An American priest working in the Vatican has argued that gays should not be admitted to the priesthood.
Fr Andrew Baker, a staff member of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote in Monday’s edition of America, a New York-based Jesuit magazine, that if a man had "predominantly homosexual tendencies" then he should not be admitted to holy orders.
He noted that "the Church and society have focused partly on the role of homosexuality" in the clerical abuse scandals that have swept the United States this year, since most victims were adolescent boys.
He said gays were "more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression" than heterosexuals, and more likely to reject Church teaching on sexuality, to form gay cliques, engage in "duplicitous or pretentious behaviours" and to struggle with celibacy.
He said their admission to the seminary would not only give such men "false hope" but could also stop them from receiving necessary "therapy". "It may be that a man could be healed of such a disorder and then could be considered for admission to the seminary," he wrote, "but not while being afflicted with the disorder."
Fr Baker insisted the article represented his "personal opinion" and not that of the Vatican, but Fr Thomas Reese, editor of America, said he thought it was significant. "The Congregation for Bishops is one of the most important offices in the Vatican because it deals with bishops’ conferences and it also recommends names to the Pope to appoint bishops around the world," said Fr Reese. "I think the article helps us understand the thinking of at least some people in the Vatican on the question of ordaining gay men."
Fr Baker’s comments are consistent with other recent remarks by high-ranking Vatican officials, not least the Pope, who earlier this month warned the Brazilian bishops against ordaining men with "obvious signs of affective deviations".
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Pope’s spokesman, also said in March that gays "just cannot be ordained", a direct echo of the sentiments expressed the year before by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Rome is about to review the new child protection procedures of the US bishops, a process that will also involve scrutiny of US seminaries, where some sources say 50 per cent of candidates are gay.
Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, also writing in America, said: "All this must stop…as a bishop over 30 years, I have worked with and come to know well many gay priests. They are healthy psychologically and their committed ministry has been very effective. I am inspired by their love of God and of the people they serve so well and generously."
He added: "The problem (of abuse of minors) confronting us is not a problem of homosexual priests among us. It is a problem of seriously underdeveloped priests."