The New York Times
By HANS KÜNG
Published: February 27, 2013
THE Arab Spring has shaken a whole series of autocratic regimes. With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, might not something like that be possible in the Roman Catholic Church as well — a Vatican Spring?
Of course, the system of the Catholic Church doesn’t resemble Tunisia or Egypt so much as an absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia. In both places there are no genuine reforms, just minor concessions. In both, tradition is invoked to oppose reform. In Saudi Arabia tradition goes back only two centuries; in the case of the papacy, 20 centuries.
Yet is that tradition true? In fact, the church got along for a millennium without a monarchist-absolutist papacy of the kind we’re familiar with today.
It was not until the 11th century that a “revolution from above,” the “Gregorian Reform” started by Pope Gregory VII, left us with the three enduring features of the Roman system: a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.
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