NEW YORK – Pope Francis’ hint that the Catholic Church may someday allow priests to marry could become reality in an instant if the Vatican so chooses, according to Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
“What would be on the table is celibacy … These are man-made rules in the Catholic Church. They can change it tomorrow if they want,” Donohue told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.
“We welcome in Anglicans who convert to Catholicism with their families as married, so it’s not like its altogether new.”
Last week, Pope Francis’ Secretary of State Pietro Parolin told Venezuela’s El Universal newspaper that celibacy is not divine law and could theoretically be altered to “reflect the democratic spirit of the times.”
“Will they do it? I don’t know, but people are reading too much into this,” Donohue said.
“When Cardinal [Edward] Egan left as archbishop of New York, he said as he was leaving, maybe the time has come for the church to revisit this question.”
The Pope has also said that God will forgive those who don’t believe in God — as long as they behave morally and live according to their consciences.
“God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart. And at that point then if you are an atheist — it’s contrition. It means penance, it means that you recognize that you’ve done something wrong,” Donohue said.
“Going back … 1,600 years ago, the churches believed that we have the fullness of grace through Jesus. It doesn’t mean that everybody else is automatically excluded. The church has never said so and so is going to hell. We’re … very, very reticent on who may be going downstairs, very loud about who is going upstairs.
“The Catholic Church is basically saying there are people through grace who can come through. Whether or not it’s through Jesus … they can still make it to heaven.”
Donohue dismissed a report that holy water can be dangerous when ingested. Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna said tests on holy water from springs in Austria revealed 86 percent was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli.
“Any Catholic who’s stupid enough to drink holy water is probably stupid enough to drink gas at the pump,” Donohue said.
“I have the holy water in my apartment and I blessed myself. Guess what? I don’t think I’m going to drop dead in the next half hour as a result of this and I’m smart enough to drink a beer and not drink the holy water.”
Donohue said Pope Francis will continue to break new ground as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“He is a maverick, as I say. He does like a little bit of novelty. Maybe he does want to shake some things up in the church. He should. He’s shaking up the Roman curio, which got too soft, too comfort level, and that’s when corruption gets in,” he said.
“There’s this hyperventilation on the part of some people in the church that all of a sudden he’s going to turn it upside down and inside out tomorrow. Take a deep breath, people.”