Benedict XVI warns against easing celibacy

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has advised his successor Francis not to alter the Church's celibacy rules. Statements to that effect can be found in a book Benedict is said to have written together with the conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah. Last year Francis initiated a discussion on priestly celibacy. Is Benedict's meddling jeopardising an urgently needed reform?

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The Guardian (GB) /

Just ignore interference

The Guardian finds the repeated meddling of the "pope emeritus" in Church matters unacceptable:

“When he became the first pope to stand down, he pledged not to interfere with the decision-making processes of his successor. But there is form when it comes to his backseat driving. Last April, he published an article linking the church's abuse scandals to the permissive sexual culture of the 1960s. That hampered Francis's efforts to locate the blame where it surely lies - within ecclesiastical power structures of patronage and impunity. Francis is expected to outline his position on the Amazon synod's recommendation next month. When he does so, he should ignore Benedict's latest shot across his bows.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

A call from the heart

Joseph Ratzinger had no choice but to intervene, Le Figaro argues:

“François must soon reach a decision, and so the intervention of his predecessor - whose opinion he greatly respects - is of huge importance. And, thinks Benedict XVI, in making this crucial decision the energetic pastor Bergoglio needs the guidance of the theologian Ratzinger. Nothing could be less controversial than this approach. This text is above all a call from the heart. At the twilight of his life, Benedict XVI is sticking to the most essential words. Written with a sense of urgency, they have an undeniable spiritual depth, like an echo of those of the first apostles confronted with adversity: 'Non possumus non loqui' ('We cannot not speak').”

Der Standard (AT) /

Church must move into the 21st century

Relaxing the celibacy requirement would be an important step towards modernising the Catholic Church, Der Standard concludes:

“One could note at this point that Saint Peter himself, the first pope in the view of the Catholic Church, was married according to tradition. One could point out that celibacy is not an ecclesiastical dogma but only an ecclesiastical law, and one with a few exceptions. That it has only been a prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood since 1139 and plays no role in the bible. ... Is obligatory celibacy one of the reasons for the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church? According to numerous experts, the answer is an unambiguous yes. ... It would be an important step in order to lead the Church into the 21st century: celibacy yes, but with numerous reasonable exceptions.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Don't reduce debate to banalities

Celibacy may not be the root of all evil, clergyman and psychologist Lello Ponticelli points out in Avvenire:

“How is it that in certain circles, even in our own house, it has become commonplace to assume that celibacy is almost inevitably an expression or source of immaturity, frustration, discomfort, if not illness? Not that this is never true, but to say that abolishing celibacy or making it voluntary solves the problems and difficulties borders on the banal. ... Consequently, in the ecclesial community and among us priests other questions arise: do we believe that celibacy is a value or not? And are 'virginity' and 'chastity' words that stand for oppressed ways of life, or are they not rather nuances of love and the art of loving?”