celibacy for priests
Church emphasizes religious vocations
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, June 29, 2003
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican reaffirmed celibacy for priests
yesterday, rejecting arguments that the Roman Catholic Church
could resolve the ''crisis'' of decreasing numbers of clergy
by opening the priesthood to married men.
Instead, the Vatican said, current priests should dedicate
themselves to attracting more candidates by better explaining
the priesthood to lay Catholics and encouraging families and
children to consider religious vocations.
The reaffirmation was contained in a wide-ranging document
issued yesterday as the final conclusions to a meeting, or
synod, of European bishops held in 1999. Pope John Paul II
held back on issuing the final document until now, because
he wanted the timing to be right in Europe, Vatican officials
In fact, one of the major thrusts of the document is a reiteration
of Christianity's heritage in Europe, and an exhortation by
the pope that European leaders drafting the first EU constitution
make reference to the role Christianity has played in shaping
Earlier this month, EU negotiators finalized a draft of the
constitution that made no reference to God or Christianity,
despite lobbying from the Vatican. Opponents said such a reference
could undermine the secular nature of the bloc.
Italy, which takes over the EU presidency starting on Tuesday,
has said it plans to reopen the debate over including the
reference when governments begin a final review of the text
''This is a constitution that does not yet exist,'' Cardinal
Jan Schotte, head of the synod, said at a press conference
launching the document. ''For me, nothing is definite.''
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, a secretary
of the synod, said omitting a mention of Christianity was
''unworthy'' of the constitution's authors because ''no presentation
of Europe can be honest if it fails to recognize the part
already played, and still played, by Christianity in the shaping
The document touched on a host of other issues, including
a call for Europe to be more welcoming to immigrants, for
the Catholic Church in Europe to engage in a ''profound and
perceptive'' dialogue with Islam and Judaism, and for the
''full participation'' of women in the life of the church.
Schotte said that didn't mean women could at present be heads
of Vatican congregations, since that would require they be
ordained. The Vatican reserves the priesthood for men.
The document acknowledged there were fewer and fewer men
signing up for the priesthood, but said removing the celibacy
requirement wasn't the answer.
''A revision of the present discipline in this regard would
not help to resolve the crisis of vocations to the priesthood
being felt in many parts of Europe,'' the document said. ''A
commitment to the service of the Gospel of hope also demands
that the Church make every effort to propose celibacy in its
full biblical, theological, and spiritual richness.''
There has been a steep decline in the ratio of Catholics
to priests worldwide over the past 20 years. In 1978, there
were 1,797 Catholics for every priest. In 2001, the number
was 2,619, according to Vatican statistics cited by Catholic