|I. The Church and the Discernment of a Vocation
1. "Each Christian vocation comes from God and is God's gift. However,
it is never bestowed outside of or independently of the church. Instead
it always comes about in the church and through the church . . . , a
luminous and living reflection of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity."1
The church, "begetter and formator of vocations,"2 has the
duty of discerning a vocation and the suitability of candidates for the
priestly ministry. In fact, "the interior call of the Spirit needs to be
recognized as the authentic call of the bishops."3
In furthering this discernment, and throughout the entire process of
formation for ministry, the church is moved by two concerns: to
safeguard the good of her own mission and, at the same time, the good of
the candidates. In fact, like every Christian vocation, the vocation to
the priesthood, along with a Christological dimension, has an
essentially ecclesial dimension: "Not only does it derive 'from' the
church and her mediation, not only does it come to be known and find
fulfillment 'in' the church, but it also necessarily appears in
fundamental service to God as a service 'to' the church. Christian
vocation, whatever shape it takes, is a gift whose purpose is to build
up the church and to increase the kingdom of God in the world."4
Therefore the good of the church and that of the candidate are not in
opposition, but rather converge. Those responsible for formation work at
harmonizing these two goods by always considering both simultaneously in
their interdependent dynamic. This is an essential aspect of the great
responsibility they bear in their service to the church and to
2. The priestly ministry, understood and lived as a conformation to
Christ, bridegroom and good shepherd, 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 in a way that is truly free in his relations with the
The postsynodal apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis treats
of the various dimensions of priestly formation: human, spiritual,
intellectual and pastoral. Before the text deals with the spiritual
dimension "an extremely important element of a priest's education"7
it underlines that the human dimension is the foundation of all
The document lists a series of human virtues and relationship abilities
that are required of the priest so that his personality* (*The specific
understanding of personality in this document refers to affective
maturity and absence of mental disorder.) may be "a bridge and not an
obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the redeemer of
humanity."8 These virtues and qualities range from the
personality's general equilibrium to the ability to bear the weight of
pastoral responsibilities, from a deep knowledge of the human spirit to
a sense of justice and loyalty.9
Some of these qualities merit particular attention:
The positive and stable sense of one's masculine identity and the
capacity to form relations in a mature way with individuals and groups
A solid sense of belonging, which is the basis of future communion
with the presbyterium and of a responsible collaboration in the ministry
of the bishop.10
The freedom to be enthused by great ideals and a coherence in
realizing them in everyday action.
The courage to take decisions and to stay faithful to them.
A knowledge of oneself, of one's talents and limitations so as to
integrate them within a self-esteem before God.
The capacity to correct oneself.
The appreciation for beauty in the sense of "splendor of the truth" as
well as the art of recognizing it.
The trust that is born from an esteem of the other person and that
leads to acceptance.
The capacity of the candidate to integrate his sexuality in accordance
with the Christian vision, including in consideration of the obligation
Such interior dispositions must be molded during the future priest's
path of formation because as a man of God and of the church he is called
to build up the ecclesial community. Being in love with him who is
eternal, the priest develops an authentic and integral appreciation of
humanity. He also increasingly lives the richness of his own affectivity
in the gift of himself to God, one and three, and to his brethren,
particularly those who are suffering.
Clearly these are objectives that can only be reached by the candidate
cooperating daily with the work of grace within him. They are objectives
that are acquired with a gradual and lengthy path of formation, which is
not always linear.12
A priestly vocation involves an extraordinary and demanding synergy of
human and special dynamics. The candidate, knowing this, can only draw
advantage from an attentive and responsible vocational discernment,
aimed at differentiating formation paths according to each individual's
needs, as well as gradually overcoming his deficiencies on the spiritual
and human levels. The church has the duty of furnishing candidates with
an effective integration of the human dimension in light of the
spiritual dimension into which it flows and in which it finds its
II. Preparation of Formators
3. Every formator should have a good knowledge of the human person: his
rhythms of growth; his potentials and weaknesses; and his way of living
his relationship with God. Thus it is desirable that bishops by making
use of various experiences, programs and institutions of good reputation
provide a suitable preparation in vocational pedagogy for formators,
according to the indications already published by the Congregation for
Formators need to be adequately prepared to carry out a discernment
that, fully respecting the church's doctrine on the priestly vocation,
allows for a reasonably sure decision as to whether the candidate should
be admitted to the seminary or house of formation of the religious
clergy or whether he should be dismissed from the seminary or house of
formation for reasons of unsuitability.
