Psychological Screening Will Bar Gays from Being Priests

By Emily Pykett
October 30, 2008

MEN who want to be ordained as Catholic priests will be vetted by psychological tests designed to "screen out" homosexuals and those who will find it impossible to stay celibate, it has emerged.

The new guidelines were issued by the Vatican yesterday, in the second document in three years intended to deal with the effects of a sex abuse scandal that rocked the Church six years ago. Officials stated they had a duty to ensure candidates' suitability.

Psychological tests have been used in some seminaries as far back as the 1960s. A 2005 Vatican document allowed men to become priests if they had suppressed homosexual urges for three years.

But the new guidelines stress that if a future priest shows "deep-seated homosexual tendencies", his training "would have to be interrupted". They go on to state that men should also be barred from entering the priesthood if the tests show it is "evident that the candidate has difficulty living in celibacy: that is, if celibacy for him is lived as a burden so heavy that it compromises his affective and relational equilibrium".

The tests will not be compulsory, but can be requested by rectors on a case-by-case basis. In such cases, psychologists or psychotherapists should aim to detect "grave immaturity" and "imbalances" in the candidates' personality.

"Such areas of immaturity would include strong affective dependencies; notable lack of freedom in relations; excessive rigidity of character; lack of loyalty; uncertain sexual identity; deep-seated homosexual tendencies, etc. If this should be the case, the path of formation will have to be interrupted," the document said.

Sex abuse scandals involving priests have hit the Church in recent years, triggering legal settlements costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues, of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, said yesterday: "(The guidelines] became ever more urgent because of the sexual scandals."

It is not yet known if or when the guidelines will be implemented in Scotland.

Liz Leydon, editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer, said: "In terms of general recruitment, psychological screening for candidates of any job when deemed appropriate is a direction we may be moving towards globally, not just for people considering whether to be priests but all people working with children."

Ronnie Convery, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, said: "All dioceses around the world will carefully examine the guidance. However, it is unlikely to have a dramatic impact, since candidates for the priesthood already undergo an assiduous period of scrutiny before beginning their studies."

John Hein, publisher of ScotsGay magazine, said: "In some jobs, psychological screening aims to see if you will make a reasonable employee or not.

"Obviously, I would not see homosexuality being a negative when employing somebody.

"The Roman Catholic Church does not like homosexuals, but I oppose rooting them out like this. What about people already in the priesthood have they been given screening? Perhaps they should set the example."


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