Look, it’s perfectly simple…
The Vatican has published long-awaited guidelines which reaffirm that active homosexuals and "supporters of gay culture" may not become priests.
But it treats homosexuality as a "tendency", not an orientation, and says those who have overcome it can begin training to take holy orders. At least three years must pass between "overcoming [a] transitory problem" and ordination as a deacon, the rules say.
All Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, regardless of orientation.
The guidelines make no reference to current priests, but only to those about to join a seminary.
Some Catholic theologians feel the document is not sufficiently clear, the BBC's Peter Gould says. That it refers to "tendencies" rather than orientation "has left many people scratching their heads," Jesuit scholar Father Thomas Reese told him.
The 18-paragraph document was published with little fanfare on Tuesday morning. The Vatican is not offering further explanation
Critics have long objected that gay seminarians might feel they have no choice but to lie about their sexual orientation.
The guidelines specifically address this issue, urging candidates for the priesthood to tell the truth. "It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality," the document says.
Observers say the new rules might lead to a dramatic drop in the number of priests, especially in the West.
The document, drafted by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education and approved by Pope Benedict on 31 August, describes homosexual acts as "grave sins" that cannot be justified under any circumstances.
"If a candidate practises homosexuality, or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination," it says.
"Such persons in fact find themselves in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women."
But the paper also stresses the Church's deep respect for homosexuals, who, it says, should by no means be discriminated against.
So that’s all abundantly clear then.
Basically, if you are thinking about becoming a priest, you must not have committed any homosexual act, nor ever have been tempted to do so, unless that temptation came not from a ‘deep seated tendency’, but only from a ‘transitory problem’ that occurred over three years ago.
Candidates are required to honestly assess themselves under these guidelines, and I can only imagine the soul-searching as the poor lad tries to work out whether that crush on George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven counts as ‘a transitory problem’, and whether he was over it by Ocean’s Twelve.
(They’ve avoided applying the new rule to the existing priesthood however, presumably on the grounds that it might reduce the total number of priests in Britain and America to approximately seven. Or perhaps the current gay clergy are the "grave sinners" who are "deeply respected" and are "not to be discriminated against".)