The discernment also must allow for the candidate to be accompanied on
his path to acquiring those moral and theological virtues which are
necessary for living in coherence and interior freedom the total gift of
his life so as to be a "servant of the church as communion."15
4. The document of this Congregation for Catholic Education, "A Guide to
Formation in Priestly Celibacy," recognizes that "errors in discerning
vocations are not rare, and in all too many cases psychological defects,
sometimes of a pathological kind, reveal themselves only after
ordination to the priesthood. Detecting defects earlier would help avoid
many tragic experiences."16
Hence the need for every formator to possess in due measure the
sensitivity and psychological preparation17 that will allow
him, insofar as possible, to perceive the candidate's true motivations,
to discern the barriers that stop him integrating human and Christian
maturity and to pick up on any psychopathic disturbances present in the
candidate. The formator must accurately and very prudently evaluate the
Nevertheless, this history alone cannot constitute the decisive
criterion which would be sufficient for judging whether to admit the
candidate or dismiss him from formation. The formator must know how to
evaluate the person in his totality, not forgetting the gradual nature
of development. He must see the candidate's strong and weak points as
well as the level of awareness that the candidate has of his own
problems. Last, the formator must discern the candidate's capacity for
controlling his own behavior in responsibility and freedom.
Thus, every formator must be prepared, including by means of specific
courses, to understand profoundly the human person as well as the
demands of his formation to the ordained ministry. To that end, much
advantage can be derived from meeting experts in the psychological
sciences, to compare notes and obtain clarification on some specific
III. Contribution of Psychology to Vocational Discernment and
5. Inasmuch as it is the fruit of a particular gift of God, the vocation
to the priesthood and its discernment lie outside the strict competence
of psychology. Nevertheless, in some cases recourse to experts in the
psychological sciences can be useful. It can allow a more sure
evaluation of the candidate's psychic state; it can help evaluate his
human dispositions for responding to the divine call; and it can provide
some extra assistance for the candidate's human growth.
These experts can offer formators an opinion regarding the diagnosis of
and perhaps therapy for psychic disturbances. Moreover, by
suggesting ways for favoring a vocational response that is more free,
they can help support the development of the human (especially
relational) qualities which are required for the exercise of the
Even formation for the priesthood must face up to the manifold symptoms
of the imbalance rooted in the heart of man,19 which is
symptomized in a particular way in the contradictions between the ideal
of self-giving to which the candidate consciously aspires and the life
he actually leads. Formation must also deal with the difficulties
inherent in the gradual development of the moral virtues.
The help of the spiritual director and confessor is fundamental and
absolutely necessary for overcoming these difficulties with the grace of
God. In some cases, however, the development of these moral qualities
can be blocked by certain psychological wounds of the past that have not
yet been resolved.
In fact, those who today ask admittance to the seminary reflect in a
more or less accentuated way the unease of an emerging mentality
characterized by consumerism, instability in family and social
relationships, moral relativism, erroneous visions of sexuality, the
precariousness of choices and a systematic negation of values especially
by the media.
