September 20, 2002

NEW YORK (AP)--A staff member from an influential Vatican office who wrote an article arguing gays should not be ordained as priests said Friday that the piece merely reflects his own opinion on the subject.

The Rev. Andrew Baker of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome said he sought permission from no one to write the article--a response to the clerical sex abuse crisis--in the Jesuit magazine America due out Monday.

Vatican observers saw Baker's arguments as evidence of the Holy See's views on homosexuality at a critical time for the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican is reviewing the new discipline policy for abusive priests that the U.S. bishops approved three months ago. Within several months, a Vatican team also will start evaluating U.S. seminaries and the number of gays studying for the priesthood is expected to be a top issue.

Most of the victims of molestation by priests have been adolescent boys. Experts on sex offenders say there is no credible evidence that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to abuse children, but several church leaders have concluded that gay clergy are to blame for the scandal that has plagued the American church this year.

Baker, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, argued that homosexuals would have difficulty remaining celibate in the all-male seminary environment and would struggle with or deny church teachings that homosexuality is a disorder.

The Congregation for Bishops, for which Baker works, recommends names to the pope for bishop appointments and handles business with bishops' conferences around the world.

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