NEW YORK (Reuters) - Catholic Church investigators tasked by the Vatican to review U.S. seminaries will be looking for "evidence of homosexuality" and for professors who dissent from Church teaching, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The newspaper said a Vatican document prepared to guide the process and given to The New York Times by a priest, surfaces as Catholics await a Vatican ruling on whether homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood.
American seminaries are under review as a result of the sexual abuse scandal that swept the priesthood in 2002, the year the probe which is now starting was announced.
In a possible hint of the ruling's contents, the American archbishop supervising the seminary review said "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations," should not be admitted to a seminary.
The Times said Edwin O'Brien, archbishop for the United States military who is supervising the seminary review, told The National Catholic Register that the restriction should apply even to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.
O'Brien was once the rector of the North American College, a seminary for Americans studying in Rome and has familiarity with both the Vatican and the U.S. Church.
The issue has been in the spotlight because a study commissioned by the Church found last year that about 80 percent of the young people victimized by priests were boys.
The seminary review, called an apostolic visitation, will send teams of American Church officials to the 229 seminaries, which have more than 4,500 students.
At each seminary, the visitors will conduct confidential interviews with faculty members and seminarians, plus everyone who graduated in the last three years, the Times said.
A document with instructions for the review is being distributed to seminarians and faculty members. It asks whether the doctrine on the priesthood presented by the seminary is "solidly based on the church's Magisterium," or teaching, and whether teachers and seminarians "accept this teaching."
The Times said among the other questions in the lengthy questionnaire are:
"Is there a clear process for removing from the seminary faculty members who dissent from the authoritative teaching of the church or whose conduct does not provide good example to future priests?"
"Is the seminary free from the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality?"
"Do the seminarians or faculty members have concerns about the moral life of those living in the institution? (This question must be answered)."
"Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary? (This question must be answered)."
The questionnaire also asks whether faculty members "watch out for signs of particular friendships," the newspaper said.