Vatican Denounces Transsexuals

By Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
January 31, 2003

VATICAN CITY -- Transsexuals suffer from "mental pathologies," are ineligible for admission to Roman Catholic religious orders and should be expelled if they have already entered the priesthood or religious life, the Vatican says in new directives.

The Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent the directives to the superiors of religious orders worldwide. The leaders were told to implement the directives or turn cases over to the Congregation for handling, Vatican officials said Friday.

The directives were the latest in a series of Vatican pronouncements on eligibility for the priesthood issued ahead of a long-awaited set of guidelines for seminaries in accepting candidates for the clergy.

Those guidelines, due out later this year, are expected to address whether gays also should be barred.

In the new directives, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said transsexuals should be barred as priests, monks, friars, nuns and brothers in religious orders.

"When, from clear external behavior and the testimony of those assigned to formation, there emerges the prudent doubt about the presence of transsexuality, the superior should arrange for a careful medical and psychiatric exam," said the directive, which was reported Friday by Adista, a liberal Catholic news agency.

"In the case that there is a serious and irreversible pathology of transsexuality, (the candidate) cannot be validly admitted into the institute or the society, while in cases of doubt, it is forbidden to allow admission since the candidate is missing a clear and full eligibility," said the document, whose content was confirmed by a Vatican official.

Transsexuals, for the most part, feel they were born the wrong gender and undertake to change their sex, often through surgery and hormone treatments.

The Vatican document said transsexuals are considered to suffer from "mental pathologies," a disassociation between their mind and body in determining their sex.

The Vatican distinguished transsexuals from "intersexed" people -- those born with gender-ambiguous genitalia or internal organs.

Earlier this week, the Vatican upheld its decision to excommunicate seven women who called themselves priests, repeating that the priesthood was reserved for men only. And in December, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released a letter from its prefect advising against bringing gays into the priesthood.

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