Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor released the following statement today: The Congregation for Education's Instruction contains guidance for bishops and others concerned with the selection of candidates to the priesthood, in order to help them to interpret and implement the law of the Church. The Church's law is clear that bishops should admit to seminaries "only those who are judged qualified to dedicate themselves permanently to the sacred ministries" and must "consider their human moral, spiritual and intellectual qualities, their physical and psychic health and their correct intention" (Canon 241, 1). The Instruction contains guidance specifically on the question of whether to admit to the seminary and holy orders "candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies". A priest is primarily a witness to Jesus Christ; anything that detracts from this impedes that witness. In recent years human development and affective maturity have become increasingly prominent in the selection and formation of candidates. Priests are required to live lives of celibate chastity, whatever their sexual orientation, and must be able to relate freely and well to both men and women. Bishops must ensure that men are not admitted to the priesthood for whom its requirements and demands will be too burdensome or impossible to fulfil. The Instruction is not saying than men of homosexual orientation are not welcome in the priesthood. But it is making clear that they must be capable of affective maturity, have a capacity for celibacy and not share the values of the eroticised gay culture. This is especially important because seminaries are all-male environments. As the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales makes clear in its 2004 document Cherishing Life, "a homosexual orientation must never be considered sinful or evil in itself". Nor should anyone ever suffer discrimination or prejudice as result of such orientation. The Church utterly condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse directed against people who have homosexual tendencies. Note: We will be posting up the text of the Instruction later today.
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