Hints of reform in the Catholic Church are welcome

The matter in question is whether priests should be allowed to marry

Share

When considering any organised religion – let alone one as old and institutionalised as the Catholic Church – it would be unwise to expect change to come quickly, if, indeed, at all. But there are now discernible glimmers of shifting sentiment that may yet turn into real progress.

The matter in question is whether priests should be allowed to marry. While in the Anglican tradition they may, their Catholic counterparts have been bound by vows of abstinence since the fourth century. Now, however, a softer tone from the Vatican suggests that the tide may finally be turning. The Catholic weeklyThe Tablet reports that on a visit to Brazil earlier this month Pope Francis responded somewhat equivocally to  a bishop’s suggestion that it was time for the  ordination of married men.

It is as well not to overstate the case – the Holy Father’s response was notable for its failing categorically to rule such a development out, rather than for any ruling of it in. But every revolution must start somewhere. And already there is more than just the pontiff’s ambiguities to go on. As The Independent reports today, three British bishops have spoken out in support of a change in the rules. Meanwhile, although the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is refusing to publish its own local results, it is nonetheless significant that the Vatican  has conducted a worldwide survey of sexual ethics, touching on such sensitive topics as contraception and homosexuality.

All of which adds up to an encouraging picture of a profoundly traditionalist institution reconsidering its relationship with the modern world. Not before time. The appalling revelations of clerical child abuse are the most compelling possible argument for reform.

It would be a mistake to expect too much from Pope Francis, even so. For all the high expectations fostered by his dislike of the trappings of office, his exhortations of compassion for homosexuals and his concern for the plight of the poor, the church will not join the 21st century in a single bound. Signs that the leadership may be open to change are welcome, though; and efforts to normalise the priesthood with the ordination of married men is a fine place to start.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...