ROME, ITALY - Pope Francis has expressed serious concern about homosexual behavior among some members of the Catholic clergy, saying this is happening as homosexuality becomes fashionable in society. He said the Church must be demanding in choosing its candidates for the priesthood and stressed that the vow of celibacy must be observed. His comments were made in a long interview with a Spanish missionary priest published this week in a book titled The Strength of Vocation, released in several languages.
Pope Francis has made his clearest comments on homosexuality in a new interview saying there is no place for this type of affection in consecrated life or in the priesthood.
In the long interview with the Spanish Claretian Father Fernando Prado, conducted last August, the pope said "homosexuality is a very serious matter and must be discerned adequately with candidates from the beginning.'
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendency in itself is not sinful, but sex acts between people of the same gender are.
The pope added those who engage in homosexual behavior should not join a life in the Church that requires a vow of celibacy to be respected. It is not right, the pope said, "for the holy people of God to live a double life".
The new book-interview, published this week, is titled, The Strength of Vocation: Consecrated Life Today. In it, the pontiff also said, "In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church."
Shortly after becoming pope in 2013, Francis made world headlines aboard a fllight back from Brazil when he responded to a reporter's question about homosexuals in the Catholic clergy.
Pope Francis said, "If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has goodwill, then who am I to judge him?"
More recently in a meeting at the Vatican with Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man from Chile who was a victim of clerical sexual abuse, Pope Francis acknowledged that God had made him this way. Pope Francis has also said that gay children should be treated with understanding.
Critics, including within the Church, accuse the pope of creating confusion with remarks they see as contradictory.
The August interview is being published as the Holy See continues to battle a storm of criticism over sexual abuse.
For years the Catholic Church has been facing accusations that it has failed to properly deal with sexual abuse - often of boys - by clergymen all over the world. That criticism spiked when the Vatican recently told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect the victims.
Pope Francis, who has asked forgiveness for the sins committed by members of the church, has convened an unprecedented summit of the world's bishops and other church leaders at the Vatican from February 21-24 to discuss how to move forward on preventing abuse.