Among the candidates can be found some who come from particular
experiences human, family, professional, intellectual or affective
which in various ways have left psychological wounds that are not yet
healed and that cause disturbances. These wounds, unknown to the
candidate in their real effects, are often erroneously attributed by him
to causes outside himself, thus depriving him of the possibility of
facing them adequately.20
It is clear that the above-mentioned issues can limit the candidate's
capacity for making progress on the path of formation toward the
"Si casus ferat"21 that is, in exceptional cases that
present particular difficulties recourse to experts in the
psychological sciences, both before admission to the seminary and during
the path of formation, can help the candidate overcome those
psychological wounds and interiorize in an ever more stable and profound
way the type of life shown by Jesus the good shepherd, head and
bridegroom of the church.22
To arrive at a correct evaluation of the candidate's personality, the
expert can have recourse to both interviews and tests. These must always
be carried out with the previous, explicit, informed and free consent of
In consideration of their particularly sensitive nature, the use of
specialist psychological or psychotherapeutic techniques must be avoided
by the formators.
6. It is useful for the rector and other formators to be able to count
on the cooperation of experts in the psychological sciences. Such
experts, who cannot be part of the formation team, will have to have
specific competence in the field of vocations and unite the wisdom of
the Spirit to their professional expertise.
In choosing which experts to approach for the psychological
consultation, it is necessary to guarantee as much as possible an
intervention that is coherent with the candidate's moral and spiritual
formation. This is to avoid any harmful confusion or opposition.
Therefore, it must be born in mind that these experts as well as being
distinguished for their sound human and spiritual maturity must be
inspired by an anthropology that openly shares the Christian vision
about the human person, sexuality, as well as the vocation to the
priesthood and celibacy. In this way their interventions may take into
account the mystery of man in his personal dialogue with God, according
to the vision of the church.
Wherever such experts are not available, let steps be taken to
specifically prepare them.24
The assistance offered by the psychological sciences must be integrated
within the context of the candidate's entire formation. It must not
obstruct but rather ensure in a particular way that the irreplaceable
value of spiritual accompaniment is guaranteed; for spiritual
accompaniment has the duty of keeping the candidate facing the truth of
the ordained ministry, according to the vision of the church.
The atmosphere of faith, prayer, meditation on the word of God, the
study of theology and community life an atmosphere that is essential
so that a generous response to the vocation received from God can mature
will allow the candidate to have a correct understanding of what the
recourse to psychology means within his vocational journey and will
allow him to integrate it within that same journey.
7. In faithfulness and coherence to the principles and directives of
this document, different countries will have to regulate the recourse to
experts in the psychological sciences in their respective rationes
institutionis sacerdotalis. The competent ordinaries or major
superiors will have to do the same in the individual seminaries.
a) Initial Discernment
8. Right from the moment when the candidate presents himself for
admission to the seminary, the formator needs to be able to comprehend
his personality; potentialities; dispositions; and the types of any
psychological wounds, evaluating their nature and intensity.
Nor must it be forgotten that there is a possible tendency of some
candidates to minimize or deny their own weaknesses. Such candidates do
not speak to the formators about some of their serious difficulties as
they fear they will not be understood or accepted. Thus they nurture
barely realized expectations with respect to their own future.
On the other hand, there are candidates who tend to emphasize their own
difficulties, considering them insurmountable obstacles on their
The timely discernment of possible problems that block the vocational
journey can only be of great benefit for the person, for the vocational
institutions and for the church. Such problems include excessive
affective dependency; disproportionate aggression; insufficient capacity
for being faithful to obligations taken on; insufficient capacity for
establishing serene relations of openness, trust and fraternal
collaboration as well as collaboration with authority; a sexual identity
that is confused or not yet well defined.
In the phase of initial discernment, the help of experts in the
psychological sciences can be necessary principally on the specifically
diagnostic level whenever there is a suspicion that psychic disturbances
may be present. If it should be ascertained that the candidate needs
therapy, this therapy should be carried out before he is admitted to the
seminary or house of formation.
The assistance of experts can be useful for formators, including when
they are marking out a path of formation tailored to the candidate's
When evaluating whether it is possible for the candidate to live the
charism of celibacy in faithfulness and joy as a total gift of his life
in the image of Christ, the head and shepherd of the church, let it be
remembered that 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.25 Chastity for the kingdom, in fact, is much
more than the simple lack of sexual relationships.
