Like the new owner of an aging home, a just-elected Pope must set priorities for what needs fixing. Pope Benedict XVI's reign will no doubt be built on enforcing traditionalist doctrine and improving the church's day-to-day administration, which suffered during John Paul II's globetrotting papacy. But where will the nuts-and-bolts work begin? One place to look is seminaries, especially those in the U.S., which are about to undergo a thorough Vatican review in response to the sex-abuse crisis and declining vocations. Reports surfaced last week--just as a three-year grand-jury investigation concluded that the Philadelphia archdiocese had deliberately concealed the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by dozens of priests--that these inspections may coincide with the release of a document that has been languishing in the Vatican in recent years. Its message: to reaffirm a ban on homosexuals entering the seminary.
A senior Vatican official who reviewed a draft of the document last year said it would simply reinforce existing bans on candidates for the clergy who openly identify themselves as gay, even those who keep their vow of chastity. Because the Pope inherited an enforcement problem, the official says, "he is in a position that if nothing new was said, it would be a tacit acceptance of what is going on in some places." Benedict, who a month before his election last spring denounced the "filth" in the church, may indeed be convinced that a thorough cleaning up of the priesthood is at the top of his to-do list. --By Jeff Israely