In a book-length interview recently published, Pope Francis addressed gifts and problems for clerical and religious vocations, among them the issues of homosexuality in the clergy.
“The problem of homosexuality is a very critical issue that must be sufficiently discerned from the beginning with the candidates if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” the pope says in the book “The Strength of a Vocation,” set to be released in ten languages.
In an excerpt from the book, the pope said he is concerned about the issue of evaluating and forming people with homosexual tendencies in the clergy and holy life.
“This is something I am interested in, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention,” he said.
Francis said that with candidates for the priesthood or religious life “we have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously detect, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in detecting all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can occur that at the time perhaps they didn’t show [that tendency], but afterward, it comes out.”
“The problem of homosexuality is a very critical issue that must be adequately discerned from the starting with the candidates if that is the case,” the pope reiterated.
Francis recalled that one time “I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were different homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the structuring process, to form a different group of clergy.”
“It’s an actuality we can’t deny. There is no absence of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already declared religious who were gay,” he described.
The pope said that the religious “wondered if it were a challenge and asked me if there was something wrong with that. Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of love.”
“That’s a mistake,” Francis warned. “It’s not just an expression of fondness. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of love. Therefore, the Church suggests that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or holy life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.”
We “have to persuade homosexual priests, and men and women religious to live celibacy with honesty, and above all, that they are impeccably answerable, trying to never shock either their communities or the faithful holy people of God by living a double life. It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the holy life rather than to live a pretentious life.”
The pope was asked in the book if there are limits to what can be tolerated information.
“Of course. When there are candidates with neurosis, marked imbalances, difficult to channel remedial assistance, they shouldn’t be accepted to either the priesthood or the religious life, They should be assisted to take another direction (but they should not be permitted. They should be guided, but they should not be asserted. Let us always bear in mind that they are persons who are going to live in the service of the Church, of the Christian community, of the people of God. Let’s not overlook that outlook. We have to care for them so they are psychologically and efficiently healthy,” the pope replied.