Today, the Tablet-UK reported, that in an interview given to Salzburger Nachrichten, Bishop Erwin Kräutler (Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest) states that the Pope told him directly that he “was open-minded about finding solutions to the problem…of the desperate shortage of priests in the bishop’s huge diocese….saying that bishops’ conferences could have a decisive role.”
“It was up to the bishops to make suggestions, the Pope said.” Following a similar line of questioning, “Bishop Kräutler was then asked whether it now depended on bishops’ conferences [specifically], as to whether church reforms proceeded or not. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘After my personal discussion with the Pope I am absolutely convinced of this.'”
If you remember previous statements by various members of the Vatican, mandatory celibacy has been described as “a discipline, not a dogma” of the church. This language, sometimes used to differentiate the practice of male celibacy from the question of ordaining women, leaves room for a change in this doctrine. After this conversation with Bishop Kräutler, I find myself very excited to think that, in six months, at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, the rules regarding priestly celibacy could be changed.
While much of the attention on this synod has been focused on the question of divorce, I have been wondering if priestly celibacy will come up. It seems that this question has been answered.
Now, for the real question: will the needs of the majority Christian world, who survive with terribly few priests, be heard? Or will the desires of European and North American bishops who would maintain priestly celibacy for the sake of tradition and, dare I say it, the uniqueness of Catholicism against Protestantism, win the day either by outvoting or simply not allowing the topic to be breached in the first place?