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 Introduction In continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, with the Decree Optatam Totius on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published various Documents with the aim of promoting a suitable, integral formation of future priests, by offering guidelines and precise norms regarding its diverse aspects.
In the meantime, the Synod of Bishops also reflected on the formation of priests in the circumstances of the present day, with the intention of bringing to completion the doctrine of the Council on this theme and making it more explicit and effective in today's world. In light of this abundant teaching, the present Instruction does not intend to dwell on all questions in the area of affectivity and sexuality that require an attentive discernment during the entire period of formation.
Rather, it contains norms concerning a specific question, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is: Affective Maturity and Spiritual Fatherhood According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only a baptized person of the male sex validly receives sacred Ordination.
By means of the Sacrament of Orders, the Holy Spirit configures the candidate to Jesus Christ in a new and specific way: Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his whole person to the Church and by an authentic pastoral charity. The candidate to the ordained ministry, therefore, must reach affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood towards the Church community that will be entrusted to him.
Homosexuality and the Ordained Ministry From the time of the Second Vatican Council until today, various Documents of the Magisterium, and especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church, have confirmed the teaching of the Church on homosexuality.
The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies. Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved. Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial.
Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter.
In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question , cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture".
Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies. Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded.
Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.
Discernment by the Church Concerning the Suitability of Candidates There are two inseparable elements in every priestly vocation: A vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church.
In responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to him in love. The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient, and there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination. It belongs to the Church - in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for receiving the sacraments instituted by Christ - to discern the suitability of him who desires to enter the seminary , to accompany him during his years of formation, and to call him to holy orders if he is judged to possess the necessary qualities.
The formation of the future priest must distinctly articulate, in an essentially complementary manner, the four dimensions of formation: In this context, it is necessary to highlight the particular importance of human formation as the necessary foundation of all formation.
In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the diaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity. The call to orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop or the major superior. Bearing in mind the opinion of those to whom he has entrusted the responsibility of formation, the Bishop or major superior, before admitting the candidate to ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment on his qualities.
In the case of a serious doubt in this regard, he must not admit him to ordination. The discernment of a vocation and of the maturity of the candidate is also a serious duty of the rector and of the other persons entrusted with the work of formation in the seminary.
Before every ordination, the rector must express his own judgment on whether the qualities required by the Church are present in the candidate. In the discernment concerning the suitability for ordination, the spiritual director has an important task. Although he is bound to secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum.
In his discussions with the candidate, the spiritual director must especially point out the demands of the Church concerning priestly chastity and the affective maturity that is characteristic of the priest, as well as help him to discern whether he has the necessary qualities. The spiritual director has the obligation to evaluate all the qualities of the candidate's personality and to make sure that he does not present disturbances of a sexual nature, which are incompatible with the priesthood.
If a candidate practises homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination. It goes without saying that the candidate himself has the primary responsibility for his own formation.
He must offer himself trustingly to the discernment of the Church, of the Bishop who calls him to orders, of the rector of the seminary, of his spiritual director and of the other seminary educators to whom the Bishop or major superior has entrusted the task of forming future priests. It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality in order to proceed, despite everything, towards ordination.
Such a deceitful attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and openness that must characterize the personality of him who believes he is called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.
Conclusion This Congregation reaffirms the need for Bishops, major superiors and all relevant authorities to carry out an attentive discernment concerning the suitability of candidates for holy orders, from the time of admission to the seminary until ordination.
This discernment must be done in light of a conception of the ministerial priesthood that is in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Let Bishops, episcopal conferences and major superiors look to see that the constant norms of this Instruction be faithfully observed for the good of the candidates themselves, and to guarantee that the Church always has suitable priests who are true shepherds according to the Heart of Christ.