Sex, Priests, and the Vatican

The present crisis of sexual abuse by priests has shaken the self confidence of the Catholic Church.

On Thursday, the Vatican has issued guidance for future priests to have psychological exams to get rid of those unable to control their sexual urges.

The guidance says the voluntary tests should also aim to check for those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”. Meaning, men with homosexual tendencies should not be allowed to train for the Catholic priesthood even if they seem able to stay celibate.

The document, approved by Pope Benedict XVI stresses that the screening must always have the candidate’s consent.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of sex scandals in recent years involving pedophile priests, notably in the US, Latin America and Europe, prompting lawsuits that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.

Studies show that a significant proportion of men who enter seminaries to prepare for the priesthood are gay. The Church’s belief that gay men should no longer be allowed to enter seminaries could reduce the number of recruits to the priesthood.

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.

Sexual abuse of minors is really a societal dilemma. The fact that it occurs less frequently among priests than among other sectors of society does not minimize its damaging effects to the whole Catholic community.