Vatican releases instructions ban gay men from the priesthood

The Vatican today formally released instructions that block active gay men from the priesthood, a long-anticipated document that has opened a divisive debate over how it will be applied and whether it will have a healing or detrimental effect on the &to=' target=_blank>Roman Catholic Church.

Church conservatives applauded the document for taking a strong stance against what many see as an immoral "gay subculture" within seminaries and church life, and for establishing clearer restrictions on who is suitable to become a priest.

Liberals said they feared that the rules would be used to keep qualified men out of a depleted priesthood because of their sexual identity, even when celibate.

This is the first major instruction to be issued by &to=' target=_blank>Pope Benedict XVI, and the fact that it focused on homosexuality reflected the German pontiff's concern over morals he sees eroded by Western secular culture, reports Los Angeles Times.

Noting that the Church traditionally considers homosexual acts as "grave sins" because they are "intrinsically immoral and contrary to natural law", the Instruction reiterates the Church's ban on gays wishing to become priests.

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