- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

VATICAN CITY The Vatican said yesterday it is drafting new guidelines for accepting candidates for the priesthood that will address the question of whether homosexuals should be barred.

The brief statement by the Vatican's Press Office gave no indication what the conclusion may be, but news reports said the document will include directives against the admission of homosexuals.

Vatican congregations have been studying the issue for several years, but the question has received renewed attention after the clerical sex-abuse scandal in the United States.

Most of the victims of molestation by priests have been adolescent boys. Experts on sex offenders say there is no credible evidence that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to abuse children, but several church leaders have argued that homosexual clergy are to blame for the scandal.

The Press Office said the Congregation for Catholic Education has begun drafting the document, but no publication date has been set. It will not be published until next year.

A Vatican official, requesting anonymity, said the question of admitting homosexuals and other issues will be addressed in a letter to seminaries.

The Press Office issued the statement after the Rome newspaper La Repubblica published an article yesterday saying an initial draft had concluded seminaries should bar men with "homosexual tendencies" and that Vatican officials were rushing to complete the document because of the U.S. scandal.

The Catholic News Service of the United States reported last month that a draft document containing directives against admitting homosexuals was circulating among various Vatican consultants but that it was not clear when the guidance might be published.

As an indication of the debate going on, an American staff member of the Congregation for Bishops, the Rev. Andrew Baker, published an article in September in the Jesuit magazine America arguing that homosexuals should not be ordained.

If a man is homosexual, "then he should not be admitted to holy orders, and his presence in the seminary would not only give him false hope but it may, in fact, hinder" the therapy he needs, Father Baker wrote.

The magazine took up the issue in an editorial last week, declaring that healthy and dedicated homosexual priests "make an important contribution to the life of the church."

"Ensuring that the church ordains only psychologically healthy priests is one answer to the sexual-abuse crisis," the editorial said. "Scapegoating healthy and celibate gay priests is not."

The Italian homosexual rights group Arcigay called the news reports that the Vatican was moving to exclude homosexuals from the priesthood "a dark page in relations between the Vatican and homosexuals."

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