New Vatican Clergy Cardinal dampens celibacy speculation

Taking up his new post as head of the Congregation for the Clergy, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes has moved to dampen speculation over his earlier reported comments that "celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma", saying that change is not currently on the agenda.

The 72-year-old Hummes, who formerly headed the Brazil's largest Catholic archdiocese of Sao Paulo, succeeds Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy - the Vatican office in charge of priests.

Leaving Brazil last Friday, Cardinal Hummes had said in an interview with the Fohla de S Paulo that "celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the Church."

"Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things; it has to advance with history," he said in comments that aroused speculation of possible changes in celibacy rules for priests.

But following his arrival in Rome, Cardinal Hummes moved quickly to clarify on Monday that the question was not on the Holy See's agenda, the International Herald Tribune reports.

In a statement released by the Holy See press office, he also said that allowing priests to marry would not solve the clergy shortage.

Revising the requirement of celibacy "is not currently on the agenda of church authorities, as recently restated after the last [meeting] of [Vatican]) department heads with the Holy Father," Hummes said in his statement.

He was referring to a summit, led by Pope Benedict XVI two weeks ago, which reiterated the value of the requirement of celibacy for priests and made clear the policy wasn't about to be changed.

In the statement issued by the Vatican, Hummes that it was "clear that the rule of celibacy for priests in the Latin church is very ancient and is based on a consolidated tradition and strong motivations ... reiterated by popes as well."

The Cardinal described the motivations as theological, spiritual, pastoral and practical.

Cardinal Hummes said that among a recent gathering of bishops, "the most widely held opinion was that loosening the rule on celibacy would not be a solution, not even to the problem of the scarcity of vocations, which is to be linked, rather, to other causes, starting with the modern secularised culture."

Cardinal named to oversee priests for Vatican says celibacy not a dogma (International Herald Tribune, 4/12/06)
Vatican said not revising celibacy rule (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/12/06)
Brazilian cardinal advocates marriage for Catholic clergy (Indy Star, 4/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sao Paulo
Congregation for the Clergy

Readmission of married priests under discussion (CathNews, 17/11/06)
Vatican calls married priest summit over Milingo (CathNews, 15/11/06)
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Archbishop Milingo returns to ministry (CathNews, 20/11/02)
Archbishop Milingo expected to return to full ministry (CathNews, 4/6/02)
Vatican regrets marriage of Archbishop Milingo (CathNews, 30/5/01)
Korean ambassador mediates in Archbishop Milingo affair (CathNews, 21/1/01)

5 Dec 2006