A Vatican investigation into homosexuality in US seminaries has come under fire as a ham-fisted response to pedophilia in the Catholic Church.

A Vatican-appointed team will scour all 229 Catholic seminaries in the United States for evidence of homosexuality, according to a reference document for the review, The New York Times reported.

The review, expected to begin next month, was spurred by the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the US Catholic Church in recent years.

Investigators will assess current seminarians as well as students who have graduated in the last three years.

According to the reference document, the review team will look for  evidence of homosexuality in the seminary as well as signs of particular friendships.

It is unclear how investigators would respond to signs of homosexuality.

International and gay groups have condemned the investigation, saying it confuses homosexuality with pedophilia.

Australian Rainbow Sash Movement spokesperson David McKenna told Sydney Star Observer the investigation was a ham-fisted solution to sexual abuse.

He said excluding or discriminating against gay people was a totally misdirected and very unjust response to their problems with child abuse.

A US Catholic report published last year found about 80 percent of victims reportedly abused by clergy were boys.

But human sexuality experts have warned against linking Church sexual abuse and homosexuality.

They say boys’ over-representation as victims of clergy abuse is probably because priests can more easily access males, such as altar boys, The New York Times reported.

McKenna said excluding gay men would have a devastating impact on the priesthood.

It would be devastating in terms of furnishing the Church with the number of clergy it wants.

Estimates of the proportion of gay Catholic priests range from 10 to 60 percent.

US gay lobby group Human Rights Campaign called the seminary review a witch hunt.

When the church makes gay men a scapegoat for pedophiles, it ignores one problem and creates another. It does nothing to keep children safe or punish criminals, the group’s president, Joe Solmonese, said.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI has reportedly endorsed a recommendation that would bar gay men from becoming Catholic priests.

Independent news service Catholic World News reported the measure stipulated even celibate homosexuals should not be admitted to seminaries because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers.

The recommendation said gay priests who were already ordained should renew their commitment to chastity, according to the Catholic World News report.

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