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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific