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Vatican to reinforce Catholic orthodoxy

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Vatican to reinforce Catholic orthodoxy



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Pope John Paul II
Pope's advisors say traditional values have weakened

For months it has seemedto liberal Roman Catholics that the sex abuse scandal that has affectedthe Church in many parts of the world, must lead to radical reforms.

The ordination to the priesthood of homosexual men... is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent

Holy See's Congregation for Worship
There was speculation that it could include an end to compulsorycelibacy for priests, and perhaps even the ordination of women.

But the signs are thatthe pope's advisers have come to precisely the opposite conclusions -and intend to reinforce traditional standards and discipline.

They plan to crack down especially hard on homosexuality in the Church.

'Anglo-Saxon' problem

In St Peter's Square inthe Vatican, a group of children waiting to tour the towering basilica,tightly gathered around a smiling young priest.

In many countries it is difficult finding enough recruits for the priesthood
It is almost impossible for a homosexual to be ordained as a priest
There is no sign here of the awkwardness that some American priestshave reported feeling with children since the sex abuse crisis hasunfolded there during the last year.

Indeed, here in Rome, many see the scandal as what they call an "Anglo-Saxon" problem.

Gerry O'Connell, theVatican correspondent of the Roman Catholic journal The Universe, saysthat some of the pope's chief advisers have analysed the American casesand concluded that the problem is not paedophilia, but homosexuality.

"When they analysed thesecases, they discovered that the vast majority involved not priests andlittle children, that's children under the age of 11 or 12, but ratherpriests and teenagers," Mr O'Connell says.

"So it had more a homosexual dimension to it."

That conclusion is having far-reaching effects.

'Inadvisable and imprudent'

Liberal Roman Catholicshave argued that the scandal was caused by too much emphasis onhierarchy and the priesthood, and that the answer is to ordain womenand end compulsory celibacy.

The issue of paedophilia and abuse may have homosexual aspects but it is simply not to be identified with that orientation

Monsignor Roderick Strange
The sex abuse scandal has served to reinforce that view.

But conservatives - andthere are many surrounding Pope John Paul II - believe the crisis hasbeen caused by a weakening of the Church's traditional values andstandards, and specifically a tolerance of homosexual priests.

The Vatican correspondentof the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, says a one-page letterfrom one of the Holy See's departments, the Congregation for Worship,graphically demonstrates the shift against homosexuals.

He quotes the letter:"The ordination to the priesthood of homosexual men, or men withhomosexual tendencies, is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent, andfrom a pastoral point of view, very risky."

"To me, that's a pretty clear statement of position," Mr Allen says.

According to him similarlanguage is likely to be used in a more substantial document expectedfrom the Vatican department in charge of education in the next fewmonths.

"There seems to be aclear thrust here towards making it more difficult, if not impossiblefor a homosexual to get into a seminary and ultimately to be ordainedas a Catholic priest," Mr Allen says.

Crisis in morale

Another important clue is contained in the words "homosexual tendencies".

The Church has always said that active homosexuality is a sin. But not necessarily homosexual tendencies.

Ending that distinction would represent a significant crackdown on gay men in the priesthood.

Cardinal Law
Resignation of Cardinal Law raised liberal hopes

At Beda College, aseminary for mature men in the St Paul's area just outside Rome's oldcity walls numbers of students are falling.

The college's rector,Monsignor Roderick Strange says that the crisis in morale caused by thesex scandal can only make the situation worse.

He thinks that whether ornot a man has homosexual tendencies is irrelevant, provided he issufficiently mature and socially well integrated.

Barring them from seminaries would be a big mistake.

"The issue of paedophiliaand abuse may have homosexual aspects but it is simply not to beidentified with that orientation," Monsignor Strange says.

"If it were the case thatpeople were using homosexuality to say that by banning this we willsolve that then we wouldn't be getting any further forward at all."

Reinforcing orthodoxy

The resignation ofCardinal Bernard Law of Boston encouraged liberal Roman Catholics tobelieve the pope might find some relaxation of the Church's traditionaldisciplines unavoidable.

But there is a tendency in Rome for America to seem far away, and to put its sex scandal in a wider context.

For Vatican conservativesthe priority seems to be to reinforce Roman Catholic orthodoxy in theChurch as a whole, rather than indulge liberals in its unrulyprovinces.

The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

Around the world



See also:

13 Dec 02 | Americas
13 Dec 02 | Americas
16 Dec 02 | Americas
15 Dec 02 | Americas
01 Nov 02 | Americas
15 Jun 02 | Americas
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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