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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vatican: Practicing Gays Should Not Enter Clergy

VATICAN CITY -- Practicing homosexuals should be barred from entering the Roman Catholic priesthood, the Vatican says, taking a strict line on the place of gays in the clergy, an issue that has divided the faithful worldwide.

An eagerly awaited Vatican document said the Church would also bar men with "deep-seated" gay tendencies and those who support gay culture but would admit those who had clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years.

Key excerpts from the official English-language version of the document, to be issued next week, were read to Reuters late on Tuesday by a Vatican prelate in possession of the document.

The document reinforces standing policy that many in the Church believe has not been properly enforced. Its urgency has been highlighted by the 2002 sexual abuse scandal in the United States, which involved abuse mostly of teenage boys by priests.

Frances Kissling, president of the Washington-based dissident group Catholics for a Free Choice, said the document marked a "sad moment" for the Church because it would "exclude faithful and good men who are called to the priesthood."

The U.S. gay rights group Human Rights Campaign accused the Vatican of "using gay people as scapegoats."

The document, which covers one of the most sensitive issues in the Roman Catholic Church, does not affect those men who are already priests but only those entering seminaries to prepare for the priesthood.

The document, only 21 paragraphs long, restates Church teaching that deep-seated homosexual tendencies are "objectively disordered" and that homosexual acts are grave sins.

The official English version of the document then adds:

"In light of such teaching, this dicastery [Vatican department] ... 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 practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture."

The document, an "instruction" by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, makes a difference between deep-seated homosexual tendencies and what it calls "the expression of a transitory problem."

"Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the deaconate," it says, referring to a position just one step short of the priesthood which usually precedes ordination by about a year.

"In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the deaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity," it says.

The English title of the document is: "Instruction Concerning 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."

It says heads of seminaries have a serious duty to see to it that candidates for the priesthood do not "present disturbances of a sexual nature which are incompatible with the priesthood."