BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE POPE'S official spokesman has declared that homosexual men cannot be ordained to the priesthood.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, in an interview with The New York Times, said: "People with these inclinations just cannot be ordained ... that does not imply a final judgement on people with homosexuality, but you cannot be in this field."
Mr Navarro-Valls said that just as a marriage could be annulled if a spouse was a homosexual, then ordination to the priesthood may be similarly nullified.
His comments came as the east coast of America reels from a new wave of clerical sexual abuse scandals.
Mr Navarro-Valls said the Holy Father was deeply distressed by the apparent scale of the abuse, involving a suspected 80 priests, chiefly from New England.
He said: "He has shown tremendous sadness, a very physical sadness that affected his whole body and said: 'How can this happen?"
Last Friday, Bishop Anthony O'Connell of Palm Beach. Florida, became the latest Church figure to become embroiled in scandal when he admitted to sexual abuse of a 15-yearold junior seminarian, Christopher Dixon, during the 1970s. He has offered his resignation to the Pope.
Observers believe Mr
Navarro-Valls' latest remarks reflect a mounting body of opinion in Rome that homosexuals attracted to adolescent boys were to blame. as well as those who were paedophiles.
According to the Catholic News Service, some senior Vatican officials want to screen out all candidates for the priesthood who are of homosexual inclination.
Sources said that bishops around the world have already been advised by Rome to make very prudent decisions at local levels.
They also say that the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education may soon produce guidelines for seminaries. Last year. Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in an interview defined a homosexual inclination as "a temptation that, for whatever reason, has become so predominant in a person's life as to become a force shaping the entire outlook of the person".
He said that while the inclination was not sinful in itself, it evoked "moral concern" because it formed a strong temptation to actions that "are in themselves always evil".
Archbishop Bertone said: "Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary."