Pope Reaffirms Ban on Gay Men Becoming Priests

A new Vatican document on the priesthood, approved by Pope Francis, has reaffirmed a ban on gay men entering the seminary or being ordained.  New Ways Ministry has responded with a call to the pope to retract this document.


Pope Francis

The document from the Congregation for Clergy, titled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” includes language from a 2005 document on priestly formation that addressed persons with homosexual tendencies. This latest document quoted the 2005 text directly, including these words:

“The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’. Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.”

The 2016 document goes on to warn of the “negative consequences” of ordaining gay men, and said men who can “clearly overcome” homosexual tendencies for three years could be admitted. Troubling, too, are paragraphs which say a seminarian is “obliged to reveal to his formators. . .doubts or difficulties he should have in this regard,” formators who in turn “have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding in ordination.” To remain closeted would be “gravely dishonest.”

This latest document affirming the 2005 ban was approved by Pope Francis, reported Michael O’Loughlin of America. Its treatment of gay men who wish to become priests is perhaps oddly placed between “a section about seminarians suffering from mental illness and seminarians who are considered threats to children”–further revealing the authors’ negative bias.  The 2005 document had come in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and was recognized by many as part of efforts to blame the crisis on gay priests.

What this reaffirmation means exactly is unclear, given the disparate ways the 2005 document had been implemented. O’Loughlin wrote about these responses, offered by bishops and religious superiors at whose discretion seminarians are accepted:

“In some instances, those in charge of entrance to seminaries and religious orders as well as those in charge priestly formation have interpreted it to mean that gay men are prohibited from entering Catholic seminaries.

“In others, men who have made homosexuality their primary identity, or have been outspoken in supporting what the Vatican calls the ‘so-called gay culture,’ are barred.

“But a third interpretation has been that men who identify as gay can enter so long as they do not act on their desires, and maintain their vows of chastity or promises of celibacy. (Though there are rare exceptions, such as married priests from other faith traditions who become Catholic, priests are required to practice celibacy.)”

While the effects may be unclear, questions are already being raised about why Pope Francis, who in 2013 said of a gay priest his famous line “Who am I to judge?”, would approve this new document. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commented in a statement:

“Had the document not been approved by Pope Francis, it could easily be dismissed as the work of over-zealous Vatican officials.  But the pope’s approval of this text is a great disappointment to many people—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual supporters—who held out greater hopes for this pontiff who had done so much to open church discussion on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

DeBernardo suggested Francis could withdraw the document and seek to heal the damage already cause, or at a minimum explain where he stands. That would be a start, but not an end.

I know and have worked with many gay and bisexual men in the priesthood and in Catholic ministry. They are some of the most faithful and dutiful ministers in our church. With the many gifts they have offered to us, we must now be in solidarity with them. We must let gay priests know they are welcomed and appreciated by us despite the Vatican’s ill-informed policies.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 8, 2016

Related Articles

Crux: Vatican reiterates that homosexuals shouldn’t be priests

25 replies
  1. Fr Anthony
    Fr Anthony says:

    So, what else is new. Same as when I went through the Sem in the 60s. Gay people do not generally attend Roman Churches even though a welcome is extended. The. People do not care about these things. They care about a spiritual experience, a good homily, a care about their lives . Although gay I still hear from people I inspired over 30 years ago. The Bishops care about one thing, their authority. Thus it was and hopefully will not be.

  2. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Maybe Francis could issue his own statement. “The year of mercy is over. Judgement Day has come. I want the resignations of all of the bishops, priests and deacons with ‘homosexual tendencies’ who work in the Vatican, on my desk by Monday morning. As a token of my respect for your many years of service, you will each receive a month’s severance pay to allow you time to move out of the Vatican and find other work.”

    That should clear a lot of people out of the Vatican, allowing them to work on a shoestring.

    Then he can ask for the resignation of all gay bishops, priests and deacons throughout the world.

    I doubt this recent directive with his name on it will be any more effective than that of Benedict. But what this directive might do is send even more LGBT Catholics out the door.

  3. John M Kelley
    John M Kelley says:

    Not suited for the priesthood? Cannot properly relate to men and women?
    Tell that to Father Mychal Judge, the “Saint of 9/11,” who happened to be gay.
    Father Mychal Judge, pray for us.

  4. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Bravo John Kelley (above). In the Church and in society we are always picking the time and place to “come out” as a safety reality. I knew a gay priest who rose high in the Church who once said to me’ “you can survive if you are liked”. As a Catechist and Religious Ed Dept head and mostly OUT (I kept talking about LGBTQ issues and support for LGBTQ students) I tried to follow my friend’s advice. This mostly works but is a closet compromise. The minute the out priest or educator becomes a threat or a perceived threat then the church authorities go on the attack. I was lucky here in Toronto which has a liberal Catholic School system (but a conservative church). I survived with a lot of support over the years of my career. I’m now retired. The Pope’s signing of this statement is both a failure and a tragedy–a perfect example of one step forward and two steps back. How long, O Lord? And yet we must “Wait for the Lord” and act courageously like Fathers Judge and John McNeill. This is a sad and painful document!

  5. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    This is the Pope who said people should build bridges,not walls. The church is happy to take the money of “persons with homosexual tendencies.” Keep at it. Shrink interest in the message with layer upon layer of rules, exclusionary practices and medieval thinking . That should make the church more relevant. Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. My hope for the so called Francis Effect is fading fast.