In light of the objectives indicated above, a psychological consultation
can, in some cases, be useful.
b) Subsequent Formation
9. During the period of formation, recourse to experts in the
psychological sciences can respond to the needs born of any crises; but
it can also be useful in supporting the candidate on his journey toward
a more sure possession of the moral virtues. It can furnish the
candidate with a deeper knowledge of his personality and can contribute
to overcoming or rendering less rigid his psychic resistance to what his
formation is proposing.
The candidates can give themselves to God with due awareness and
freedom, in responsibility toward themselves and the church, when they
have better mastered not only their weaknesses but also their human and
A certain Christian and vocational maturity can be reached, including
with the help of psychology, illumined and completed by the contribution
of the anthropology of the Christian vocation and therefore of grace.
Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the fact that such maturity will never
be completely free of difficulties and tensions, which require interior
discipline, a spirit of sacrifice, acceptance of struggle and of the
cross,27 and the entrusting of oneself to the irreplaceable
assistance of grace.28
10. It is possible that the candidate notwithstanding his own
commitment and the support of the psychologist or psychotherapy could
continue to show himself unable to face realistically his area of grave
immaturity even given the gradual nature of all human growth. 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
The same is also true if it becomes 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
IV. Request for Specialist Evaluations and Respect for the
11. It belongs to the church to choose persons whom she believes
suitable for the pastoral ministry, and it is her right and duty to
verify the presence of the qualities required in those whom she admits
to the sacred ministry.29
Canon 1051.1ø of the Code of Canon Law foresees that for the scrutiny of
the qualities required in view of ordination one should provide, inter
al., for an evaluation of the state of the candidate's physical and
Canon 1052 establishes that the bishop, in order to be able to proceed
to ordaining the candidate, must have moral certainty that "positive
arguments have proved" his suitability ( 1) and that in the case of
motivated doubt, he must not proceed with the ordination ( 3).
Hence, the church has the right to verify the suitability of future
priests, including by means of recourse to medical and psychological
science. In fact, it belongs to the bishop or competent superior not
only to examine the suitability of the candidate but also to establish
that he is suitable. A candidate for the priesthood cannot impose his
own personal conditions but must accept with humility and gratitude the
norms and conditions that the church herself places on the part of her
responsibility.31 Therefore, in cases of doubt concerning the
candidate's suitability, admission to the seminary or house of formation
will sometimes only be possible after a psychological evaluation of the
12. The formational institution has the right and the duty to acquire
the knowledge necessary for a prudentially certain judgment regarding
the candidate's suitability. But this must not harm the candidate's
right to a good reputation, which any person enjoys, nor the right to
defend his own privacy as prescribed in Canon 220 of the Code of Canon
Law. This means that the candidate's psychological consultation can only
proceed with his previous, explicit, informed and free consent.
Let the formators guarantee an atmosphere of trust so that the candidate
can open up and participate with conviction in the work of discernment
and accompaniment, offering "his own convinced and heartfelt
cooperation."32 The candidate is asked to be sincerely and
trustingly open with his formators. Only by sincerely allowing them to
know him can he be helped on that spiritual journey that he himself is
seeking by entering the seminary.
Important and often determinant in overcoming possible misunderstandings
will be both the educational atmosphere between students and formators
marked by openness and transparency and the motivations and ways with
which the formators will present their suggestion to the candidate that
he should have a psychological consultation.
Let them avoid the impression that such a suggestion is the prelude to
the candidate's inevitable dismissal from the seminary or house of
The candidate will be able freely to approach an expert who is either
chosen from among those indicated by the formators or chosen by the
candidate himself and accepted by the formators.
According to the possibilities, the candidates should be guaranteed a
free choice from among various experts who possess the requisites
If the candidate, faced with a motivated request by the formators,
should refuse to undergo a psychological consultation, the formators
will not force his will in any way. Instead, they will prudently proceed
in the work of discernment with the knowledge they already have, bearing
in mind the aforementioned Canon 1052 1.
