Pope Francis on homosexual seminarians: This bridge is closed!

At Vatican Insider I spotted something interesting.  Each Spring the Italian bishops have a plenary meeting at the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, in the smaller hall where the Synod usually meets.  The Pope attends at least part of the meeting.  This year was no exception.

This year the Pope told them… my fast translation from the Italian original:

“If there’s a doubt about homosexuality, it’s better not to have them enter the seminary.”

The words of the Pope in the closed door session with the Italian bishops: “Discernment is needed”. Reaffirmed what was in the Vatican documents of 2005 and 2016

With the pastors of the CEI (Italian bishops conference) – Vatican insider learned – Francis, speaking about the downturn in vocations, one of his “three worries” for the Italian church, he was, instead, more straightforward and, inviting the bishops to oversee more the quality of future priests, then the quantity, explicitly mentioned cases of homosexual persons who desire, for various motives, to enter into the seminary. Then he invited the bishops to a “careful discernment”, adding: “if you have also the slightest doubt it’s better not to let them enter”.

One indication, from the Pope, that expresses his deep concern: these tendencies, which are “deeply rooted”, and the practice of “homosexual acts”, can compromise the life of the seminary beyond that of the young man himself and an eventual future priesthood. They can generate those “scandals” of which the Pope had spoken in his discourse at the opening of the assembly of the Italian bishops in the new hall of the Synod, that disfigure the face of the Church.

Between the lines one can read what was already put in black and white by Pope Francis in a letter of meditation given brevi manu [directly] to the Chile in bishops during their meeting in the Vatican. In a note added to the text. The Pontiff denounced verified problems in seminaries where – as he wrote – bishops and religious superiors have entrusted control to “priests suspected of practicing homosexuality”.


There’s more, but it mainly reviews what previous documents say about homosexual candidates or seminarians.  I suspect someone will translate the whole thing soon… for the sake of general Jesuit reading.

To the bishops: “If you think that the guy is homosexual, don’t put him in the seminary.”

The Pontiff – the Pontifex… “Bridge Builder” – says that “This bridge is closed!

I wonder what that means for those who are already ordained.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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This entry was posted in Francis, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries, Sin That Cries To Heaven and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Joy65 says:

    If it’s followed it is a step in the right direction.

  2. surritter says:

    Don’t let Fr. James Martin S.J. hear about the pope’s comment! He might not like it (awwww….).

  3. dholwell says:

    We constantly pray for vocations, and for our priests and bishops.

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  7. JonPatrick says:

    Hmm, a downturn in vocations. Would it be worth looking into those places in the Church where vocations are flourishing and seminaries are bursting at the seams? Like the traditional orders? Naaah, nothing to see there.

  8. rcg says:

    Of course this a good thing. But it is going to be the focus of state sponsored attacks on the Church and will probably, and unfortunately, be quite effective.

  9. Malta says:

    It seems he contradicts himself to some degree on the issue of homosexuality (cf: http://theweek.com/articles/774517/pope-francis-cunning-long-game)

    But I think this is a good game-plan; my only worry is what is Pope Francis’ ultimate game-plan.

  10. ‘If you have the slightest doubt’. Well, are there prelates who are programmatically going to avoid having any doubts at all about prospective homosexual candidates? I hope not.

  11. Ave Maria says:

    One time it is “Who am I to judge” or recently “God made you gay” (paraphrase?) and there was the welcoming of a homosexual couple at the Vatican and also a trans couple and then there is this: so which is it? May yes mean yes and no mean no and may it hold! Not yes today and no tomorrow and maybe the next time.

  12. Amerikaner says:

    In practice the decisions are made by the Rectors… and pertinent info may not therefore be passed on to a bishop before ordination.

  13. monstrance says:

    Perhaps the Holy Father’s recent experience with the Chilean sex abuse scandal served as a bucket of cold water.
    The “Who am I to judge “ stance received a severe dose of reality.

  14. Antonin says:

    The issue is not homosexuality – the issue is Church leadership. There are always going to be instances of priests, bishops, etc acting waywardly – this has been the experience of the Church since time immemorial. What is required is firm correction – Paul did in his letters…St Dominic and St Francis were also reformers responding to the lavishness and licentiousness of priests.

    Yes, this includes the Pope and the Chilean bishop – he made a BIG mistake supporting him and he needs to look in the mirror. I realize things can swing in the opposite direction and any allegation is presumed to be true but there should be fair and thorough investigations of complaints and one complaint may not be enough but if there is a pattern of complaints (as there was with Maciel) and the senior leadership of the Church does nothing then they need to look at how they are exercising leadership.

