Monday, 30th October 2017

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Pope rejects proposal on married priests

The pope’s refusal to allow married priests was likely to delight conservatives

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo/New York Times News Service in Vatican
  • Published 13.02.20, 12:34 AM
  • Updated 13.02.20, 12:34 AM
  • a min read
Pope Francis is greeted by faithful during the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday (AP photo)

Pope Francis has rejected a proposal made by bishops at a landmark meeting in October to allow the ordination of married men in remote areas, a potentially momentous change that conservatives had warned would set the Roman Catholic Church on a slippery slope toward the lifting of priestly celibacy and the thrashing of church traditions.

Francis’ decision, in a papal letter with the power of church teaching that was made public by the Vatican on Wednesday, surprised many given his openness to questions of priestly celibacy in “far-flung places” and his oft expressed desire for a more collegial and less top-down church.

The pope’s supporters had hoped for revolutionary change. The decision, coming seven years into his papacy, raised the question of whether Francis’ promotion of discussing once-taboo issues is resulting in a pontificate that is largely talk.

His closest advisers have already acknowledged that the pope’s impact has waned on the global stage, especially on core issues like immigration and the environment. His legacy, they have said, will ultimately reside inside the church where his authority is absolute.

The pope’s refusal to allow married priests was likely to delight conservatives, many of whom have come to see Francis and his emphasis on a more pastoral and inclusive church as a grave threat to the rules, orthodoxy and traditions of the faith.

The recommendation to allow married priests in remote areas was approved by more than two-thirds of the bishops who attended a summit on the issue in October. The proposal set off a vigorous debate within the church.

Progressives said it was high time the church recognised reality and the demands of the faithful; conservatives called it a threat to the priesthood.