Pope's new edict on the priesthood: How can psychologists ethically help the Catholic Church screen out gay priests? [secular ethical implications]

This is an editorial from a couple days ago in the LA Times which I find fascinating. I am posting it in this forum b/c as for me I am most intrigued by the SECULAR implications of this for psychologists who are bound by their professional associations ethical code. How could a psychologist – Catholic or non-Catholic – be able to cooperate in the implementation of this edict without violating his own official professional ethical code? You can argue that the code should be changed. But the reality is that it is what it is and won’t change any time soon. So what is the psychologist, even the Catholic psychologist, to do? And what is the church to do? I don’t think it would be ethically for the church to ask psychologists to violate their own professional ethical code.

[quote=“LA Times Editorial Board”]Yet even if the U.S. church is following a more compassionate policy than Vatican pronouncements would seem to authorize, the role of psychologists in screening applicants raises troubling ethical questions, as even psychologists who approve of such cooperation admit. Aiding the church in weeding out homosexuals is hard to reconcile with these guidelines of the American Psychological Assn.:

“Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status, and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.”

If the church – or a diocese within the church – takes the Vatican decree literally, it’s hard to see how a psychologist could lend his or her expertise to the thwarting of a young man’s aspiration to serve God simply because he happens to be gay. In our view, that’s not just cruel; it’s unprofessional.

Note psychologists who APPROVE of this cooperation acknowledge the troubling ethical questions it raises for them. For those not familiar with the edict, here is the background:

The Roman Catholic Church requires its priests to refrain from any sexual relationship, whether heterosexual or homosexual. So one might think that the sexual orientation of an aspirant for the priesthood would be a nonissue – especially in light of the distinction the church has drawn between homosexual conduct, which is considered sinful, and homosexual orientation, which is not.

One would be wrong.

The Vatican recently issued a statement re-emphasizing that even chaste gay men are to be barred from the priesthood. Never mind that large numbers of gay priests – estimates range from 25% to 50% – already serve the faithful, with most adhering to their vow of celibacy.

“Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood,” released Oct. 30 by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, not only reiterates the teaching that men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies are unworthy of ordination, it also urges seminaries to enlist the aid of psychologists in screening candidates for homosexuality and other “psychic disturbances.”


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