“Careful Selection”: never published?

Now that Pete’s back from Lost Wages, let’s have some canonical trivia. Be forewarned: even I think this is a boring post, so skip down to the next entry if you have a low threshold for ennui.
Mark Shea’s blog and other blogs (and other sites) have been discussing same-sex attraction and priestly vocations, and in all the back-and-forth, a certain document has been much cited: a strong statement against taking risky cases into religious life.
The document is an instruction on “Careful Selection And Training of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders” from the Sacred Congregation for Religious, dated 2 February 1961. Here’s the relevant passage:

Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers.

I like to see Church documents in the original language sometimes, so I dropped in at the library of our local bad-Catholic college to look it up. The logical place for me to seek a published instruction from a Roman dicastery was the Vatican monthly Acta Apostolicae Sedis, but neither the 1961 nor 1962 volumes had it.
Here’s what I could find: the English version seen on the web comes from an old edition of the anthology Canon Law Digest, whose editor Fr. Bouscaren observes that the instruction was never actually published in AAS. Rather, it was sent privately to religious superiors.
That’s unusual for a Vatican document, since (correct me if this is wrong, Pete) a law isn’t in force until it’s published, and the conventional means of publication is its appearance in AAS. Yet despite the apparent lack of publication, an April ’61 announcement from the same Sacred Congregation for Religious called the February instruction “public law”.
So go figure: is it in force, or isn’t it? I have to wonder whether the Instruction’s content — the very mention of these unfortunate tendencies — might have been considered too frank and shocking to publish in the usual way. In the end, it doesn’t matter much, since other more recent documents don’t differ much from this one.

Published
Categorized as Canonical