- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

A Vatican official said today that homosexuals should not be recruited for the Catholic priesthood because they will undermine its mission and ministry.

Writing in the influential Jesuit journal America, Monsignor Andrew R. Baker of the Vatican's Congregation of Bishops in Rome said "same sex attraction" gives rise to an array of problems.

"First and foremost among them is the possible simultaneous manifestation of other serious problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction and depression," the monsignor wrote.

Homosexual men, he said, "may be more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression, either conscious or subconscious, which were learned in trying to deal with their tendencies in a largely heterosexual environment."

Monsignor Baker cited a 1997 letter from the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship that argues against admitting candidates to seminaries "if there exists a prudent doubt regarding the candidate's suitability."

The monsignor's detailed article is not an official declaration by the Vatican, but as a staff member in one of its congregations, or top divisions, his written explanation would have required clearance from superiors.

In a counterargument in the journal, U.S. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, one of the most liberal bishops in the U.S. hierarchy, said homosexual priests are able to keep vows and serve the church.

Bishop Gumbleton decried the "scapegoating of homosexual priests and seminarians" for the sex-abuse crisis in the church.

"Without being aware of it," he said, "untold numbers of people in the church have been blessed by the compassionate and healing ministry of gay priests and bishops. Ordinary common sense tells us that such ministry is from God."

Bishop Gumbleton asked whether it would be good "to deprive the church of the valuable and blessed ministry" provided by homosexual clergy.

Homosexuality was addressed openly by the Vatican in its 1986 document, "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," which said that same-sex attraction was "objectively disordered."

But not until after the scandal over sexual abuse of minors in the Boston archdiocese made nationwide headlines in January did the Vatican and other church officials weigh in on the topic of homosexual priests.

In February, the Vatican's spokesman said homosexual men should not be ordained.

Although the U.S. bishops have not openly discussed the topic yet, surveys have shown agreement that a "homosexual subculture" has affected some parts of seminary education.

In his essay, Monsignor Baker said that a man with a same-sex attraction obviously "will struggle with or even deny the clear teaching of the church regarding his disordered inclinations and any acts that might flow from these tendencies."

He noted the temptations of an all-male seminary and the influence of homosexual "cliques" and said these would "hamper the healing process" that some homosexuals seek and might even confuse young heterosexual males dealing with issues of manhood and celibacy.

The comment may be the first by a Vatican official that homosexual orientation may be changed.

Monsignor Baker also said that a vow of celibacy by a homosexual man is "superfluous" because it is a promise to abstain from homosexual acts that are already sinful and must be abstained from.

The homosexual priest, moreover, cannot be "genuinely a sign of Christ's spousal love for the church," which implies a male-female relationship, he said.

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