    THIS was the problem – yes homosexuality is an issue but so is heterosexuality (priests with girlfriends, out of wedlock babies, etc) – now with # MeTOO more than a few men are sweating. Sometimes the issue is just sinfulness and bad judgement (Trump and Stormy) and sometimes criminal (Weinstein) but all need to be heard and responded to in some way.

    Point is we need good leadership

  15. Ultrarunner says:

    During a private audience the Pope asked leaders of the Lavender Mofia to use their discretion and deny enrollment to homosexual seminarian candidates.

    The trick at these meetings is not to the first one to laugh, or you owe everyone in the room a drink.

  16. frjim4321 says:

    I suspect that he’s referring to those who genitally act out regularly and without any kind of self-reflection or restraint. [“if you have also the slightest doubt it’s better not to let them enter” – is what he said.] I’m pretty sure that if we emptied the seminaries of all gay candidates, including those who are striving for continence, and even the virgins, there might not be many left. [Maybe in your diocese, but not where I am. I don’t buy it for a second.] Blanket policies like this do little more than drive people further back into the closet. It’s like what the ultradox traditional types do in my archdiocese; [Bait and switch. Nice try.] they participate in covert and parallel programs of preparation in which various priests of a JPII era vintage (who are strangely attracted to good-looking seminarians) counsel them to “just go through the motions and get ordained.” This is factual. [Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.]

  17. jhayes says:

    According to Crux, the comments were about certain, but not all persons with homosexual tendencies. The distinction is consistent with existing policy statements.

    ROME- According to various Italian news reports following a closed-door session with Italian bishops, Pope Francis on Monday said that men with “deeply rooted” homosexual tendencies, or who “practice homosexual acts,” shouldn’t be allowed into the seminary

  18. JesusFreak84 says:

    jhayes touched on what I was thinking as I read this. IF there is a priest who experiences same-sex temptations BUT resists them just as strongly as his heterosexual brother priests resist the temptation with regards to women, AND he keeps it out of the pulpit, then I would likely not even know he experienced those temptations, let alone care. God gives us the Grace to withstand ANY temptation He permits us to face, after all.

    The late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, wrote in “The Courage to Be Chaste” that he thought that we may get to Heaven and find a number of canonized Saints who experienced the SSA temptation; what if some of them are priests?

    NB to all of this, of course, is that in every instance, the man cannot DEFINE himself by this temptation; if the candidate for seminary says, “I’m gay,” he’s out. Period. As to what of the man who Did Something 15 years ago in a younger and stupider time? Or the man who was homosexually abused as a youth? I think that needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Again, going back to Fr. Groeschel, he wrote that he believed that VERY few of the young men he encountered in the Bronx were really “homosexual” in the way we understand the word, but that most were acting out that way because of other issues; should those men be denied entrance to seminary? Even someone as “anti-LGBT” as me hesitates to say yes…

    I’m a lay woman, so I don’t claim to have any answers, but I am…hesitant…to say that God would never allow men called to the priesthood to experience temptation xyz, whatever it is. It almost reads like the Holy Father is trying to balance these two sides: the theologically-orthodox man who has his sexuality and its temptations well in-hand and, by God’s Grace, under control, vs. the NAMBLA-type “flamers” who can ping even my autistic “gaydar” and have abused countless souls while consuming our Lord’s Sacred Body with lips blackened with treason… I fear that, to keep the latter out, many of the former will be the babies in the “gay” bathwater =-\

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  20. robtbrown says:


    Those with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies and those who practice homosexual acts: Who has been excluded (other than heterosexuals)?

  21. robtbrown says:

    Malta says:

    24 May 2018 at 7:58 AM

    It seems he contradicts himself to some degree on the issue of homosexuality (cf: http://theweek.com/articles/774517/pope-francis-cunning-long-game)

    He tells people what they want to hear.

  22. Staupostek says:

    I never comment on stories like this, but I feel moved to do so in this case since it strikes so closely to home. This subject pains me deeply. I struggle with same-sex attraction, and because of that was blocked from following a very strongly felt calling to the cloistered monastic life and the priesthood, the latter of which I initially refused to accept because I did not, and still do not, feel myself worthy of it. But through various people, events, and a lot of prayer I accepted it only to be blocked from even doing a proper discernment process because “there can be only one outcome so it would be a waste of time for all parties involved”. So it really pains me when I see Church leaders embracing those who openly flaunt the Church’s teachings with their lifestyle and advocacy while banning me from following what I feel God is asking me to do with my life. While I am banned for this one aspect of myself I hear of others being accepted into seminaries and the priesthood who seem to base a large part of their identity on this aspect of themselves and seek to change what the Church has always taught about morality in this area.