  6. ermadurk
    ermadurk says:

    This statement of “Banning Gay Men From Becoming Priests” is much too vague to take seriously, yet because of it’s lack of precision, and broad knowledge of human sexuality, will cause much pain and confusion for priests (and candidates for priesthood), and for the Faithful in general. Give us the reasons for banning this or that, and much guessing, and anger, and depression, and divisions will be avoided. If an effective and cooperative Laity is desired by the Church, the Hierarchy must stop treating us like ignorant children.

  7. Rachel W.
    Rachel W. says:

    From the America article on this: “In the new document, the paragraphs about gay priests appear between a section about seminarians suffering from mental illness and seminarians who are considered threats to children.”

    This was especially painful to read. Makes it pretty clear they aren’t ready to move on from when seeing homosexuality as a mental illness or confusing it with paedophilia.

  8. Fr. Steve
    Fr. Steve says:

    One way of looking at this–our Catholic gay and lesbian friends are standing with their divorced and remarried brothers and sisters on the difficult shore of conscience, with the hope of a development of doctrine. Perhaps this is the Pope’s reason for approving the reiteration of the 2005 teaching. It affirms current Church teaching which does not have a place for “orientation” as something constitutional to, and good for, a person.

      • Fr. Steve
        Fr. Steve says:

        I meant to suggest that perhaps the Pope has questions about how “deep seated homosexual tendencies” would in fact disqualify one from priesthood (current directive), but did not deem it prudent or opportune to publicly propose a change to this teaching (similar to his reasoning in Amoris Laeticia), awaiting further pastoral/theological consensus in the church. For now, he seems to be leaving the decision to admit men with a homosexual orientation to seminary to the conscientious decision of seminary directors in dialogue with applicants.

        • Larry
          Larry says:

          But while he waits, the official Church position is toxic and causes harm to gay men seeking the priesthood and gives anti-gay people the ammunition they need to discriminate. This is a terrible cost for us while the Pope or the Church makes up its mind.

  9. Larry
    Larry says:

    So “Who am I to judge?” his most famous and heartwarming quote will now read “I am the one to judge and gay men are too disordered to relate to men or women and can not be priests.” I wish Pope F had said that in the first place and then we would not have wasted so much hope on him.

  10. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    The Vatican’s latest policy is incoherent, hypocritical, and suffers from an abject lack of definition.

    To claim that “deep-seated” homosexuals are ineligible to be clergy is also to claim, necessarily, that “light-seated” and “medium-seated” homosexuals are eligible, and that it is only the “deep-seated” ones who are deficient. This superstition has no truth to it at all, but even if it did, then simple, measurable, realistic, provable definitions would be needed for applicants with “deep-,” “medium-,” or “light-seated” homosexuality.

    Then, of course, there’s the abject folly in pretending that seminary administrators — who have zero training and zero experience in human sexuality — have any way to assess any applicant’s “deep-,” “medium-,” or “light-seated” homosexuality in the first place.

    Imagine the scientific measurements, then the job interview, and the scoring and ranking of applicants regarding their light-, medium-, or deep-seated gaiety, and the absurdity becomes clear.

    Also, the Vatican’s ban upon supporting anyone who merely supports “gay culture” is overwhelmingly detestable, because, in its rush to persecute gay men, the Vatican denies the very existence of lesbian women, bisexual men and women, and transgender persons altogether.

    Regardless of whatever the Vatican means by the term “gay culture,” that ban, too, is wholly indefensible. For example: if the Vatican bans Portuguese fishermen from the clergy, that says volumes to fishermen, to sailors, to speakers of Portuguese, and, indeed, to millions of citizens worldwide, especially those from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, and Portugal.

    Imagine the scientific measures and the applicant questionnaires used to identify and measure “gay culture,” then the degree of support for or opposition to it, and the absurdity again becomes clear.

    No church can claim to be serving humanity when, at the same time, it keep denying the humanity of both its members and its clergy.

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      From the hierarchy’s perspective it does not have to make internal sense. It is there as cover to allow any bishop to openly discriminate against gay men seeking the priesthood. And serves as another official cudgel against the LGBT community.

  11. Jim Williams
    Jim Williams says:

    Why be concerned about the opinions of the hierarchy?! Isn’t it time that gay people stop hanging on their every syllable as if one cannot think on his / her own?

  12. Janelle Lazzo
    Janelle Lazzo says:

    I cannot help but wonder if God, the Creator of all that is, is concerned that many of God’s own creatures presume to single out and label certain of their fellow humans as being unsuited for anything, including the priesthood. Does this judgment not second guess Divine Wisdom in the most offensive way?

  13. Terese
    Terese says:

    I am saddened to read this article. Im a 65 yrs old practicing catholic woman, I was blessed with two sons one of which is gay. This son has been blessed with such a strong faith but once again the Church has closed the doors. Our church is dying can you not see that. Stop pushing people away. Open your hearts. Repair the damage. I had thought Pope Francis to be different.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] week, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) released its statement on “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” which had been released by the Congregation for the Clergy last December.  The AUSCP describes […]

  2. […] week, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) released its statement on “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” which had been released by the Congregation for the Clergy last December.  The AUSCP […]

  3. […] it was reported that Pope Francis had approved a document on priesthood that reaffirmed a 2005 ban on gay men entering the […]

  4. […] the publication of the Vatican Congregation for Priests’ “The Gift of Priestly Vocation” a few weeks ago, most commentators have noted that the document reaffirms a 2005 ban on the […]

  5. […] initial reactions last week to the Vatican’s new document reaffirming a 2005 ban on gay men entering the […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *