Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Popes and lost hopes

The Catholioc Church is again deeply mired in sexual scandals, but how can it be otherwise when it is run by a large number of celibate men? Could anybody suppose that all of them would stifle their sex instinct completely? Anyway, there is nothing in the gospels to require priests not to marry, indeed there is no clear requirement to have priests at all; Jesus got on very badly with the Jewish priesthood. Unfortunately there is an economic problem: how would the Church pay adequate salaries to men with families?

The answer seemed available in the 1940s, with the worker-priest movement; priests with jobs could have supported themselves, but that was squashed by the hierarchy. Pius XII, who was Pope from just before the World War till 1958 was not a liberal man. Indeed his attitude towards the Nazis seems suspect. But then came John XXIII. It is easy to forget now that there was, in living memory, a pope who was respected and indeed loved by non-Catholics. His warmth and openness made everything seem possible.

Dear old John lasted only five years, and then came Paul VI, who put the lid back on, and John-Paul II, who despite all his qualities was an extreme conservative. There was a glimmer of hope when Church of England ministers were allowed to become Roman Catholic priests and keep their wives. But now we have Benedict, who brings back memories of Pius XII... It all seems rather hopeless really.

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