Pope restates ban on gay priests and says homosexuality is 'disordered'

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The Independent Online

The Catholic Church has forcefully restated its hostility to homosexuals, banning them from studying to become priests even if they declare they do not intend to become sexually active.

In the first major ruling since Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April, the long-awaited "Instruction", in preparation for years and widely leaked two months ago, repeats the Church's view that " deep-seated homosexual tendencies ... are objectively disordered", and says that men who have them cannot be admitted to seminaries.

Practising homosexuals should be barred from entering the priesthood, the document declares, along with those who have "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies and who support gay culture. The only exception is for aspiring priests who have experienced "transitory" homosexual urges at least three years in the past and who have overcome them.

The document scotches any hope that homosexuals may have had that the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict might become more accommodating. But that hope was never strong. As Pope John Paul II's closest adviser, the then Cardinal Ratzinger never made a secret of his views on homosexuality. Nearly 20 years ago he wrote bluntly that it was "a more or less strong tendency ordered towards an inherent moral evil". He was also active in stifling efforts by liberals to welcome lay homosexual groups into the Church.

Yet despite the fiercely conservative official line, gay priests have become an established and semi-open presence in the Catholic as in other churches, and the priestly vocation, with its ban on marriage, is often seen as attractive to homosexuals, whether practising or not. It is claimed that some seminaries in the United States have become strongholds of homosexuality where "normal" students find themselves under siege by gay students.

The document was prepared against the background of the abuse scandal that exploded within the Catholic church in the US and elsewhere, causing deep moral shock to congregations and serious financial embarrassment to dioceses sued by victims of priestly sexual abuse.

The document makes no attempt to penalise homosexuals who are already in the priesthood but will undoubtedly deepen the chill that already exists between the Catholic Church and the gay rights movement. The gay rights movement has been angered by the church's apparent identification of priestly abuse with homosexuality. Studies in the US have found that a large majority of abuse cases involved adolescent boys.

"During these past years, homosexuality has become increasingly worrying, and in many countries is considered ... normal," wrote Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a French Jesuit and psychologist, in L'Osservatore Romano, the church's official daily paper. "It does not represent a social value, and even less a moral virtue."

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