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Published: 4/30/2005

Married priests? maybe; ordained women? unlikely

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Mary Stockwell, right, associate professor of history, advises people to go the source and read Pope Benedict XVI's writings. Geoffrey Grubb, right, professor of religious studies, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger helped draft church laws allowing married Protestant priests to transfer into the Catholic Church. Mary Stockwell, right, associate professor of history, advises people to go the source and read Pope Benedict XVI's writings. Geoffrey Grubb, right, professor of religious studies, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger helped draft church laws allowing married Protestant priests to transfer into the Catholic Church.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

Married Roman Catholic priests? Maybe. Ordination of women? Don't hold your breath.

But it's really too soon to tell much about Pope Benedict XVI, who is just settling into the job to which he was elected 12 days ago, two Lourdes College professors advised this week.

Geoffrey Grubb, professor of religious studies, and Mary Stockwell, associate professor of history, discussed the late Pope John Paul II and his successor, Benedict XVI, in a presentation, followed by questions and answers, for faculty and staff Tuesday at the Catholic liberal arts college in Sylvania.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, before being elected Pope on April 19, had a role in setting church doctrine that allows married Protestant priests to transfer into the church and become Roman Catholic priests, Mr. Grubb pointed out. Today there are more than 200 such married priests in the U.S. Catholic Church.

"He worked out the details," Mr. Grubb said of Cardinal Ratzinger. While John Paul and Benedict were "pretty much the same" doctrinally, optional celibacy for priests may be an area where they differ, he said.

Afterward, Mr. Grubb said that while there may be some movement toward allowing married priests, he sees virtually no chance of Pope Benedict approving the ordination of women. "I don't think we'll see women priests in my lifetime," he said flatly.

Standing beside a bulletin board decorated with photos of John Paul II and his 26-year papacy, Mr. Grubb also gave an overview of conclaves.

He said the reason cardinals vote in secret is to free them from geographical and political obligations, making them "answerable only to God" in choosing a pontiff.

Ms. Stockwell was a graduate student when John Paul II was elected in October, 1978, and just like today, she said, the media and many observers were quick to offer assessments and pronouncements on his papacy, ranging from cheers to jeers.

As a historian, however, she said that "most people don't know what's really happening when it's happening," and that only over the course of time does an analysis of events become clear.

She decided when Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland was elected pontiff more than 26 years ago, rather than rely on media reports and comments from so-called experts she would go to the primary sources and read his own writings.

Pope John Paul II's first papal encyclical, "Redemptor Hominis" ("The Redemption of Man"), issued in 1979, was startling in its language and imagery, she said, comparing it to the works of Saint Augustine and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

"He hooked me," she said of John Paul. "I never recovered. Nobody ever talked to me about Jesus like this." She called the late pope "a profound leader ... who influenced me to be a better Catholic, but also to be a better historian."

John Paul broke the mold of predecessors by not writing in a "dull, dead, scholarly" style, but by writing clearly in ways relevant to the real world. "His language was vivid and profound and he presented a beautiful image of Christianity," Ms. Stockwell said. "He was like Peter in the boat, saying, 'Come in.'‚óŹ"

Benedict XVI is "continuing this revolutionary and profound way of speaking," she said, judging by his homilies and statements as Pope, as well as his writings as a cardinal.

She recommended that people who want to know Benedict should read the books, homilies, speeches, and writings of Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI.

Ms. Stockwell said she believes there will be significant changes during his papacy that few people have been talking about so far, especially efforts to end the rift between Roman Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

"The Pope said we can't breathe without two lungs," Ms. Stockwell said, referring to John Paul's 2000 reference to the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom. She said she expects Benedict XVI to continue John Paul's efforts to bring the two branches together again, although the length of time since the Great Schism of 1054 A.D. makes it a daunting task.



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