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U.S. Bishops Getting Serious About Sexual Abuse

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, August 30, 2006 ( - Officially promulgated on August 4, a new 98-page Program of Priestly Formation has been issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) after being approved by the Vatican. Replacing the fourth edition of the norms guiding priestly formation in all seminaries published in 1992, the fifth edition has taken seriously the scandal of priestly sexual abuse. Speaking of a proper formation in sexuality, the document states, "As we have recently seen so dramatically in the Church, when such foundations are lacking in priests, the consequent suffering and scandals are devastating."

In the section on "Norms for the admission of candidates" to the priesthood, the Program states explicitly that "Any evidence of criminal sexual activity with a minor or an inclination toward such activity disqualifies the applicant from admission."

And in the very next clause the document addresses persons with homosexual tendencies. "With regard to the admission of candidates with same sex experiences and/or inclinations, the guidelines provided by the Holy See must be followed," says the document.

That statement, read faithfully, rules out admittance to the priesthood of not only practicing homosexuals, but also those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies, as well as those who support the homosexual lifestyle. The authoritative Vatican document on the matter was released on November 28, 2005. The document, "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", stated, "the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, 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'."

Despite the clarity from the Vatican, certain Bishops and seminary directors began in earnest to attempt to twist the statement to say differently. While such moves were relatively unsurprising from Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and Rochester Bishop Matthew Clark, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the archbishop of Westminster in the UK, contradicted the document in an official statement. "The Instruction is not saying that men of homosexual
orientation are not welcome in the priesthood," he said.

However, the USCCB Program will make such chicanery more difficult as it says that "A candidate must be prepared to accept wholeheartedly the Church's teaching on sexuality in its entirety."

The Program instructs not only the seminarian but also the seminary to be faithful to the totality of Catholic teaching on sexuality. "The teaching of sexual ethics must be thorough and unambiguous in its presentation of the authentic teaching of the Church in sexual moral matters," says the document. It adds, "This is a matter of special import since the seminarian's formation in celibate chastity includes the intellectual assent to, and embrace of, the Church's moral teachings in matters of sexuality."

The program also insists that future priests have a good grasp on the "moral evils" of "contraception, abortion, and euthanasia." The document says: "The importance of a clear grasp of the principles of medical-moral ethics cannot be underestimated for the future priest in the contemporary culture. Special attention during his preparation should be given to the fundamental respect for human life from conception to natural death and to the moral evils of and pastoral means of addressing contraception, abortion, and euthanasia."

The document "Program of Priestly Formation (Fifth Edition)" was developed by the Committee on Priestly Formation of the USCCB which was chaired by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead, a man very familiar to regular readers for his valiant defense of faith, life and family.

Source: (



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved