Special to Roman Catholic Faithful                                               May 28, 2002

Found: 1961 Vatican Document Barring Homosexuals from
Ordination and Religious Vows
by John Vennari
Editor of Catholic Family News

Catholics throughout North America have been searching for it. The United States Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, said that we weren’t allowed to see it.

But now, the 1961 Vatican document barring homosexuals from ordination and religious vows is found. In fact, it can probably be found on the shelf of most Catholic theological libraries nationwide.

The 1961 Document, “Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders” was promulgated by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Religious on February 2, 1961. The same document is published in its entirety, in English, in the Canon Law Digest, Volume V (Bruce Publishing Co, 1963), pages 452 to 486.

The Canon Law Digest is not a periodical but a series of books that present “Officially Published Documents Affecting the Code of Canon Law”. Volume V, the volume that includes the 1961 Instruction, contains documents from 1958 to 1962. Oddly enough, Volume V bears the Imprimatur of William E. Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee. Just last week, another Archbishop of Milwaukee, the notorious Rembert Weakland, resigned in disgrace after his homosexual liaison of 20 years ago was brought to light on ABC Television, coast-to-coast. Getting hold of the 1961 document proved to be difficult. Catholic News Services reported of it some time in March and reported that it is still in force. The document was obviously not well-known. In fact, two colleagues who have extensive expertise on the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood had never heard of it. Did it even exist? About two weeks ago, I spent an afternoon at a local theological library looking, page-by-page, through the 800+ pages of the 1961 Acta Apostolicae Sedis. The Instruction was nowhere to be found.

Just days before our latest deadline, a writer from Catholic Family News was literally smuggled 3 pages of the original Latin document from a source that the writer was forbidden to divulge. Clearly, there are highly-placed Churchmen who do not want the contents of this document known. (The front page and key paragraph of the document are published in the June 2002 issue of Catholic Family News).

The reluctance of Church leaders to make known the contents of this document was recently verified by an exchange between Roman Catholic Faithful’s James Bendell and the Apostolic Delegate of the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.

On May 8, Mr. Bendell wrote a polite letter to the Nuncio asking him for a copy of the document, “rather than relying on the secular press for accuracy”. Archbishop Montalvo responded on May 11: “Kindly be advised that the document, which you request, was reserved for use of the bishops. Thus I regret that I am unable to help you in this matter.”

Unfortunately, this statement from the Nuncio is patently false. On page 486, the Canon Law Digest says the following about the 1961 document:

“Note: Although this Instruction was not published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis or any other public form but was privately circulated, it is nevertheless referred to by the Sacred Congregation of Religious itself as ‘a matter of public law.’” (Emphasis in the original).

Then how was the document found?

On May 28, I received an e-mail from James Bendell relating that he had heard that the document might be found in Volume V of Canon Law Digest. I went to the local Catholic theological library, checked the index cards and found it. The library call letters for the book are BQV 212.B68 v. 5.

The key paragraph regarding homosexuals and the priesthood is on page 471. It occurs under Section D of the Instruction: “The Required Chastity”. Here we read:

“Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers”.

The Canon Law Digest from which we have quoted is not an obscure series of books. As mentioned, it was a popular collection and is probably still found in most Catholic university and seminary libraries. In the very near future, I am sure that Roman Catholic Faithful will post the entire document on its webpage1 . Look also for more coverage in Catholic Family News.

Book information:

Canon Law Digest, Volume V By T. Lincoln Bouscaren, SJ., A.M., LL.B., S.T.D. and James I O’Connor, SJ., A.M., S.T.L., J.C.D. Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1963

Imprimatur, William E Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee, 1963 Library of Congress Cataogy Card Number: 34-17225 Library call letters: BQV 212.868 v. 5

1 Please check back with the RCF website on Friday, May 31, to see the document in its entirety.

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