries for training for the priesthood. The new document came at the end of several years of controversy over the sexual abuse of children by priests and subsequent cover-ups by the Church.

Summary of Event

Rumors of a ban on gay priests and seminarians first rose in the late 1990’s and early twenty-first century and were especially widespread in the weeks leading up to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on gay seminarians issued on November 4, 2005 (announced November 29). Contrary to some fears, the ban did not affect men who had already been ordained as priests. Rather, the ban was aimed at applicants to seminary training. [kw]Roman Catholic Church Bans Gay Seminarians (Nov. 29, 2005) [kw]Catholic Church Bans Gay Seminarians, Roman (Nov. 29, 2005) [kw]Church Bans Gay Seminarians, Roman Catholic (Nov. 29, 2005) [kw]Bans Gay Seminarians, Roman Catholic Church (Nov. 29, 2005) [kw]Gay Seminarians, Roman Catholic Church Bans (Nov. 29, 2005) [kw]Seminarians, Roman Catholic Church Bans Gay (Nov. 29, 2005) Roman Catholic Church;and gay priests[gay priests] Homosexuality;Roman Catholic Church on [c]Religion; [c]Organizations and institutions;

The document, 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, Homosexual Tendencies In View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders, Instruction…(Roman Catholic Church) offered twenty-one paragraphs of guidance to bishops and seminary rectors on the proper response to gay applicants for the priesthood. Issued by the Church’s Congregation for Catholic Education, Catholic Education, Congregation for, and gay priests the instruction banned from the seminary men who “practice homosexuality,” exhibit “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” or “support the so-called ’gay culture.’” At the same time, the instruction suggested that men who had overcome transitory homosexual impulses for at least three years could be considered for admission to seminary. The instruction further suggested that its prohibition against gay seminarians was issued in the context of deep respect for the persons affected by the ban.

Work on the 2005 instruction had begun years before—by some estimates, as long as a decade before. Since at least 1961, the Vatican had actively discouraged the admission of gay men to the priesthood. At that time, the Vatican issued the Instruction on the Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders. Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders (Roman Catholic Church) That document not only banned gays from the priesthood but also implicitly linked homosexuality and pederasty.

In 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Roman Catholic Church) the Church unit empowered to ensure orthodoxy among adherents, issued a denunciation of gay priests. At that time, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was headed by Joseph Ratzinger, widely regarded as a highly conservative member of the Church hierarchy. Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

In 2002, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Roman Catholic Church) also advised against admitting gays into the priesthood. Despite this and earlier Vatican pronouncements discouraging gay priests, most of the 229 seminaries in the United States had not uniformly rejected candidates who were gay.

The issue of gays in the priesthood took on new currency with the start, in the late twentieth century, of a sexual abuse scandal involving priests, which roiled the Archdiocese of Boston and eventually much of the Church in the United States and beyond. Social science research disavows any link between sexual orientation and child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse, and Roman Catholic Church Nevertheless, when the scandal of priests’ sexual abuse of children and the Church’s cover-up of the abuse came to light, the disproved link emerged in both media and popular discourse. During the height of the sexual abuse scandal, the Congregation for Catholic Education had been reportedly developing guidelines addressing admission to the priesthood. It was widely expected that these guidelines would specifically address whether gays should become priests.

The stage for the eventual ban was set in April, 2005, when Ratzinger became pope, succeeding John Paul II as patriarch of the Church. Benedict indicated a need to “purify” the Church in the aftermath of the child sexual abuse scandal. Like many people both inside and outside the Church, Benedict continued to perpetuate the myth of a relationship between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children. Under the sway of that myth, however ill-advised, Benedict’s next step was to approve the instruction, which he did on August 31, 2005. The instruction was announced to the public by the Congregation for Catholic Education in late November.

Significance

The 2005 Roman Catholic instruction has been widely regarded as having perpetuated the myth of a link between homosexuality child sexual abuse. At the same time, the instruction did not address the presence of gay priests who had already been ordained and who were serving the Church. This distinction was a relief to some who had feared the potential for a purge of gay priests. Nonetheless, the ban against admitting gays to seminaries was publicly described by some ordained priests as a witch hunt. This description took on a new intensity when the Vatican announced visits to seminaries to make sure the seminaries were complying with the ban.

The ban was met by strong reactions both in favor and in opposition. Some conservative groups—for example, the American Family Association American Family Association;and gay priests[gay priests] —welcomed the ban. In statements of support, these groups often explicitly repeated the disproved connection between sexual orientation and child sexual abuse. Some gay priests reacted to the ban by announcing they were gay. Some stayed in the priesthood; others chose to leave. Critics of the ban suggested that it would carry several dangerous effects, including the creation of an unhealthy, sexually repressed environment in the Church and the establishment of a barrier to clear communication between seminarians and their spiritual advisers. Ultimately, the ban suggested that the Church was resolving its sexual abuse scandal by insisting that gay priests were the cause of the scandal—in spite of contradictory social science research as well as a wealth of evidence implicating institutional self-protection and secrecy as significant in the development of the sexual abuse crisis. Roman Catholic Church;and gay priests[gay priests] Homosexuality;Roman Catholic Church on

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Congress for Catholic Education. 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 (November 4, 2005). http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/ congregations/ccatheduc/.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lieblich, J. “’An Appalling Sin,’ Pope Says: Vatican Session with Cardinals on Sex Abuse Also Opens Debate on Homosexuality in Priesthood.” Chicago Tribune, April 24, 2002, p. 1.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ripley, A. “Inside The Church’s Closet: Gay Priests Talk About Their Hidden Lives, Love of the Church and Fear of Being Scapegoated in the Sex Scandals.” Time, May 20, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Russell, Glenda M., and Nancy Kelly. Subtle Stereotyping: The Media, Homosexuality, and the Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal. Amherst, Mass.: Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies, 2003. http://iglss.org.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stevenson, Michael R. “Understanding Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gay Priests Are Not the Problem.” Angles: The Policy Journal of the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies 6, no. 2 (September, 2002). http://iglss .org.

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