Religion: Big Gamble on the Priesthood

Taking a hard line in defense of celibacy, the bishops look instead to strengthen the character and training of candidates

The glittering assemblage of 235 Roman Catholic bishops, gathered at a solemn pontifical Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, hardly resembled a convention of gamblers. Yet in large measure that is just what they were. As a month-long synod of representatives of the church's hierarchy drew to a close last week, the bishops were betting against a heavy losing streak. Faced with a net decline of 16,500 priests in the past decade, the church has decided to hold firm in its discipline, particularly on the touchy issue of clerical celibacy, in the belief that higher standards and a spirit of sacrifice will...

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