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Australian bishop backs reconsideration of celibacy, women's ordination August 23, 2007

Bishop Pat Power, an auxiliary of the Canberra, Australia diocese, has indicated his support for an end to mandatory clerical celibacy, and suggested a new discussion of the possibility of ordaining women.

In a public response to a campaign by Australian Catholic activists to end the celibacy discipline, Bishop Power said that while Vatican leaders are unwilling to reconsider the issue, among "ordinary Catholics" he has found both support and "a sense of urgency" about the need for change.

"Where there is the conviction that the Eucharist is at the heart of Catholic belief and practice, there must be questions asked about disciplinary laws in the Church which have the net effect of denying many Catholics regular access to the Eucharist," the Australian bishop wrote. He said that by limiting priestly ministry to celibate men the Church was in effect restricting access to the Eucharist "because of the scarcity of priests."

Bishop Power went on the praise Australian activists for raising the question of ordination for women. The bishop said that he recognized "the sensitivity to the question at the level of the Vatican," but called for "a more open and thorough examination of the issues around the ordination of women and the whole structure of the priesthood."

Pope John Paul II closed the discussion of women's ordination with his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Pope John Paul wrote: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

The Australian bishop said that he had often suggested changes in Church teaching and discipline regarding the priesthood, but found little support for his proposals. He blamed the problem on the opposition of Vatican officials-- whose attitudes, he said, have produced "a greater encroachment on the life of the local Church" in recent years.

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