Friday, November 17, 2006

Stay of celibacy

Not surprisingly, mandatory celibacy didn't get the ax after yesterday's Vatican summit, though there was an interestingly worded statement that emphasized "the value of the choice of priestly celibacy." Time magazine's deck for their headline, however, overstates things, I think: "The Pope Lays Down the Law on Celibacy, A shortage of priests has some calling for a loosening of the traditional restrictions, but Benedict makes clear it won't happen on his watch."

B16 has already said celibacy is a discipline that can be relaxed, and I think it likely he will begin what will be a long process to a married clergy shortly. First will be the readmission of priests who left to marry but whose wives have died. After that, we'll see, but I don't think the pope wants another schism on an issue like this one.

There is some fear, though, and perhaps this is why the Milingo controversy sparked the "summit," that Milingo's group could gain traction in places like Africa, where the Romans see the future of the church. Though the Catholics of the developing world may share the Roman attitude on the wedge issues--homosexuality, women's ordination, etc.--celibacy has never been terribly popular there, nor has it put down strong roots among indigenous clergy. Milingo, with his everything but the celibacy church and personal popularity in Africa, may find a receptive audience.


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