The Vatican is consolidating plans for the much-anticipated apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries, viewed by church officials as a crucial part of the response to the priestly sex abuse scandal.
Officials now expect the visitation to begin in the fall of 2005 with the start of the school year, sources in Rome said in December.
The Vatican is expected to publish soon an “instrumentum laboris” or working questionnaire that is about three pages long. It will act as an outline for the visits to more than 100 seminaries and other institutes of formation, which are expected to take several days each.
Already, the names of approximately 75 bishops and 100 priests who will carry out the visitations have been submitted and discussed by U.S. and Vatican officials. A facilitator to coordinate U.S.-Vatican contacts also will be chosen.
Sometime before the process begins next fall, the Vatican expects to publish a long-awaited and potentially controversial document on whether candidates with homosexual inclinations should be admitted to the priesthood.
The document on homosexuality has been in the works for more than five years. An early draft of the document took the position that homosexuals should not be admitted to the priesthood; in its current form, the document takes a more nuanced approach to the whole issue, sources said.
The seminary visitation is expected to focus particularly on formation for celibate chastity and on admissions criteria. It was first announced in April 2002, after U.S. bishops and Vatican officials held an urgent meeting to map out a response to the sex abuse crisis.