Sunday, 12 September 2010

P-4: A BBC poll

BBC Radio 2's news bulletins have this morning been reporting a survey that suggests that the majority of Catholics in Britain would like to see the Church's rule in favour of priestly celibacy relaxed. The BBC website reports the survey here (with a slightly different lead than was given to the Radio 2 bulletins), but I haven't been able to find my way to the full report of the survey.
Almost 70% of British Catholics expect the Pope's visit to help the Catholic Church in the UK, a BBC poll suggests.
It is difficult to know what to say about the survey's findings on the response of Catholics to the sex abuse scandal. One can only expect it to have had a negative impact on how Catholics feel about the leadership of the Church.

The poll reports that 57% of Catholics do not feel their faith is valued by wider society - which raises interesting questions for British society's "equality agenda".

The findings with regard to priestly celibacy were getting most attention in the radio bulletins. But the figures reported suggest that 49% feel the rule for priestly celibacy should be relaxed, with 35% giving a response in favour of keeping the rule in place. My own thoughts on the celibacy question: (1) In the new movements and religious orders that have come into existence in the life of the Church in recent decades, there is a clear witness to the life of the evangelical counsels, including celibacy, as part of a life lived in greater commitment to the charism of the movement; (2) The ordination of married convert clergy from the Church of England as priests in the Catholic Church, albeit that each and every case represents an "exception" to the general rule of celibacy granted by dispensation from the Holy See, has de facto created a body of married clergy, certainly in the some of the dioceses of England; (3) one can be forgiven for feeling that the lived experience and practice of the discipline of celibacy in the Church represented by (1) and (2) is at the present time offering a mixed message; (4) those of a more liberal inclination who actively lobby for an end to priestly celibacy are not to be found in the experiences of Catholic life represented by (1) and (2), coming instead from a wider ideological positioning in the Church - but they will make use of the mixed message noted at (3) to further their cause. The survey result - 49% in favour of change - does not suggest that Catholics in England and Wales, seen as a whole, desperately want to see change. It will, I expect, disappoint those who do want to see a change in the rule on priestly celibacy; but it will also give those who wish to see the rule retained some pause for thought, too.

There is some further coverage and comment at Catholic Voices Media Monitor, where they give some attention to the responses about the place of women in the Church. The wording of this question hides the question about the ordination of women, and no doubt some of those responding intended this by their call for women to "have more authority and status" in the Church. Catholic Voices rightly indicate some of the roles that women do already have in the Church. At least one leading Vatican position has been held by a woman in the past and now is held by her again, and that woman is Mary Ann Glendon, President of the Pontifical Academy for the Social Sciences. Mary Ann Glendon took a break from this role whilst she was the United States Ambassador to the Holy See under the George Bush administration.

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