April 04, 2005

Conclave faces changed landscape

Pioneer Press

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY The last time the College of Cardinals gathered to select a pope, the Cold War dominated the globe, non-European voices in the church were weak and unfocused and dialogue with other faiths was left to second-tier envoys.

None of that is true today.

When the cardinals assemble in the Sistine Chapel this month, the questions and priorities considered in selecting the successor of Pope John Paul II will reflect 26 years of profound shifts: the rising influence of African and Latin America clergy, greater pressure to allow married priests after damaging sex scandals and hopes for Vatican leadership in critical outreach between the West and the Muslim world. ...

High on the list could be greater sensitivity to the fallout from priest sex scandals that have battered the church in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. John Paul effectively closed the door on easing rules for priestly celibacy, which some Vatican critics consider a major obstacle to encouraging vocations.

Celibacy is a deeply rooted tradition in the church, but not an issue of immutable doctrine. In 1980, the late pope allowed married Episcopal clergy to join the Catholic Church and serve as priests. Married priests are common among Eastern Rite Catholics, which follow many Orthodox traditions but are loyal to the Vatican.

Posted by kshaw at April 4, 2005 05:17 AM