While clearly rejecting the ordination of persons with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," the document nevertheless falls short of an outright ban on gay candidates. Aside from making a distinction regarding "transitory" tendencies, the document also specifies that it is still up to bishops and religious superiors to make judgments about whether individual candidates have obtained the "affective maturity" to be priests.
The document states that "it remains understood that the candidate himself is primarily responsible for his own formation." ...."An honest reading of the document shows that the Vatican is simply banning gays," said Jesuit Fr. James Martin [an associate editor of America]. "The ‘application' of the document, even the portion of the document that says that rectors are ultimately responsible for their men, will be meaningless: No emotionally mature gay applicant these days will want to enter."
"The passage that states that gay men per se are cannot ‘correctly' relate to men and women will certainly cause anguish to the many celibate gay priests already working in ministry in the church," Martin said.
Experts on church documents note that this instruction was not explicitly published in forma specifica, which would mean that although a text was prepared by a Vatican office, the pope has invested it with his personal authority. Arguably, therefore, the instruction remains a document of a Vatican agency, and in that sense slightly more open to future revision.
In terms of how absolute the effect of the instruction will be, some canon lawyers point to the similar case offered by recent Vatican rulings on the ordination of men who are coeliacs, meaning wheat-intolerant, or alcoholics.
On August 22, 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a seemingly absolute ban on such candidates, stating, "Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the priest, candidates for the priesthood who are affected by celiac disease or suffer from alcoholism or similar conditions may not be admitted to holy orders."
After much reaction and debate, however, the congregation issued a new document on July 24, 2003, which softened the ruling: "Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of a priest, one must proceed with great caution before admitting to Holy Orders those candidates unable to ingest gluten or alcohol without serious harm," it stated.
Hmm. You may discuss.