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 CNS Story:

HOMOSEXUALS-MEMORANDUM Nov-30-2005 (390 words) xxxi

1985 memo to bishops gave similar advice on homosexuals in priesthood

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 20 years before the Vatican issued its recent instruction against priestly ordination of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," the Vatican gave similar advice to bishops in a brief, unpublicized memorandum.

The memorandum told bishops that in considering candidates for the priesthood they should not accept men who were homosexually active, who led a homosexual lifestyle or who showed evidence of "latent or repressed homosexuality."

Dated July 9, 1985, the one-page English-language memorandum was signed by U.S. Cardinal William W. Baum, who was then prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. It was labeled, "A memorandum to bishops seeking advice in matters concerning homosexuality and candidates for admission to seminary."

The existence of the memorandum was not widely known until the more recent Vatican document referenced it in a footnote. Catholic News Service requested and obtained a copy of the memorandum from the education congregation.

A church source said the memorandum was issued in the middle of the Vatican's visitation of U.S. seminaries in the mid-1980s and was circulated to many but not all U.S. bishops.

After making it clear that the virtue of chastity and commitment to celibacy are required of all candidates to the Latin-rite priesthood -- including heterosexuals -- the document stated:

"A candidate who is homosexually active or who leads a homosexual lifestyle (whether he is homosexual or not) is not acceptable.

"A high standard of chastity and integration of the personality is required before admission to seminary, such that latent or repressed homosexuality is also a counterindication requiring that the candidate not be accepted -- it would not be fair to the individual nor to the seminary community," it said.

The memorandum said that in the discussion of homosexuality distinctions needed to be made among practice, orientation and temptation. The first two -- practice and orientation -- are "counter-indications of acceptability," when orientation is understood as "commitment to or support of homosexual practices or lifestyles."

It said temptations not directly linked to that kind of orientation would not in themselves disqualify a priesthood candidate.

"People have to face many and diverse temptations in life, and the mark of a Christian is bearing them and resisting them, with the grace of God, after the manner of Our Lord in the wilderness," it said.


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