WASHINGTON, September 8, 2005 ( – Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the bishop of the US Catholic Military Archdiocese and the prelate picked to lead the official investigation of the US Catholic seminaries has told Catholic News Service that even celibate homosexuals ought not to be ordained.

“I think anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary,” said O’Brien. O’Brien is also known for his strong and outspoken views on abortion and, being a bishop without a territorial diocese, is in a position of some de facto autonomy from the rest of the US bishops.

It is likely that he will be facing serious opposition to completely banning homosexuals from the seminaries. An unwillingness to speak plainly about homosexuality has characterized the US bishops’ response to the priestly sex abuse scandals that was the trigger for the Vatican-ordered “visitation” of US seminaries.

The political tightrope-walking bishops’ method has been to “go positive” with warm statements of support for the “beauty and giftedness” of homosexuals as individuals, tinged with an apologetic distancing from the Church’s teaching on homosexuality as an inherently disordered condition that tempts persons afflicted with it to sin.

A typical example of these kinds of offerings comes from Bishop J. Terry Stein of Memphis in a June 5th column in The West Tennessee Catholic. Bishop Steib wrote to announce the establishment of a diocesan ministry to homosexual Catholics saying in a suitably soulful tone, “A new ministry with gay and lesbian persons will push open even further the door to promoting understanding and compassion among all of us. It will open the door to [the Church] for many who are an important part of who we are, and to a segment of our family that has been apart from us for too long.” Bishop Steib tops his column off with the obligatory comparison between the “oppression” of homosexuals in the Church and the injustice of slavery.

In the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ own report on the sex abuse scandals however, the facts are inescapable. Over 80% of those abused by priests were male adolescents. Further, if the legal cases of homosexual abuse by numerous bishops themselves are taken into account, the opposition to “de-gaying” of the priesthood could be very strong indeed.

The difficulties are, moreover, not limited to the US hierarchy. The long-expected Vatican document on homosexuality and the priesthood is being delayed by influential opposition to its reportedly strong stand against ordaining gay men.

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