Blog Post

Vatican Issues New Rules for Priesthood Candidates

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer Newly published Vatican regulations will require candidates for the priesthood to undergo psychological tests in order to screen out men with strong homosexual tendencies and those who are unable to control their heterosexual urges. The document entitled “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood,” was issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education and is the second document issued in the past three years to deal with the sexual abuse scandal. The document says early detection of “sometimes pathological” psychological defects of men before they become priests would help avoid tragic experiences. It also allows seminary rectors and other officials to use outside experts when they cannot handle the screening themselves. "The Church. . . has a duty of discerning a vocation and the suitability of candidates for the priestly ministry," the document says.  "The priestly ministry...requires certain abilities as well as moral and theological virtues, which are supported by a human and psychic - and particularly affective - equilibrium, so as to allow the subject to be adequately predisposed for giving of himself in the celibate life," it said. The testing by a psychologist or psychotherapist should aim to detect "grave immaturity" and imbalances in the candidates' personality. "Such areas of immaturity would include strong affective dependencies; notable lack of freedom in relations; excessive rigidity of character; lack of loyalty; uncertain sexual identity; deep-seated homosexual tendencies, etc. If this should be the case, the path of formation will have to be interrupted," it said. The document said it was "not enough to be sure that (a candidate) is capable of abstaining from sexual activity" but also to "evaluate his sexual orientation." While gay groups have accused the Church of trying to use homosexuals as scapegoats for the abuse scandals, most of the cases that occurred throughout the world involved teenage boys. However, the document also calls for testing of men who cannot control their heterosexual urges. It says men should be barred from entering the priesthood if psychological testing makes it "evident that the candidate has difficulty living chastity in celibacy: that is, if celibacy, for him is lived as a burden so heavy that it compromises his affective and relational equilibrium." Speaking at an Oct. 30 press conference, Fr. Carlo Bresciani, consultant and psychologist for the Congregation for Catholic Education, emphasized that "with these guidelines, the Church, far from wanting to entrust to psychologists the psychological formation of candidates to the priesthood, which is and continues to be essentially of a spiritual nature, seeks to value what the human and the psychological sciences in particular can contribute to the preparation of priests with equilibrated personalities. The Church appreciates the psychological disciplines but, at the same time, wants to discipline its use in a way that it might be truly beneficial." © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.