Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Austrian bishop questions celibacy

By Veronika Oleksyn
Associated Press

VIENNA — An Austrian bishop who has disagreed with the Vatican in the past about needed reforms said in an interview published Wednesday that the Catholic church should drop its celibacy requirement for priests.

Eisenstadt Bishop Paul Iby told the Die Presse daily that it should be up to priests to decide whether they want to live a celibate life and that he would welcome it if married men could be ordained.

"It should be at the discretion of every priest whether to live in voluntary celibacy or in a family," Die Presse quoted Iby as saying.

Iby, who offered to retire when he turned 75 in January, also said that eventually the ordination of women should be considered.

"The ordination of women is not an issue in our church," Iby was quoted as saying. "But in the medium term it must be thought about."

Iby added that discrimination against homosexuals should be avoided and suggested that divorcees be allowed to have a new relationship blessed after a period of penitence.

"Rome is too timid with such things," Iby said.

Iby, who has been outspoken about the need for Roman Catholic reforms, told Die Presse that the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — now Pope Benedict XVI — once told him to toe Rome's line during a one-hour meeting. It was unclear from the interview when that meeting took place.

When asked to comment on recent sex abuse allegations against Austrian clergy, Iby said such claims need to be dealt with by state authorities and added that he could never have imagined the current magnitude of the matter.

Iby acknowledged earlier this year that he had failed to take proper action more than a decade ago when he found out that a priest in his diocese had abused children elsewhere in the Alpine republic years earlier.

In his comments to Die Presse, Iby blamed his inaction on his "inexperience."

The Vatican has accepted Iby's letter of resignation, but it won't take effect until an undetermined future date, the Austria Press Agency has reported.

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