Men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to the Catholic clergy, and it would be better for priests who are actively gay to leave rather than lead a double life, Pope Francis says in a new book.
While he has previously spoken of the need for better screening of candidates for the religious life, his comments suggesting that priests who cannot keep their vows of celibacy should leave are some of his clearest to date.
"The issue of homosexuality is a serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates," the pontiff said with regard to would-be priests.
He adds that those entrusted with training men to be priests must be certain that candidates are "humanly and emotionally mature" before they can be ordained. This also applied to women who wanted to enter female religious communities to become nuns.
"In our societies, it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church," he says.
Francis made the comments in a book-length interview with Spanish priest Fernando Prado called 'The Strength of Vocation', in which he discusses the challenges of being a priest or nun today. Francis said in the book that homosexuality in the Church "is something that worries me".
It is due to be published this week in several languages. An advance copy of the Italian version was made available to Reuters.
The Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful in themselves, but homosexual acts are.
Francis said there was "no room for this" in the lives of priests and nuns, adding that the Church had to be "demanding" in choosing candidates for what is known as the consecrated life.
"For this reason, the Church urges that persons with this rooted tendency not be accepted into [priestly] ministry or consecrated life," he said.
He urged homosexuals who are already priests or nuns to be celibate and responsible to avoid creating scandal. "It is better that they leave the priesthood or the consecrated life rather than live a double life," he said.
The interview was conducted in mid-August. Less than two weeks later, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican's former ambassador to the Vatican, threw the Church into turmoil with a bombshell statement against the Pope and Vatican officials. He said a "homosexual network" existed in the Vatican, whose members helped promote each other's careers in the Church.
Meanwhile, the Pope tells in the same book how a hard-headed hospital nun who disobeyed doctor's orders saved his life six decades ago when he risked dying of pneumonia.
When Francis was studying for the priesthood in Latin America in the 1950s he caught pneumonia, but it was misdiagnosed by the seminary's doctor, who thought is was the flu, and one day he had to be rushed to hospital "on the point of death", he says.
A doctor at the hospital realised it was pneumonia and ordered staff to give the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio two types of antibiotics. But a hospital nun named Cornelia Caraglio, had a different idea.
"As soon as the doctor left [she told the staff] 'let's double the dose.' She certainly was a wise nun. By ordering that the dose be doubled, she saved my life," he said.