|Catholic Church Will Not Ordain Women, Says Scotland's Senior Cardinal
September 14, 2010
Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 September 2010 18.38 BST
One of Britain's most senior Catholics has ruled out ordaining women as priests or giving women an increased role in the church, as preparations were finalised for this week's state visit by the pope.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien said liberalising Roman Catholic teachings on allowing women to join the priesthood "isn't even considered by us" as it directly contradicted the church's long held traditions that only men could be ordained.
A ComRes opinion poll for the BBC published at the weekend suggested nearly two-thirds of British Catholics believe women should be given greater authority and status within the church, while nearly half said celibacy rules for priests should be relaxed.
The poll, and a further YouGov survey for ITV, suggested ordinary Catholics in the UK are increasingly more liberal than the church's leadership. They found nearly a third believed in abortion on demand, while 70% believed condoms should be used more often. In the ITV poll, another 40% said gay relationships should be celebrated.
O'Brien, who is welcoming Pope Benedict to the UK on Thursday at the start of the four-day state visit, said he welcomed different opinions in the church but insisted it had always valued women. He had recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa, and women played senior roles in his own diocese, but women had never been amongst Christ's apostles.
Although the church had to tailor its message for modern times, the pope would not give ground. He was coming to Britain to uphold the core teachings of the church and battle against falling moral standards. He would "proclaim the Christian message as effectively as he possibly can", the cardinal said.
"Certainly there will be some people who will object and have objected, but I'm not particularly concerned by that; everyone is entitled to their opinion," he said.
The church is meanwhile playing down expectations that 100,000 Catholics may turn out for Thursday's "great mass" by the pope in Bellahouston park in Glasgow. A church spokesman said only they hoped "tens of thousands" would turn out, and admitted it depended very heavily on the weather.
It emerged today that the former Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley, now Lord Bannside, would be bringing 60 members of his small, hardline Protestant church, the Free Presbyterian church, to Edinburgh on Thursday to stage a protest against the papal visit.
It is expected Paisley's protests will take place away from the route of the popemobile's short procession through central Edinburgh, although up to 75 secularist activists from the Protest the Pope group will stage a peaceful protest on the last leg of the pope's formal tour through the city.
Meanwhile, another secularist group, the Humanist Society of Scotland has paid for a large billboard poster prominently displayed near Bellahouston park which claims 40% of Scots, some 2m people, were "good without God" and atheist.
Paisley, the former first minister of Northern Ireland, said his group would congregate at a church in Edinburgh where the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was formed and John Knox, the leader of the Scottish Protestant reformation, had preached.
He said he would protest about the sexual abuse of children by priests, an issue he claimed the pope had consistently failed to tackle. "We're making a legitimate protest about something that is entirely wrong and I am looking at myself as a person who is prepared to champion those who have been very, very badly treated by these priests of Rome," he said.
Cardinal O'Brien, president of the Scottish bishops' conference, said that as a native of County Antrim, where Paisley was an MP for 40 years, he was very familiar with the former DUP leader's views. He joked: "Basically, if Ian Paisley didn't come I wouldn't have thought the [papal] visit was worthwhile. [I] don't mind who comes and who protests."
The cardinal said the current pope had taken a very firm and unflinching line to "combat the evil that has happened". He would be "perfectly happy" if the pope condemned the abuse during his visit.
"He acknowledges the failures in church discipline; he has taken stronger steps than anyone I know," he said.
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