- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

A document distributed to faculty and seminarians at America’s 229 Roman Catholic seminaries asks pointed questions about homosexuality, dissenting faculty members and aberrant theology.

Known as the “instrumentum laboris,” the 12-page working document used by a team of 117 Vatican investigators includes a long list of questions for faculty members, seminarians and all men who have graduated from that seminary in the past three years.

One question, which the document stipulates “must be answered,” asks if there is “evidence of homosexuality” in the institution. Another asks if the seminary is free from New Age influences.

Another question with the stipulation that it must be answered: “Do the seminarians or faculty members have concerns about the moral life of those living in the institution?”

Details of the document, a key tool in an investigation known as an apostolic visitation, were released yesterday in the New York Times.

The Vatican began the visitations in 2002 in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church. Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, rector of St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., said his faculty and 157 seminarians received copies of the document a month ago.

“There are no questions that are unexpected,” he said. “I would have thought up the same questions. They are the obvious ones.”

A team of five investigators will visit St. Mary’s from Oct. 16 through 21, Monsignor Rohlfs added. Other local seminaries to be visited include St. Mary’s Seminary, Roland Park, in Baltimore and Catholic University in the District.

But the investigators, who were in Baltimore yesterday for a training session, are searching in the wrong places in terms of homosexuality, said Richard Sipe, author of the recent book “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes.”

“The church needs to start at the top because violation of vows of celibacy begins there,” he said. “There are a great number of Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals who are sexually active. They’re just scapegoating the homosexual priests.”

Estimates of homosexual seminarians range from 25 percent to 50 percent. A 2004 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops investigation called for “a more searching inquiry” of homosexual seminarians “to help them with the challenge of priestly celibacy.”

Nevertheless, “The Vatican is snooping in the wrong closet by investigating seminaries,” Mr. Sipe said. “They need to investigate the Vatican.”

Debbie Weill, executive director of Dignity, the Catholic homosexual caucus, called the apostolic visitation a “witch hunt.”

“The church is continuing to scapegoat gay priests for the sex abuse crisis in the church while failing to address the core issues of the crisis,” she said.

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