Oct 6, 2019

Pope opens debate on allowing married Catholic priests in Amazon region

Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis on Sunday formally opened a 3-week Vatican meeting of bishops that will debate whether the Catholic Church should allow married men in South America's Amazon region to be ordained, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: A change to the Church's 1,000-year-old requirement of celibacy for priests could help fill a shortage of priests in the Amazon. Critics say it would "undermine the distinctive character of the priesthood," per WSJ.

By the numbers: There are 7,200 Catholics per priest in South America — almost 4 times the ratio as in North America, according to Vatican statistics.

  • In parts of the Amazon, the ratio is as high as 8,000+ Catholics for every 1 priest. The global ratio has risen sharply in recent decades, from 1,900 to 1 in 1980 to about 3,200 to 1 today.
  • Some remote parishes go months without a visit from a priest.

Context: In June, Pope Francis asked the Church to consider ordaining married elders who are respected by their communities to serve as priests in remote parts of South America.

  • A 3-week Vatican meeting of bishops will consider environmental and religious issues in the Amazon region in general, but priestly celibacy is one of the more contentious items up for debate.

What they're saying: In his homily on Sunday, the pope did not reference the celibacy debate directly, but asked the church to consider innovation: "If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done,’ then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo."

  • American Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan asked Catholics to hold prayer vigils and fast for 40 days throughout the meeting in protest of the debate.

Go deeper: Pope Francis meets with Jesuit criticized for LGBTQ outreach

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Pope weighs allowing female deacons and married priests in Amazon region

Pope Francis talks to bishops at the end of the closing session of the Synod on the Pan-Amazon region, Oct. 26, Vatican City. Photo: Alessandra Benedetti-Corbis/Corbis

Pope Francis announced that a study into ordaining female deacons would be reopened after a Vatican meeting of bishops from the Amazon voted for the move and to allow the ordination of married men as priests in the region, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The overhaul of centuries of Catholic teachings on priests' celibacy and women's role in the church would address the issue of a priest shortage in the Amazon region, but many traditional conservatives are against such moves.

Go deeperArrowOct 27, 2019

Why Amazon keeps spending big on grocery delivery

An Amazon Fresh delivery worker makes a stop. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Amazon is losing billions of dollars as it expands free, fast shipping. Still, the company keeps doubling down and debuting two-hour grocery delivery at zero cost to Prime members in new markets.

The big picture: The American food market is worth a whopping $700 billion, but that's not why Amazon is chasing it. Consumers shop for food more frequently than anything else, and Amazon is betting that getting people to visit its site whenever they need groceries will turn them into loyal, lucrative customers.

Go deeperArrowOct 30, 2019

More than 800 independent musicians plot Amazon boycott over work with ICE

More than 800 independent musicians announced an initiative on Thursday called "No Music for ICE," pledging not to participate in Amazon-sponsored events or exclusive partnerships with the tech giant over its entanglements with the U.S. immigration authority.

Why it matters: This cultural push — spurred by Amazon Web Services' sponsorship of a Las Vegas music festival — highlights how companies are increasingly facing pressure from all sides to answer for how their work impacts hot-button issues in the Trump era.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019