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Vatican backs sexuality screening for potenti -

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Vatican backs sexuality screening for potential priests

The World Today - Friday, 31 October , 2008 12:38:00

ELEANOR HALL: The Vatican is backing the use of psychological testing to screen for homosexual
tendencies in trainee priests. It has acknowledged that the paedophile priest scandals of recent
years were a factor in its decision.

But church insiders say Australian seminary candidates have been tested for decades. They say the
tests though aren't necessarily designed to screen out homosexuals who have acknowledged their

Michael Edwards has our report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: 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 as Australia, the US and Canada have been doing it for decades.

Bishop Julian Porteous is the rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney.

JULIAN PORTEOUS: 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.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The acknowledgement of psychological testing came in a document prepared by the
Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education. It lists "deep seated homosexual tendencies",
"uncertain sexual identity" and "excessive rigidity of character" as traits that might make someone
an unsuitable candidate.

But Bishop Porteous says the testing isn't designed to weed out men who've had homosexual

JULIAN PORTEOUS: A person who may have a same sex attraction isn't precluded automatically from the
priesthood. 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.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Vatican has acknowledged that scandals involving paedophile priests have
influenced it but it says the tests must be voluntary.

Bishop Porteous says in his experience there have been times where testing has helped identify
unsuitable candidates.

JULIAN PORTEOUS: As a rector, on a couple of occasions when issues have emerged sometimes the
initial testing doesn't pick something up but a man may be in the seminary for a while and there
are some issues that we as seminary staff become more conscious of and concerned about. And
therefore in that case we, in dialogue with the person, we can never force or we would never force
or require somebody to do psychological testing, but we would ask them to help clarify a particular
matter. We would discuss with them the possibility to actually do some psychological testing.

So I've done that on a number of occasions and it has been of great help to me as a rector.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Paul Collins is a former Catholic priest and is now a religious commentator. He
says the Catholic Church is becoming increasingly preoccupied with homosexuality in the priesthood.

PAUL COLLINS: The reason for that is I think pretty simple; that is that a lot of straight priests
have left to marry and so the percentage of gay priests has certainly increased. And in the last 20
years the number of candidates presenting for the priesthood, again a very high percentage of those
would be gay.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And Paul Collins says many well adjusted homosexual men have made successful
priests. He says the testing should be aimed at weeding out those candidates who repress their

PAUL COLLINS: We need to start to at least eliminate from ordination those who have not accepted
the fact that they are of a gay orientation and who in fact are rejecting of it - I suppose these
are the kind of people we generally call closet queens - because with their kind of orientation
goes a rigidity of personality that often is quite unsuitable for ministries. These people find it
difficult to work with women, very, very difficult to accept any authority and women in any
authority. They're just really not suitable for the kind of ministry tasks that they will have to
carry out as priests.

ELEANOR HALL: Paul Collins is a religious commentator. He was speaking to Michael Edwards.