U.S. Scandals Are Rooted in Seminaries, Says Theologian

Father Ivan Fucek of the Apostolic Penitentiary Views the Problem

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ROME, JUNE 7, 2002 (Zenit.org).- An underlying problem facing the Church in the United States is that of excessive “tolerance,” which has allowed conduct and teachings among seminarians that go against what the Pope says, a Vatican adviser says.

Jesuit Father Ivan Fucek, theologian of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Church´s highest tribunal for “inner forum” questions (matters of conscience), made his comments as the U.S. bishops´ conference prepares to meet in Dallas, Texas, next week.

The bishops´ June 13-15 meeting will aim to respond to the crisis over cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

The assembly is taking place, following John Paul II´s meeting in April with representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the country´s cardinals and Vatican officials.

ZENIT interviewed Father Fucek about the dimensions and implications of the problem.

Q: From your point of view, what is the characteristic of the North American case?

Father Fucek: I have been in the United States on several occasions, where I met with excellent priests and bishops. But at the same time I noted a certain passivity in accepting candidates to the priesthood with problems of sexual disorder and homosexuality — an excessive “tolerance” dictated especially by the prevailing cultural model.

The greatest weakness was not to address the problem immediately, when it appeared. In this connection, the Holy Father´s intervention was providential, a strong and clear call.

Q: Some observers in Europe think that the Pope´s intervention was too energetic, because these are questions that, to a great extent, affect the bishops´ decisions and ways of acting.

Father Fucek: It was necessary, because it is imperative to change in a clear way behavior that has spread in the seminaries.

Although it is obvious that behind all the noise made by the media, there is the intention to denigrate the Church, at the same time it is most important that the Church in the United States no longer tolerate certain lax attitudes and criticism of the Holy Father´s moral teaching.

The possibility exists of emerging purified and strengthened from this experience, provided that there is a return to the good road. In this connection, John Paul II´s intervention was perfect. There was need to intervene in a clear way. There is a good clergy in the United States, but the attitude of tolerance in face of certain problems is not marginal, but rather widespread.

The Holy Father´s intervention is not a simple reprimand. It is an occasion for all that is good in the Church in the United States to emerge.

Q: But how could such a phenomenon happen?

Father Fucek: What happened in the United States reveals a serious problem of preparation and formation. Many, too many candidates to the priesthood are not sufficiently knowledgeable in Catholic morality.

However, in this connection the doctrine is clear. If the candidate is a practicing homosexual, he must not be ordained. If there is only a homosexual tendency, this must be discerned.

If during all the years of his youth and later as a candidate to the priesthood he has not had homosexual relations (he has not seduced nor allowed himself to be seduced by a man), then that tendency can be regarded as a temptation, which must be conquered with the grace of God.

However, if that tendency is strong, if the candidate at times has fallen, then he must not be ordained.

If the tendency is so strong that the candidate to the priesthood is afraid he will be unable to resist, then he must not be ordained.

In this sense, the doctrine is transparent. In particular, I suggest reading the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” (see ZENIT Documents) of Oct. 1, 1986, a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which makes explicit reference to the way one must behave in this respect.

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