June 21, 2021

The risk of two opposite pontiffs | Society


The advance in the media has had a great impact on the media Le figaro of a book that is published in France and that contains a strong call to the pontiff – “a cry of alarm”, as the Parisian newspaper titled on the front page – to keep the doctrine of celibacy obligatory for priests in the Catholic Church of Latin Rite . The interest and discussion that arose immediately, sometimes very hot, can be explained by two reasons: first of all, because the authors of the book are Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and African Cardinal Robert Sarah. Then, because in October the synod on the Amazon, by a two-thirds majority, issued a favorable opinion to the priestly ordination, in this immense territory, of permanent deacons already married. Now the pontiff must publish a document (which will be an “apostolic exhortation”) and also decide on this point.

For at least half a century there has been debate about the desirability of ordering priests to men of proven faith (viri probati, in Latin), while the more traditionalist sectors have been attacking Pope Francis for some time, who they accuse of wanting to modify this ancient ecclesiastical discipline and even endangering faith. Naturally, the strongest supporters of Bergoglio reject these accusations and strongly criticize the adversaries of the Pope. In Germany, moreover, the possibility of ordering married priests is debated, and most German Catholics are favorable.

Of course, historically, the celibacy of the ministers of Christian worship has very old roots and motivations, but the obligation was gradually introduced since the fourth century. For practical reasons, such as the preservation of ecclesiastical heritage, and at the same time ideal, celibacy extended during the Middle Ages in the Latin Church with numerous transgressions (especially in the 10th and 15th centuries), it was definitively affirmed in the modern era and It was confirmed by the Second Vatican Council. In contrast, in Eastern, Orthodox but also Catholic churches, priests are ordained to married men, while monks and bishops must be single.

To the interest in the subject, which is always very high, is added, with the book of Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah, the novelty of a new intervention of Pope Emeritus, which many present as opposed to his successor, along with a cardinal to who is considered head of ranks of the adversaries of Bergoglio. In other words, there is a risk that there are “two potatoes” opposed. A danger also feared by the Holy See, as has been observed immediately by the unanimous reactions of the Vatican media, and that has confirmed the success of two films on papal “cohabitation”, that of Fernando Meirelles and, above all , that of Paolo Sorrentino, fantasy, of course, and with cartoony strokes, but that go to the heart of the matter. Circumstances that show the existing division in the Catholic world, fueled irresponsibly by extremists, which are never lacking.

Giovanni Maria Vian He is an expert in Church history and former director of L’Osservatore Romano.

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