By Stacy Meichtry
Debate over how to solve Roman Catholicisms epidemic priest
shortage continues to roil the synod of bishops with some participants
appealing to Pope Benedict XVI to expand the priesthood by loosening celibacy
restrictions while others argued against the changes, advocating better
distribution of current priests.
According to priests who briefed reporters on the synod proceedings in
several languages on Tuesday, the debate produced a coarse exchange late Monday
between Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, the general relator of the synod, and
Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham.
Celibacy has no theological foundation in the priesthood,
Laham said, responding to an opening speech by Scola that cited profound
theological motives for not allowing married men to enter the
In the Eastern Church married priests are admitted, Laham
said, adding that marriage is a symbol of union between Christ and the
Responding to Laham, Scola asserted that in the Latin church
theological reasons exist for maintaining the policy on celibacy. He did
not elaborate on those reasons. He then added, The synod is a place to
explore the Mystery, not to give directions on its use.
In his opening remarks, Scola reported that some bishops proposed that
priest-deprived regions be permitted to ordain exemplary married men, which
theologians refer to as proven men, or viri probati in
Scola suggested the synod focus instead on finding criteria for an
adequate distribution of clergy in the world. He also appeared to play
down the urgency of the priest shortage, saying that the church could not
function as a business out to meet a determined
During the free discussion that closed Mondays session of the
synod, Roberto Camilleri Azzopardo of Comayaga, Honduras, reported having one
priest for every 16,000 Catholics in his diocese.
But many bishops attending the synod, which is officially dedicated to
the Eucharist, have complained that the priest shortage has impaired their
ability to minister Communion to their faithful.
Cardinal Johannes Simonis, archbishop of Utrecht and president of
Hollands bishops conference called the priest shortage
endemic, adding that we should let lay people distribute
Italian news agencies reported that Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Pena
Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic said that lay ministries provide
support to the community of faithful and should not be abolished.
Priests briefing reporters also said that American Archbishop William
Levada urged bishops late Monday to consider whether Catholic politicians who
defy church teaching on issues like abortion should receive Communion.
Levada cited divisions among American Catholics over the