VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Conflicting reports are emerging about Pope Francis' upcoming apostolic exhortation, and what it might say about priestly celibacy.
The Pope will issue the post-synodal document on the heels of the Pan-Amazonian Synod that took place in Rome in October.
A Jan. 31 report from Corrispondenza Romana (brought to the English-speaking world by LifeSite News) said Pope Francis' upcoming exhortation "substantially reproduces" a section from the Amazon Synod's concluding document that suggests removing the requirement of priestly celibacy in remote regions in the Amazon. That controversial section stated:
Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist. Months or years pass before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation or celebrate the Anointing of the Sick for the sick of the community.
We value celibacy as a gift from God insofar as this gift allows the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity and we pray that there are many vocations that live the celibate priesthood. ... Lumen Gentium 26, the competent authority, establishes criteria and provisions for ordaining suitable and recognized men of the community as priests, who have a permanent fruitful diaconate and receive adequate training for the priesthood in order to support the life of the Christian community through preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region.
Writing for Corrispondenza Romana, historian Roberto de Mattei claimed this information came from multiple bishops who had access to sections of the soon-to-be-released apostolic exhortation.
However, a conflicting report from LaFedeQuotidiana — citing inside sources — claims the Pope's document does not call for relaxing the discipline of priestly celibacy. The report states that "no mention is made" in the exhortation of ordaining married men to the priesthood.
LaFedeQuotidiana speculates that From the Depths of Our Hearts, the new book co-authored by Cdl. Robert Sarah and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, may have had some effect on Pope Francis in his decision regarding priestly celibacy.
From the Depths of Our Hearts defends priestly celibacy as a longstanding tradition with sound basis in theology and Scripture. The book has caused some controversy, especially among theological liberals. Some criticized the pope emeritus for speaking out publicly on such a hot-button issue.
On or around Jan. 12, several reporters claimed inside sources told them Benedict did not intend to co-author a book — implying Cdl. Sarah had manipulated the 92-year-old retired pontiff.
In response, Cdl. Sarah provided proof he collaborated with Benedict.
Nonetheless, Benedict's personal secretary made a request to Cdl. Sarah to stop listing Benedict as a co-author. Cardinal Sarah apparently agreed to this for future printings of the book. But Ignatius Press, publisher of the English-language version, announced it was keeping Benedict named as co-author, despite the controversy.
October's Pan-Amazonian Synod was troubling to faithful Catholics on many counts. Along with the talk of relaxing priestly celibacy, there were concerns about idolatry.
Wooden statues of a nude pregnant woman, representing the Andean "Mother Earth" figure "Pachamama," appeared time and again during the Amazon Synod in Rome.
For instance, a number of individuals prostrated before a Pachamama statue during a tree-planting ceremony to kick off the synod.
Eventually, a group of laity decided to take action, removing several Pachamama statues from a church in Rome and dumping them into the Tiber River.
The man who removed those statues later identified himself as Alexander Tschugguel, a Catholic young man from Austria.