WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 29, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The president of the U.S. episcopate called the Vatican's new Instruction on the admission of men with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies to seminaries and to holy orders "a timely document." The document, titled "Instruction on the Criteria for Vocational Discernment with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders," is from the Congregation for Catholic Education. It was issued today.
Spokane Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, issued a statement on the release of the Vatican document.
"We live in an era when the issue of sexual orientation is much discussed," the prelate observed.
He went on to say that the Church affirms "the dignity of all human beings and the respect that should be shown all people irrespective of sexual orientation," while also teaching that "God has given this gift [of sexuality] to humanity to bring about a loving relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong union of a marriage open to the creation of new life."
Bishop Skylstad said that, in the document, "the Congregation for Catholic Education is exercising a Christian realism about what is expected in candidates for the priesthood. This realism understands the challenges of our time."
He noted that "it expresses the valid concern that all candidates must display an 'affective maturity' which enables them to relate properly to others as chaste, celibate priests who can faithfully represent the teaching of the Church about sexuality, including the immorality of homosexual genital activity."
Thus "it is certainly not acceptable if a candidate practices homosexuality or, whether active or not, if he identifies himself principally by a homosexual inclination or orientation," Bishop Skylstad said.
Also not acceptable is for a candidate "to support the 'gay culture' and to be so concerned with homosexual issues that he cannot sincerely represent the Church's teaching on sexuality," the bishop from Washington state said.
Bishop Skylstad, 71, said that the discussion in the media about this document raised the question "whether a homosexually inclined man can be a good priest."
He said that "the answer lies in the lives of those men who, with God's grace, have truly been dedicated priests, seeking each day not to be served but to serve their people, faithfully representing in word and example the teaching of the Church in its fullness, including God's revelation that sexual expression is intended only to take place between a husband and a wife in a loving, faithful, and life-giving marriage."
Bishop Skylstad urged "all bishops and major superiors to make this Instruction the occasion for a comprehensive discussion with seminary rectors and vocation directors about the affective maturity which every priesthood candidate must manifest."
He also urged a "prayerful and honest discussion of the norms presented in the Instruction by bishops and major superiors with their presbyterates, religious communities, and seminary candidates."
In closing Bishop Skylstad said that "bishops and major superiors should be available to speak directly with brother priests and seminarians who personally face the problem of homosexual inclinations."
He added that "these discussions should manifest both fidelity to the truth about the priesthood expressed in the Instruction and also the respect, compassion, and sensitivity which the Catechism of the Catholic Church says should be extended to all those who face this struggle."