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Spotlight Report

Law says editorial caused 'confusion'

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 3/16/2002

Saying that an editorial in the archdiocesan newspaper has ''unfortunately created confusion,'' Cardinal Bernard F. Law declared last night that the publication he oversees does not question the requirement of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests.

Although the newspaper, The Pilot, said in its editorial yesterday that ''more studies with concrete data will be necessary before an intelligent response can be made'' to questions raised by laypeople about priestly celibacy. Law issued a statement last night saying that ''it is not the editorial position of The Pilot that clerical celibacy should be reviewed by the church with the purpose of a change in discipline.''

Law issued the statement just before 8 p.m., after a day in which reporters questioned the archdiocese about the editorial, which was published under the headline ''Questions that must be faced,'' and which said that questions from laypeople about celibacy, gay priests, and the ordination of women ''have taken on a deeper intensity in more Catholic minds than prior to these sexual scandals.'' A spokeswoman said Law, who is the publisher of The Pilot, had not seen the editorial before it was published.

Some Catholics, including Merrimack College President Richard J. Santagati, had hailed the editorial as a sign of increasing church openness to discussion of issues already being widely talked about among laypeople. But Law made it clear that change is not in the offing.

''Clearly, on this issue and other issues, there is a great deal of misunderstanding both within, and, even more, outside the church,'' he said. ''The Pilot, as it has stated, will attempt to assist in conveying a better understanding of the church's faith and discipline in subsequent issues.''

The church has insisted on celibacy for Roman Catholic priests since the 11th century. Married men can become ordained in many Eastern Catholic churches, and married Episcopal priests can enter the Catholic Church as married priests.

But Law said his newspaper ''does not question the discipline of clerical celibacy,'' and appeared to reject any link of the celibacy issue to the clergy sexual abuse scandal, saying ''the problem of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy is being dealt with in its own terms.''

The Pilot has promised to publish an editorial on the topic of the ordination of women next week.

This story ran on page A12 of the Boston Globe on 3/16/2002.
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