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HOMOSEXUALS-CONFERENCES Nov-29-2005 (730 words) xxxi

Bishops say Vatican document on homosexuals needs careful analysis

By John Thavis and Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops from several countries said the Vatican's new instruction on homosexuals and priestly ordination requires careful interpretation and application.

The document, released Nov. 29, said the church cannot allow priestly ordination of men who are active homosexuals, who have "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies or who support the "gay culture."

Archbishop Andre Gaumond of Sherbrooke, Quebec, president of the Canadian bishops' conference, said that before the document's release he and other Canadian church officials had discussed the document with officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Congregation officials made clear that in the case of deeply rooted homosexual orientation "those who do not want to change their orientation may not be suitable candidates," Archbishop Gaumond told Catholic News Service in Rome Nov. 29.

Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba, vice president of the bishops' conference, said the focus of the document was "narrow, perhaps too narrow. If a heterosexual presented himself with the same questions, we would look askance."

He said all seminarians must live chastely and must demonstrate maturity regarding their sexual identity and their ability to control sexual impulses.

"This is a very complicated issue. When they speak of 'deep-seated' tendencies, they mean dysfunctional, expressing one's orientation in inappropriate ways," he said.

He said that "a lot of assumptions are made" in the document without being explained.

"We would agree with the document. If someone has not been chaste for at least three years, if they are involved in the gay culture in a way that this colors everything about him -- if these things are not present, then we can consider him as a candidate," he said.

Archbishop Weisgerber said he was pleased that the Vatican makes clear that the church is not questioning the priesthood of homosexual men who already have been ordained. He said he hopes it is clear that "the church is not saying you should not have been ordained."

"So many members of the clergy, like men in the culture at large, are struggling with this," he said.

English Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said in a statement that all priests need to live lives of celibate chastity, whatever their sexual orientation.

"Bishops must ensure that men are not admitted to the priesthood for whom its requirements and demands will be too burdensome or impossible to fulfill," the cardinal said.

"The instruction is not saying than men of homosexual orientation are not welcome in the priesthood. But it is making clear that they must be capable of affective maturity, have a capacity for celibacy and not share the values of the eroticized gay culture. This is especially important because seminaries are all-male environments," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said.

The Swiss bishops' conference also focused on the issue of priestly celibacy or chastity, which was not specifically mentioned in the Vatican document. The Swiss bishops said in a statement that for all priests the commitment to celibacy was made "independent of our sexual orientation."

The bishops quoted from their own 2002 pastoral letter, which said that people of homosexual orientation could carry out church ministries as long as they lived celibate lives.

In view of the new Vatican statement, the Swiss bishops said that "if a homosexual tendency does not permit a man to live in chastity then admission to holy orders is not possible."

Auxiliary Bishop Herve Giraud of Lyon, president of the French bishops' commission for ordained ministry, said the question of "affective maturity" in seminaries was a complicated one. His comments were reported by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.

Bishop Giraud said seminarians, like other young men in their 20s, can sometimes go through a narcissistic stage that is not the same as homosexuality.

"It would be unjust to immediately discard those who believe themselves or declare themselves homosexual. The text rightly asks not to move too quickly," he said.

Bishop Giraud also said the document appears to respond not so much to the situation in France, but to "the Anglo-Saxon world, where the 'gay culture' crosses even into the seminaries."

"In our country," he said, "the criteria of vocational discernment ... have helped to determine vocations with wisdom." He said it appeared that France had fewer problems than the rest of the world on this question.


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