The apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Charles Balvo, says he is unable to comment on a reported Vatican move to screen prospective seminarians for homosexual orientation.
The publication of the document which purports to have all seminarians checked to make sure they are not of homosexual orientation, has stirred up controversy in the United States where all 229 seminaries are being investigated.
The 13-page working paper or instrumentum laboris was originally leaked to the London Tablet and subsequently published on the website of the Dominican-run Aquinas Institute of Theology in St Louis, the first seminary to be investigated.
The paper contains more than 50 questions from which Vatican-appointed visitors to seminaries can choose to ask candidates.
However, six questions including one on evidence of homosexuality and another on the moral life of those living in the institution were compulsory.
The Tablet said in its 24 September issue several American commentators have claimed that ‘the Vatican is orchestrating a gay witch-hunt’ while some prominent church leaders were concerned that ‘homosexually oriented priests were being unfairly targeted as scapegoats for the sex abuse crisis’.
But Archbishop Balvo says there have long been rigorous questionaires that prospective seminarians must go through which seek to determine sexual orientation among other things. Despite this, he says some people do slip through.
On the question of non-Catholic Christians receiving Communion in the Catholic church, Archbishop Balvo says this question rests on whether other denominations are prepared to ‘profess full faith in the Catholic concept of the Eucharist’. This has always been a sticking point in past ecumenical discussions.
But, he said, it is up to the bishops’ conference to raise the issue with the Holy See. As far as he knows, the issue has never been brought to a synod.
Archbishop Balvo was appointed apostolic nuncio to New Zealand in April, taking up his post at the end of July, after his episcopal ordination.
Born in New York in 1951 he was ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1976.
He worked for six years in New York parishes before studying for his licentiate in canon law, subsequently gaining his doctorate in canon law while also preparing to work in the diplomatic service of the Holy See.
Archbishop Balvo has worked in Ghana, Togo and Benin, Ecuador, Chile, the Czech Republic and Jordan, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia before his first appointment as apostolic nuncio in New Zealand.