Today, the Vatican officially released its hotly debated new document regarding the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood. An Italian Catholic news agency leaked the document last week and a Vatican source had confirmed its authenticity, making the document’s contents already known.
No major changes came in the official "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" released by the Congregation for Catholic Education, and dated November 4th.
As watchers had expected for months, the Instruction affirms the Church’s long-held teaching that men with “deep seeded” homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to the priesthood.
It adds that such tendencies "gravely” hinder potential priests “from relating correctly to men and women."
Some critics are still blasting the document while others think that it is a necessary clarification and a step in the right direction.
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education defended the document on Vatican radio, calling it a clear, reiteration of Church teaching.
He said that "in this field, [of sexuality] in today's world, there is some confusion…Many defend the position according to which the homosexual condition is a normal condition for the human being, as if it were nearly a third gender."
He clarified that the document namely concerns seminarians and those training for the priesthood, not someone who “discovers his homosexuality after having been ordained."
These priests, the cardinal said, have to “try to live in chastity ... maybe he will need more spiritual support than others, but I think he should be a priest in the best way possible."
Rev. Leonard Walker, an Arizona priest however, sees it differently. He announced that he is resigning his post as pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Mesa, citing “aggressive anti-gay positions” coming from the Pope and his own Bishop Thomas Olmsted.
He told the Arizona Republic that he no longer felt comfortable “wearing the uniform” of the priesthood. "I could no longer stay in that institution with any amount of integrity," he said.
Alternately, Bishop William Skylstad, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the document necessary and “timely.”
He said that while the Church affirms "the dignity of all human beings and the respect that should be shown all people irrespective of sexual orientation," it also teaches that "God has given this gift (of sexuality) to humanity to bring about a loving relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong union of a marriage open to the creation of new life."
He added that, in the new Instruction, "the Congregation for Catholic Education is exercising a Christian realism about what is expected in candidates for the priesthood. This realism understands the challenges of our time."
At the end of August, Pope Benedict approved and ordered the publication of the document, which had been in the works for a number of years. It came into public light in 2002, at the height of the priestly abuse scandal.