Fr. Owen O'Sullivan

Following a controversial article published by Fr. Owen O'Sullivan, an Irish Capuchin priest based in Belfast, last year related to homosexuality, it is being discussed in the Vatican that future permission should be sought from Rome by priests who wish to write publicly.

However, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has described the suggested move as "unwise" and "counterproductive."

In a statement at the weekend the ACP said it was “dispiriting and discouraging that an important and necessary exploration of the interface of theology and pastoral life, as represented by the writings of Owen O’Sullivan, OFMCap, is now regarded as unacceptable."

O'Sullivan described homosexuality as "simply a facet of the human condition," in an article in the Furrow magazine last March.

O'Sullivan described the church teachings on homosexuality as "unnatural.

He questioned in his article if non-procreative sex was wrong did that also mean that "non-use of genital sexuality, as in celibacy, is likewise unnatural”.

He wrote a distinction “between being homosexual and doing homosexual acts is phony” and added that “being and doing are not as separable in life as they might seem in the lecture hall”.

After the publication of the article, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith contacted O'Sullivan's superiors in Rome and told them he was not allowed to write an article again without first receiving approval from the Vatican.

The ACP said, “we should be encouraging and resourcing discussion, drawing on the experience and wisdom available to our church” and believed “any effort to stifle such discussion is not only unwise and illogical but counterproductive in present circumstances”.