After being hit by a series of sex scandals, the Vatican has approved tests to screen out Catholic priests with homosexual tendencies, a step that could spark a row in the communion.
The Vatican has given its approval to the psychological screening to test for evidence of personality disorders to eliminate anyone suspected of "deeply seated" homosexuality.
Controversially, the head of the Vatican committee that made the recommendations has underlined that the process should be used to screen out homosexuals, even if they are celibate, because homosexuality is "a type of deviation" that disqualifies a priest from exercising "spiritual paternity", The Independent newspaper said.
According to the British daily, the Congregation for Catholic Education in the Vatican framed the the "Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood".
"The candidate does not necessarily have to practise homosexuality. He can even be without sin," said Cardinal Grocholewski, the prefect of the Congregation.
"But if he has this deep-seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains," the Cardinal stressed.
However, the decision has sparked an outcry among rights groups. "It's a tragedy at a time when the Roman Catholic Church is desperately short of people seeking a vocation in the Church ... What will they do with someone they deemed to be innately homosexual because of his strange gait or rather odd look and who turned out to be heterosexual? wondered Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay equality group Stonewall.