ROME— According to various Italian news reports following a closed-door session with Italian bishops, Pope Francis on Monday said that men with “deeply rooted” homosexual tendencies, or who “practice homosexual acts,” shouldn’t be allowed into the seminary.
A report by Vatican Insider says Francis told the Italian prelates: “These tendencies, when they are ‘deeply rooted,’ and the practice of homosexual acts, can compromise the life of the seminary beyond that of the young man himself and his eventual future priesthood.”
The meeting was held behind closed doors, and there’s been no Vatican confirmation of what the pope told the bishops.
On Thursday, Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), answered a journalist’s question in a way that appeared to confirm the pope had spoken about the issue of homosexuality when addressing Italy’s crisis of vocations to the priesthood.
The pope’s comments would be in line with a 2005 Vatican document called “Instruction Concerning the 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,” issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education shortly after the election of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.
That document says that “while profoundly respecting the persons in question,” the Catholic Church “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’.”
In 2016, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy released another document, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” which, quoting directly from the previous one, says: “If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination.”
Just as the 2005 document was approved by Benedict XVI, the one released in 2016 was approved by Francis. However, in neither case were the documents signed by the pontiff, but by the heads of the Vatican department behind it.
The reports of Francis’s remarks come days after Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of clerical sexual abuse, said that during a private meeting he and the pope held in April in the Vatican, the head of the Catholic Church said that it didn’t matter that he’s gay.
“Juan Carlos, that you are gay doesn’t matter,” Francis reportedly told Cruz. “God made you like this and loves you like this and it doesn’t matter to me. The pope loves you like this, you have to be happy with who you are.”
In a document he gave to the Chilean bishops mid-May, when 34 bishops came to Rome to talk with Francis about the crisis of the local church, a product among others of decades of clerical sexual abuse cover-up, abuses of power and conscience, the pope said that gay priests shouldn’t be forming other clerics in the seminaries, saying that there are “grave accusations against some bishops or superiors who [allegedly] entrusted to these education institutions priests suspected of active homosexuality.”