V. The Relationship Between Those Responsible for Formation and the
a) Those Responsible in the External Forum
13. In a spirit of reciprocal trust and in cooperation with his own
formation, the candidate can be invited freely to give his written
consent so that the expert in the psychological sciences, who is bound
by confidentiality, can communicate the results of the consultation to
the formators indicated by the candidate himself. The formators will
make use of any information thus acquired to sketch out a general
picture of the candidate's personality and to infer the appropriate
indications for the candidate's further path of formation or for his
admission to ordination.
In order to protect, in both the present and the future, the candidate's
privacy and good reputation, let particular care be taken so that the
professional opinions expressed by the expert be exclusively accessible
to those responsible for formation, with the precise and binding
proscription against using it in any way other than for the discernment
of a vocation and for the candidate's formation.
b) Specific Character of Spiritual Direction
14. The spiritual director's task is not easy, neither in discerning the
vocation nor in the area of conscience.
It is a firm principle that spiritual direction cannot in any way be
interchanged with or substituted by forms of analysis or of
psychological assistance. Moreover, the spiritual life, by itself,
favors a growth in the human virtues if there are no barriers of a
Bearing these two principles in mind, the spiritual director can find
that, in order to clear up any doubts that are otherwise irresolvable
and to proceed with greater certainty in the discernment and in
spiritual accompaniment, he needs to suggest to the candidate that he
undergo a psychological consultation without, however, ever demanding
Should the spiritual director request that the candidate undergo a
psychological consultation, it is desirable that the candidate, as well
as informing the spiritual director himself about the results of the
consultation, will likewise inform the external-forum formator,
especially if the spiritual director himself will have invited him to do
If the spiritual director should believe it useful that he himself
directly acquire information from the consultant, let him proceed
according to what has been indicated in No. 13 for the external-forum
The spiritual director will infer from the results of the psychological
consultation the appropriate indications for the discernment that is of
his competence, as well as the advice he must give the candidate,
including as to whether to proceed on the path of formation.
c) Help of the Expert to the Candidate and Formators
15. The expert insofar as it is asked of him will help the candidate
reach a greater knowledge of himself, of his potentialities and
vulnerabilities. He will also help him to compare the declared ideals of
the vocation with his own personality, thus encouraging the candidate to
develop a personal, free and conscious attachment to his own formation.
It will be the task of the expert to furnish the candidate with the
appropriate indications concerning the difficulties that he is
experiencing and their possible consequences for his life and future
The expert, having carried out his evaluation and also taking into
account the indications offered him by the formators, will present them
but only with the candidate's previous written consent with his
contribution to understanding the subject's personality and the problems
he is facing or must face.
In accordance with his evaluation and competence he will also indicate
the foreseeable possibilities as regards the growth of the candidate's
personality. Moreover, he will suggest, if necessary, forms or pathways
of psychological support.
VI. Persons Dismissed From or Who Have Freely Left Seminaries or
Houses of Formation
16. It is contrary to the norms of the church to admit to the seminary
or to the house of formation persons who have already left or, a
fortiori, have been dismissed from other seminaries or houses of
formation without first collecting the due information from their
respective bishops or major superiors, especially concerning the causes
of the dismissal or departure.36
The previous formators have the explicit duty of furnishing exact
information to the new formators.
Let particular attention be paid to the fact that often candidates leave
the educational institution spontaneously so as to avoid an enforced
In the case of a transfer to another seminary or house of formation, the
candidate must inform the new formators about any psychological
consultation previously carried out. Only with the candidate's free,
written consent can the new formators have access to the communication
of the expert who carried out the consultation.
In the case of a candidate who, after a previous dismissal, has
undergone psychological treatment, if it is held that he can be accepted
into the seminary, let first his psychic condition be accurately
verified, insofar as possible. This includes collecting the necessary
information from the expert who treated him, after having obtained the
candidate's free, written consent.
