Sophia Loren had a romantic problem with Marcello Mastroianni in this 1971 film because he was a man of the cloth. But attitudes have changed since The Priest’s Wife was released and now a majority of Italians believe that priests should be allowed to marry, according to an opinion poll.
The survey, by the polling organisation Demos, came as Catholic bishops in Austria called on the Vatican to open up the issue of priestly celibacy for discussion.
The survey, published yesterday in La Repubblica, showed that confidence in the Pope in Italy had dropped from 53.7 per cent in 2007 to 46.6 per cent, compared with 77.2 per cent for Pope John Paul II in 2003.
Sixty-two per cent said they believed that the Church had sought to minimise or cover up sex abuse scandals.
Ilvo Diamanti, an Italian sociologist, said the drop in support for the Church and the papacy partly stemmed from the Vatican’s slow, divided and confused response to the paedophile crisis at a time of fast moving global media. It was also linked to the decline of the priesthood in Italian society, with the Church increasingly seen as out of touch with modern social attitudes and mores.
The poll followed the conclusion at the weekend of a congress at Mariazell south of Vienna at which Austrian bishops called on the Vatican to discuss the issue of celibacy and whether to ordain married priests.
Bishop Alois Schwarz of the Carinthia diocese told the meeting: “We hear this question as bishops, and we are telling Rome that we have this problem.”
He said the role of women in the Church was also among the “many open topics which we need to discuss with sensitivity and from different viewpoints”. The bishops ended their meeting with a call for “broad reforms”.
Last week the Bishop of Eisenstadt, Paul Iby, said in a newspaper interview: ‘It should be left up to every priest whether he wants to live a life of voluntary celibacy or in a family.”
“Rome is too timid in such questions,” Bishop Iby told the daily Die Presse, adding that priests should be allowed to choose whether they would like to marry to counteract the falling number of vocations. “But nothing is moving ahead in Rome,” he said.
Celibacy has been required of Catholic clergy since the early Middle Ages. However, it was not imposed in the early Church, and, according to Gospel accounts, St Peter was a married man.
Some senior Catholics, including Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, have linked paedophile priest scandals to the issue of celibacy. The Vatican has denied any such link, pointing out that in secular society paedophilia is often committed by married men.Times Online