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Australian Seminaries Will Use Psychological Evaluation to Screen for Candidates with Homosexual Tendencies

Thaddeus M. Baklinski,

MELBOURNE, March 27, 2009 ( – Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman James O’Farrell told the Melbourne Herald Sun today that Corpus Christi Catholic seminary is instituting the recommendations of the Vatican to use psychological testing to screen for homosexual tendencies in men who are considering a vocation to the Catholic priesthood.

The testing is used to not only identify men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," but also to identify men for whom the burden of celibacy is too great and will cause emotional disturbance even if they manage to keep their vows.

In a 2008 Vatican document approved by Pope Benedict XVI and titled "Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood," the Congregation for Catholic Education says that seminary candidates should undergo psychological evaluations whenever there is a suspicion of personality disturbances or serious doubts about their ability to live a celibate life.

The document says that psychological evaluation would not be imposed on seminarians or seminary candidates. But it emphasized that church authorities have the right to turn away candidates if they are not convinced of their suitability.

In reviewing candidates for admission to seminaries, psychological experts would be called upon to identify such problems as "excessive affective dependency, disproportionate aggression, incapacity to be faithful to obligations, incapacity for openness and trust, inability to cooperate with authority and confused sexual identity," with special attention being given to make sure that celibacy is not "a burden so heavy that it compromises (a candidate’s) affective and relational equilibrium."

Michael Edwards of ABC’s The World Today recently interviewed Bishop Julian Porteous, the rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney.

Edwards said "It’s taken some time but the Vatican now recognises that psychological testing can be a useful method to screen out unsuitable candidates for the priesthood. The Catholic Church in countries such the US and Canada have been doing it for decades, though the tests aren’t necessarily designed to screen out homosexuals who have acknowledged their homosexuality."

Bishop Porteous responded: "We see it as one element to the assessment of the suitability of a candidate for the priesthood and I think it could be a very helpful one, particularly if there are some issues, some concerns to have a psychological test to check whether the person is suitable."

The Bishop said that the testing isn’t necessarily designed to weed out men who’ve had homosexual experiences.

"A person who may have a same sex attraction isn’t precluded automatically from the priesthood," Bishop Porteous said. "The question rather is the possibility in some that there is such a deep seated homosexual tendency that it will make it extremely difficult for them to be faithful to their celibate life and also to maintain appropriate relationships with people. And that’s the question to look at – the capacity of the character to be able to be faithful, to be a faithful priest."

The Vatican document says that in judging a candidate’s ability to live a faithful priestly life, "it is not enough to be sure that he is capable of abstaining from genital activity. It is also necessary to evaluate his sexual orientation, according to the indications published by this congregation. In light of the objectives indicated above, a psychological consultation can, in some cases, be useful."