VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican will allow gay men into the priesthood if they can show they have been celibate for at least three years, leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Friday.
But it said the Vatican will ban men who "publicly manifest their homosexuality" or show an "overwhelming attraction" to homosexual culture "even if it is only intellectually."
The Vatican views on gay priests are contained in a secret 16-page document which is expected to be released next month.
The document, an "instruction" by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, covers one of the most sensitive issues in the Roman Catholic Church.
Officials at the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Vatican press office could not be reached for immediate comment.
The Corriere report said: "Candidates who show a homosexual tendency will not be allowed into the priesthood unless they can demonstrate that they have been able to remain chaste for at least three years."
Media reports last month, primarily in the United States, said the document would bar all gay men from being ordained priests, even those who are celibate.
Those reports caused concerns in many quarters in the Church that many good men would be excluded by a total ban.
The Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but that homosexual acts are, and it expects all priests, whether homosexual or heterosexual, to remain celibate.
Corriere and the weekly Panorama magazine both reported on Friday that Pope Benedict had approved the document this summer.
Panorama said its release would be accompanied by a written explanation by "an internationally known psychologist."
Reacting to earlier reports that the document would ban even celibate gays, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet last week:
"You don't write off a candidate for the priesthood simply because he is a gay man."
Martin told the Tablet that seminaries did not in the past give men enough support to help them mature in their sexuality.
"We need to provide services of support for these priests and this will involve helping them along their personal journey and reassuring them."
In his book "The Changing Face of the Priesthood," Father Donald Cozzens estimated that some 40 percent of U.S. priests are gay but only a tiny minority are practicing homosexuals.
The Corriere report by the paper's respected religious affairs correspondent Luigi Accattoli, which he said was based on "verbal indiscretions," said the testing period for celibacy would be the last three years of seminary study.
Some conservative Catholics cheered last month's media reports that the new document would ban even celibate gays.
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services, caused a storm when he said that even homosexuals who had managed to remain celibate for 10 years or more should not be admitted into seminaries.
Such positions were met by much criticism in the rest of the Church, particularly in the United States.
The Vatican has been working on the instruction on homosexual men and the priesthood for years. It will be a reform of a 1961 document which said men with "perverse inclination" to homosexuality should not be ordained.
HUH!!! I must say I grew up going to Catholic Schools and I surely thought this would never be allowed. The Church in Europe is much different than the Church in the US though (I like it MUCH more over there with their teachings), but this article has me in shock! I hope the Church does start to loosen up its thoughts on the matter.