German Catholics urge reforms as papal visit nears
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
PARIS (Reuters) - Over 140 Roman Catholic theologians in Germany have urged the church to embrace far-reaching reforms to end priestly celibacy, ordain women, welcome same-sex couples and let lay people help pick their bishops.
The appeal, the second reform call in two weeks, came as the German church is struggling to overcome a wave of clerical sex abuse scandals and prepare for Pope Benedict's visit to his German homeland in September.
The proposals reflect liberal positions in deep disfavor at the Vatican. While they have no hope of being adopted, the fact that 144 theologians backed them meant Benedict's third trip to Germany since his 2005 election could be his most difficult.
A group of prominent Catholic politicians urged the bishops last month to ordain older married men in response to the worsening shortage of priests.
"The deep crisis of our church demands that we address problems that at first glance are not directly related to the abuse scandal and its decades-long cover-up," the latest appeal said.
Replying to the appeal, the bishops' conference said it would discuss the proposals at a meeting in mid-March.
The appeal said the priest shortage meant many parishes without resident clerics were slowly dying and the remaining priests had so much to do they were increasingly "burned out." Continued...