Sorsogon City - Gay people are no longer welcome to seminaries and so priesthood is off-limits to them.
This was disclosed by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes as he bared the new church policy following the sexual scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years.
Bastes said they would no longer admit homosexuals as seminarians to avoid producing gay priests in the future who might be involved in scandals that could drag the church in its aftermath.
In an exclusive interview, the prelate said he had instructed the rectors of the Penafracia Minor and Major seminaries in Sorsogon City not to admit enrolees who have gay tendencies.
“Although we don’t have scandals involving gay priests here in the province, we don’t want that to happen in the future and this is one way of forestalling such possibility,” he explained.
Bastes admitted that the ban has no theological basis and is simply a policy they had adopted as a precaution to protect the church from future scandals involving gay priests.
He said the incidents, which had been reported in various countries, had besmirched the image of the church especially since some of those involved occupied high positions in the Catholic hierarchy.
The bishop said the local diocese had no record of or had not received any report on sexual abuse involving gay priests but confirmed that some local priests had been involved in heterosexual relations, which is having sexual relationship with the opposite sex.
He said this is the common problem among priests in the Philippines but stressed that the Catholic Church here is seriously addressing the problem.
Bastes added that involved priests, whom he did not name, are undergoing investigation by the church which is being handled by a “judicial board”.
He added that due process is being followed in the investigation and those who might be found guilty would be meted out with corresponding punishment which could range from suspension or even defrocking.
He assured the public that any report on inappropriate conduct by local priests would be thoroughly investigated and that he would not tolerate or cover-up any of them.
“I don’t want the image of the church to be tarnished by this kind of shameful acts like what happened in other countries,” the bishop said as he cited the sexual abuse cases in the United States, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Chile and other states.
The latest incident was reported by the Australian police after they had charged a Catholic priest with indecent assault of a 15-year-old boy more than two decades ago, the latest member of the clergy caught in the church’s global sex-abuse scandal.
Just recently, Pope Francis had defrocked American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who was found guilty by the Vatican for sexually abusing a teenager 50 years ago, a Vatican statement said.
McCarrick, 88, who resigned from the Vatican’s College of Cardinals in July, was the first cardinal ever to be defrocked for sex abuse.
He was found guilty in January by a Vatican court for sexually abusing a teenager, a decision confirmed by the pope in February, with no further recourse, according to statement issued by the pope’s office.
Just about the time McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state, Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors, was found guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys, becoming the most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex crimes.
An Australian jury unanimously found Pell guilty on one count of sexual abuse and four counts of indecent assault against two boys at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s, a report by the Agence France Press said.
Pell, who used to be Pope Francis’ finance chief, was sentenced to six years in prison by the jury.
The issue had rocked the Catholic Church worldwide prompting Pope Francis to convene senior bishops in a summit last February to discuss the matter.