    I seem to be stuck in the middle of a war where neither side wants me. I am a traditional Catholic who tries to live a life as closely as possible to that which I feel God has called me, which means living an almost hermitic existence which is guided by the horarium of the order to which I feel called. But the mere fact that I possess such attractions, despite my not accepting them, nor identifying myself by them, nor acting on them, makes me unwelcome by many of the more conservative, traditional Catholics. If you wonder how they would ever find out, the discussion inevitably comes around at some point to why, at my age, have I never married or why I don’t pursue religious life. I won’t tell a lie, and sometimes an evasive, but honest, answer doesn’t work to put them off the path and I have to explain my situation. While on the other side I am not accepted by the more liberal Catholics either because I do not support the changing of the rules to allow many of the modern innovations and changes they are wanting to see made in the Church today. It seems like I would be more acceptable to both sides if I would just fit into the stereotype of what a “gay” (yes, I, too, hate that term when referring to this) person is “supposed to be”. I know it would be a much easier existence for me in many ways.

    But acceptance by others is not what I seek. I pray earnestly for God to direct me to a priest who does not condemn me for things I do not do, nor condones those things and tells me it’s okay when I know it isn’t. I have had my fill of both. But, in the end, out of a sense of obedience to the Church, I accept my predicament and pray that God will deliver me from both my unwanted attractions and His calling that I still feel burning deeply within my heart to this day, but am not allowed to answer. My apologies for making such a long post.

    [No apologies necessary.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  23. jhayes says:

    robert brown, those whose homosexual tendencies are not “deeply-rooted”

    “Deep-seated” is the term used in the English version of the 2005 Vatican statement, e.g.:

    If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceding towards ordination

  24. Ben Kenobi says:

    “it is going to be the focus of state sponsored attacks on the Church and will probably, and unfortunately, be quite effective.”

    This is nothing new. The state has always insisted that the Church meekly follow what the State demands. We saw that in Revolutionary France. We saw that in Germany during the investiture crisis. We saw that in England where the entire Church was uprooted for having the temerity to say no, her priests scattered and the mass banned. We see it today in China, where the good bishops remain exiled.

    The Church survived all these trials and she shall survive the coming trials. Our task is to hold firm until the end.

  25. hwriggles4 says:

    First, I am glad Pope Francis addressed this. I was also glad when he stated that the door to women priests was closed.

    Second, as a man who came of age in the 1980s (i.e.those of us between 42 and 56 today) many of my buddies (we are straight, not dead) experienced that premarital relations and cohabitation were accepted amongst our peers , and quite frankly, some parents didn’t seem to mind either. However, fast forward a few years – some relationships fizzled, hearts were broken on both sides, etc. Many of my buddies (and one girl in particular that I dated) realized that Church teaching was correct. Many of us chose to remain celibate until marriage after seeing the error of our ways. It wasn’t easy, but it involved setting boundaries, like don’t stay too late at each other’s apartments.

    As for those who cohabitated before marriage and have stayed married, quite a few couples will say they wish they had not cohabitated – there were many challenges, particularly the first few years.

    That said, some later vocation priests and seminarians from my generation had experienced some of these relationships prior to a conversion or reversion story. My understanding in recent times (within the last 10 to 15 years) vocation directors ask if you have been celibate for a certain number of years. This might be easier for a 60 year old widower than a 34 year old never married man. The screening process today for seminarians is much more extensive than say, 1978. I do know quite a few good priests who were ordained between the ages of 35 and 50.

    Now, I don’t think homosexuals should be able to enter seminary. In a close knit situation, it’s difficult. I wish the Armed Forces would have kept “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue ” in place. I recall Archbishop Broglio presented to Congress “The dangers of repealing don’t ask, don’t tell”, and I wish more members of Congress would have listened.

  26. dallenl says:

    At one time (around 1970) the figure of 30% was used to estimate the number of gay clergy. [Which could explain many things… if true.] I was always suspicious of that figure as it was rather thinly sourced. Even if we accept it, there would seem to have been a lot of celibate clergy in that group as it would have been somewhat difficult to cover up any large scale activity. The point that the Pope seems to have been trying to make is that truly abstinent men, both gay and straight, are acceptable candidates but those who are problematic would not be. That would, it itself, tend to encourage a more mature group to prospects. All of which opens the door, again, to discussion of a married clergy. Not without its own challenges to be sure, but it is managed in Eastern Churches and probably could be managed in the West.

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