October 10, 2005

Screening The Priests



Posted Sunday, Oct. 09, 2005
Thomas Plante asks the question roughly 20 times a year, and if it doesn't work, he's ready with the follow-up. "You say, 'Well, tell me what your dating history is like,'" explains the Santa Clara University psychology professor. "And usually they'll hand it to you on a silver platter. If they don't, you say, 'Well, do you find yourself more interested in involvement with women or with men?' If they say, 'I've never dated,' you say, 'Well, when you walk down the street, who catches your eye?" And so, gently but relentlessly, Plante, one of several dozen U.S. therapists who screen candidates for Roman Catholic seminaries, attempts to ensure that the church knows the sexual orientation of one more would-be priest.

For the past month, screeners like Plante have braced for a new directive from the Vatican. In the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal among U.S. clergy--in which some 80% of the victims were boys--the church seemed poised to carry out a blanket ban on admitting homosexuals, even celibate gays, to its seminaries. Italian newspapers, however, are now reporting that Pope Benedict XVI had signed a somewhat less extreme "instruction." (See accompanying story.) But while awaiting that edict, the psychologists like Plante, who (among other things) help determine whether prospective seminarians are gay, have been drawn into a debate about that particular aspect of their job. Predominantly Catholic but not necessarily ordained, most of these psychologists are quite comfortable with the notion of celibate gay priests. And most are quick to point out, as Plante does, that "being homosexual doesn't put you at higher risk for committing sexual offenses against kids."

Posted by kshaw at October 10, 2005 02:35 AM