In the case where a candidate, after having had recourse to an expert in
psychology, asks to transfer to another seminary or house of formation
and does not want to agree to the results being available to the new
formators, let it be remembered that the suitability of the candidate
must be proven with positive arguments, according to the norm of the
aforementioned Canon 1052 and therefore that all reasonable doubt must
17. Let all those who, according to their different responsibilities,
are involved in formation offer their convinced cooperation in
respecting the specific competencies of each, so that the discernment
and vocational accompaniment of the candidates may be sufficient, thus
"bringing to the priesthood only those who have been called, and to
bring them adequately trained, namely, with a conscious and free
response of adherence and involvement of their whole person with Jesus
Christ, who calls them to intimacy of life with him and to share in his
mission of salvation."37
The supreme pontiff Benedict XVI, during the audience granted to the
undersigned cardinal prefect on June 13, 2008, approved the present
document and authorized its publication.
Rome, June 29, 2008, the solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul.
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski
Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugués, OP
1. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis (March 25, 1992), No. 35b-c:
Acta Apostolicae Sedis 84 (1992), 714.
2. Ibid., 35d.
3. Ibid., 65d.
4. Ibid., 35e.
5. Cf. ibid., 66-67.
6. A very full description of these conditions is given in Pastores
Dabo Vobis, 43-44; cf. Code of Canon Law Canons 1029 and
7. Inasmuch as "for every priest his spiritual formation is the core
which unifies and gives life to his being a priest and his acting as a
priest": Pastores Dabo Vobis, 45c.
8. Ibid., 43.
9. Cf. ibid.; cf. also Vatican Council II, Optatam Totius, 11;
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 3; Congregation for Catholic Education,
Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (March 19, 1985), 51.
10. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 17.
11. Paul VI, in his encyclical letter Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,
deals explicitly with this necessary capacity of the candidate for the
priesthood in Nos. 63-63: AAS 59 (1967), 682-683. In No. 64 he
concluded: "The life of the celibate priest, which engages the whole man
so totally and so delicately, excludes in fact those of insufficient
physical, psychic and moral qualifications. Nor should anyone pretend
that grace supplies for the defects of nature in such a man." Cf. also
Pastores Dabo Vobis, 44.
12. In the developing formation process, affective maturity takes on a
particular importance: This is an area of development that requires,
today more than ever, particular attention. "In reality, we grow in
affective maturity when our hearts adhere to God. Christ needs priests
who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual
paternity. For this to happen, priests need to be honest with
themselves, open with their spiritual director and trusting in divine
mercy" (Benedict XVI, May 25, 2006, speech to priests and religious in
Warsaw cathedral, in L'Osservatore Romano [May 26-27, 2006], p.
7). Cf. Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations, "New Vocations for
a New Europe," final document of the congress on vocations in Europe,
Rome May 5-10, 1997, published by the congregations for Catholic
Education, for the Eastern Churches, for Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life (Jan. 6, 1998), 37.
13. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 45a.
14. Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, "Directives Concerning the
Preparation of Seminary Formators" (Nov. 4, 1993), 36 and 57-59; cf.
especially Optatam Totius, 5.
15. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 16c.
16. Congregation for Catholic Education, "A Guide to Formation in
Priestly Celibacy" (April 11, 1974), 38.
17. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 66c; "Directives Concerning the
Preparation of Seminary Formators," 57-59.
18. Cf. Optatam Totius, 11.
19. Cf. Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, 10.
20. To understand these assertions better it is opportune to refer to
the following assertions of Pope John Paul II: "Humans, therefore, carry
within themselves the seed of eternal life and the vocation to make
transcendent values their own. They, however, remain internally
vulnerable and dramatically exposed to the risk of failing in their own
vocation. This is due to the resistance and difficulties which they
encounter in their earthly existence. These may be found on the
conscious level, where moral responsibility is involved, or on the
subconscious level, and this may be either in ordinary psychic life or
in that which is marked by slight or moderate psychic illnesses that do
not impinge substantially on one's freedom to strive after transcendent
ideals which have been responsibly chosen" (Jan. 25, 1988, address to
the Roman Rota: AAS 80 , 1181).
