The big news of last week, of course, was the much-anticipated Vatican Instruction
concerning the admission of men with homosexual inclinations.
The instantaneous chasms opened up between various episcopates throughout the country over its proper interpretation is hardly news, and in my opinion, the role of the bishop in the admissions process is often overblown. True, bishops are the chief formators for the diocese, and have the ultimate say over who is ordained. But the fact of the matter is that few bishops, either from lack of opportunity or inclination, manage to spend enough time with a particular candidate for ordination such as to provide a sufficient judgment of his character. True, he will pay a couple of seminary visits, but there are more or less formalities: more often than not he will simply trust the assessment of the rector. And as for the decision to admit a man to seminary, that's what vocation directors get paid for.
As a case in point, observe a certain local episcopal ordinary whose alleged openness to ordaining homosexual men has been much trumpeted by the media. What does it really matter, since, as is well-known in local circles, his vocation director has an absolute ban on accepting candidates with homosexual inclinations? The bishop will never even see one of these candidates, so his opinion on the matter really doesn't amount to much.
Ultimately, the concrete process of assessing such men will fall, as the document states, to seminary rectors and other formation personnel. Speaking of which, what may be bigger news than the Instruction itself is its cover letter
, which states that those with homosexual inclinations "are not to be appointed as rectors or educators in seminaries." While not in the Instruction
itself, and thus lacking formal authority, it's a bombshell that can't help but make itself felt in seminaries worldwide.
The author of said cover letter, however, publicly embarrassed himself in a Vatican Radio interview
which intended to clarify this document, in which the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation proposed that seminaries might accept those with transitory inclinations, e.g. those who committed homosexual acts while drunk, while in prison for many years, or as a way to gain favors by pleasing someone else. His point, of course, is that these scenarios arise from temporary circumstances, and not from deep, exclusive inclinations in the person himself. But one might have asked for better examples of the kind of men we're looking for in seminaries.