First he said it, but then he didn’t really say what it sounds like he said. Cardinal Claudio Hummes gave an interview to a local Brazilian newspaper as he was leaving for Rome to take up his new post as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy in which he reportedly said that clerical celibacy is up for grabs.
“Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the church,” Hummes was quoted as saying by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. “Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things, it has to advance with history.”
By the time his 747 arrived in Rome, the story had circled the globe twice, and presumably the Holy Father had already asked the Vatican Press Office to draft the cardinal’s “clarification” for him so he could read it to the media as soon as his plane touched down at Fiumicino airport. From CWNews.com:
His statement, issued through the Vatican press office, noted that the norm of celibacy “is very ancient and based on solid tradition and strong reasoning—both of a theologico-spiritual and practical pastoral nature—which has been confirmed by the popes as well.”
The Franciscan prelate went on to remind reporters that during its discussions in October 2005, the Synod of Bishops had taken up the question of priestly celibacy, and reached a consensus “that a relaxation of the rule of celibacy would not even solve the problem of the shortage of vocations, which has other causes located in modern secularized culture, as shown by the experience of other Christian denominations that have married priests or pastors.”
The message here? The Pope has made it clear that he will select for top curial positions the men he thinks can do the job assigned them, even if the picks have the appearance of elevating liberal churchmen (e.g. Hummes to Clergy; Cardinal William Levada to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), but they better realize that in their new jobs they speak for the Pope and no “off-the-reservation” freelancing will be allowed.