21. Cf. Ratio Fundamentalis, 39; Congregation for Bishops,
Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (Feb. 22, 2004), 88.
22. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 29d.
23. Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, "Instruction on
the Renewal of Formation for Religious Life" (Jan. 6, 1969), 11 Section
III: AAS 61 (1969), 113.
24. Cf. John Paul II: "It will therefore be right to pay attention to
the formation of expert psychologists who, with good scientific
qualifications, will also have a sound understanding of the Christian
vision of life and of the vocation to the priesthood, so as to provide
effective support for the necessary integration of the human and
supernatural dimensions" (Feb. 4, 2002, speech to Congregation for
Catholic Education plenary session): AAS 94 (2002), 465.
25. Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, "Instruction concerning the
criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with
homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the seminary and to
holy orders" (Nov. 4, 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 1007-1013.
26. Cf. "A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy," 38.
27. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 48d.
28. Cf. 2 Cor 12:7-10.
29. Cf. Canons 1025, 1051 and 1052. Congregation for Divine Worship and
the Discipline of the Sacraments, "Circular letter to diocesan bishops
and other ordinaries with canonical faculties to admit to sacred orders
concerning scrutinies regarding the suitability of candidates for
orders" (Nov. 10, 1997): Notitia 33 (1997), pp. 507-518.
30. Cf. Canons 1029, 1031 1 and 1041.1ø; Ratio Fundamentalis, 39.
31. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 35g.
32. Ibid., 69bc.
33. Cf. No. 6 of this document.
34. Cf. note 20.
35. Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 40c.
36. Canon 241 Section 3; Congregation for Catholic Education,
"Instruction to the episcopal conferences on the admission to seminary
of candidates coming from other seminaries or religious families" (March
37. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 42c.
The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education released an instruction
in 2005 concerning priesthood candidates and homosexuality.
"The church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot
admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice
homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the
so-called 'gay culture,"' the Nov. 29 instruction said.
"Such persons," it said, "find themselves in a situation that gravely
hinders them from relating correctly to men and women."
A candidate to the ordained ministry "must reach affective maturity.
Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women,
developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood," the instruction
The case is different, it said, "when dealing with homosexual tendencies
that were only the expression of a transitory problem for example,
that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies
must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the
It said, "It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own
homosexuality in order to proceed, despite everything, toward
The instruction appeared in the Dec. 8, 2005, edition of Origins (Vol.
35, No. 26) as "Vatican Instruction: Priesthood Candidates and
At the press conference marking the release of the new document,
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic
Education, was asked about the 2005 document, specifically whether a
homosexually oriented man who was nevertheless committed to celibacy
could be ordained a priest. He answered:
"The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to
be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply
seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely
because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity
is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins,
but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains."
Cardinal Grocholewski was also asked why, if a man with strong
heterosexual tendencies but who is celibate can be ordained, the same
could not be true of a man with homosexual tendencies. His answer:
"Because it's not simply a question of observing celibacy as such. In
this case, it would be a heterosexual tendency, a normal tendency. In a
certain sense, when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we
speak of this spiritual paternity, and maintain that homosexuality is a
type of deviation, a type of irregularity, as explained in two documents
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"Therefore it is a type of wound in the exercise of the priesthood, in
forming relations with others. And precisely for this reason we say that
something isn't right in the psyche of such a man. We don't simply talk
about the ability to abstain from these kinds of relations."
Asked about the 2005 document's distinction between "deep-seated" and
"fleeting" tendencies to homosexuality, the cardinal said fleeting
tendencies could be overcome. He said there were two schools of thought
on this, however:
"Today, some people say homosexuality is so 'structured' that it cannot
be cured. On the other hand, many others say today that homosexuality
can be cured, and we even have examples of this that have been
presented. So we don't exclude the possibility of a certain cure, but
there is also needed a degree of certainty that someone's psyche has
been put right, because very often this homosexual tendency, as we know,
begins to emerge later."