Pope Francis reaffirms Church's ban on gay priests, seminarians
Church Matters

Pope Francis reaffirms Catholic Church’s ban on gay priests, seminarians

'Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries. Keep your eyes open. If in doubt, better not let them enter,' Pope Francis said six years ago

Yes, bless them. Pope Francis openly encourages pastors to bless gays as persons, not to be confused with the blessing of their union.

You see, the best Christian attitude is that of Pope Francis, who once said, “Who am I to judge?” Respect the gays, yes, and do not discriminate against them. Love them instead and accompany them pastorally.

But do not allow them to enter the seminary – he strictly ordered the bishops. Reject the gay seminarians outright, Pope Francis told the Italian bishops a few days ago. Actually, he repeated the stern warning, which he said six years ago: “Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries. Keep your eyes open. If in doubt, better not let them enter.” Because one day, the gay seminarian will become a gay priest.

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As early as 2005, the Vatican ordered an investigation of all North American seminaries, the houses of formation blamed for fostering a gay culture. The Sacred Congregation for Education eventually required psychological screening as a necessary step in the long recruitment and discernment process in seminary formation.

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It means, most definitively, to exclude right away a candidate, though intelligent and physically fit, even good-looking and seemingly pious, who is found to have an “uncertain sexual identity” and a “deep-seated homosexual tendency.”

Cut off the head of the snake. In his 2010 Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that the seminary formation in the past had made a wrong turn somewhere. He then identified what he thought was wrong, mentioning the inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the insufficient moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates.

On his part, on November 29, 2013, Pope Francis met some 120 superiors general of religious orders (Salesians, Divine Word Missionaries, Jesuits, Carmelites, Franciscans, Redemptorists, Dominicans, Capuchins, Augustinians, Comboni Missionaries and many others) in a closed-door assembly at the Salesianum in Rome to tell them, among other things, about the risk of “accepting a young man (a recycled candidate) in a seminary who has been asked to leave a religious institute because of problems.”


Only being candid and not rude, the Sacred Congregation for Education (now Dicastery for Culture and Education) once explained that the sexual orientation of a gay individual seems to estrange him from the proper sense of paternity or fatherhood. The gay’s identity is a mile apart from the intrinsic nature of being an alter Christus. To be alter Christus is to be and to live in accordance with the masculine image of Jesus Christ (Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood, 2008).

For goodness’ sake, no pun intended, the priest is addressed as “Reverend Father,” not “Reverend Other.”

Without being homophobic about it, the Church has proposed that gays who suggest they could keep their sexual orientation “in the closet” and aspire to join the exclusive company of handsome and celibate males should think twice.


Nobody’s judging them, as Jesus and Francis have done. But just the same, the seminary is strictly not a refuge for them.

As Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez has noted in 2004, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) wouldn’t tolerate “active homosexuality among seminarians, and they would be expelled outright if discovered.” The Church is ready to cut off the head of the snake before it swallows the Church’s credibility again.

Why implement a very rigid policy on this? We can easily understand Pope Francis’ sentiment on this matter when we are reminded that the biggest crisis of our time is triggered by clerical sex abuse and its cover-up. Indeed, the beginning of the new millennium has become the worst spiritual disaster of our time and the most challenging “times of ecclesial purification,” Pope Francis said in 2019.

In the beginning of the 21st century, waves of exposés of old and new cases of clerical sexual abuse (and its episcopal cover-ups) left the world in shock. The 2018 Pennsylvania abuse report, among many legal case reports, chronicled tactical evil inflicted upon a thousand innocent people by some 300 “criminal and morally reprehensible” predatory priests in that part of the promised land called the US of America.

Authors Craig T. Maier and Jonathan R. Crist branded these abuse scandals in the United States as “wicked crises,” the worst in the religious history of the North American continent. Mind you, that sort of problem is global, and the predatory priests were gay, all trained in the seminary for many years.

Even now, one can sense the anguish of our holy Mother Church, humiliated on bended knees, while acknowledging the ugliness of the clerical sex abuse that trampled human dignity and produced defenseless victims too many to count.

“A total eclipse of the heart,” as the song goes, and you kind of guess it was a moment in time when God the Father went to His bedroom and wept the whole day, so to speak.

The clerical sex abuse scandals drew international condemnation and led to a crisis in credibility. It further led to “empty pews and empty altars” in many nations that were formerly very Catholic.

You know the story. You know the sad ending. Millions of Catholics who were previously faithful followers of Christ, obedient to his Vicar on Earth, moved away from a Church that, from their perspective, failed miserably to be Lumen Gentium, the light of Christ to the world – all because of predatory priests who were gay.

The scandal of this sort became a turning point in the Church’s reputation and her hierarchy’s credibility, which eventually triggered the mass exodus of Catholics and the scarcity of vocation (priestly and religious) on some continents. Some dare to say that all this is directly attributable to the bad examples of some ordained leaders.

One of the identified root causes of the biggest and most complex crisis is the existence of gay culture in the Church in general and gay priests in particular. Studies show that there is a socio-psychological connection among three factors: Clerical sexual abuse, the gay culture in the Church and seminary formation. Gay priests are the end products of a seminary formation.

The biggest crisis since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation has something in common with the presence of gay priests in the Church. Therefore, clerical sexual abuse must be prevented during seminary formation, the end product of which should always be good priests, not gay priests.

Let us pray that our heavenly Father sends more holy priests and laborers into his vineyard. Amen!

José Mario Bautista Maximiano is the author of the 3-volume work on Church Reforms (Claretian, 2023, 2024, 2025) and the author of the 3-volume work on 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines (Claretian, 2021, 2022).

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TAGS: LGBTQ, Pope Francis
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