Catholic seminary review points to gay purge

ROME – As Catholics await a ruling on whether homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood, Vatican investigators have been ordered to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for "evidence of homosexuality" and faculty members who dissent from church teaching.

Word of the review, known as an apostolic visitation, leaked out when a priest gave a document prepared to guide the process to The New York Times. Edwin O’Brien, archbishop for the U.S. military and the man supervising the review, confirmed the basic thrust when he told The National Catholic Register that "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations" should not be admitted to a seminary, a restriction that should apply even to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.

Estimates of the number of gay priests range from 10 to 60 percent. The catechism of the Catholic Church says people with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies must live in chastity because "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."

The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, who set off a controversy five years ago when he published a book asserting that "the priesthood is or is becoming a gay profession," told the Times that many in the church had come to accept his observation.

But he was concerned that the seminary review would lead the church to ask celibate faculty members and seminarians to withdraw. "That would be a major mistake from my perspective," said Cozzens. "First, I think it’s unfair if not unjust for committed gay seminarians and faculty who are leading chaste lives. And secondly, I don’t know how you can really enforce that."

The review involves sending teams to all seminaries, which have more than 4,500 students. The last such review began about 25 years ago and took six years to complete.