- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

Proving once again that this isn’t your grandpa’s pontiff, Pope Francis told reporters that “the door is always open” to discussion of Catholic priests being allowed to forgo their vow of celibacy.

Pope Francis acknowledged the possibility for discussion during a Q&A session with reporters while flying home from his trip to the Middle East. Reuters reported that the pope said he thought taking a vow of celibacy was “a gift for the Church, but since it is not a dogma, the door is always open.”

For roughly 1,000 years Catholic priests have taken up a vow of celibacy, and Catholic theology holds that when priests and nuns devote their lives to ministry, they are in essence taking the church as their spouse.

A growing movement, however, is pushing for church leaders to reconsider the vow. Some “optional celibacy” supporters think pent-up sexual frustration could lead priests to act out through pedophilia — a theory the Church adamantly denies — while others suggest the shortage of priests could come from the fact that men considering the vocation do not want to give up sex.

Pope Francis made a similar statement on celibacy when he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires.

IT’S A GIRL


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A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for not marrying a Muslim gave birth to a daughter behind bars.

Meriam Ibrahim gave birth early Tuesday, according to The Guardian, and the paper said she was likely shackled throughout the labor.

The condition of Ms. Ibrahim, 27, and her baby are not known, as neither her husband nor her lawyers were allowed to visit her, the newspaper reported.

Ms. Ibrahim, a Muslim by birth, married her husband, Daniel Wani, a Christian, in 2011. They have an 18-month-old son, Martin, who is with her in jail. The young woman was convicted of apostasy by a court in Khartoum in mid-May and given four days to renounce her faith.

Sudan enforces Sharia law, which prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men and requires women to follow their father’s religion. Ms. Ibrahim’s father was Muslim, but he left the family when she was very young. Ms. Ibrahim was raised by her Orthodox Christian mother.

Ms. Ibrahim was also convicted of “zena,” the Arabic word for illegitimate sex, because she had sexual relations with her non-Muslim husband. The punishment is 100 lashes. Her lawyers have filed an appeal.

Amnesty International has launched an online petition asking for Ms. Ibrahim’s release. It can be signed here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/stopexecutionsudan.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SERPENT

The son of a snake-handling preacher who died from a bite is recovering after he was also bitten by one of the poisonous reptiles.

Cody Coots, 21, was suffering from a black and swollen hand, his family reported on Facebook, but “he is sleeping now and is not in pain.”

The Tennessean reported that Mr. Coots was bitten while passing through a cage with several snakes in it.

The snakes are kept by the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where Mr. Coots took over after his father, Jamie, died from a snakebite in February.

The church uses snakes in its ministry, drawing from Bible passages about handling and treading on serpents without fear of harm.

Jamie Coots was the star of a show called “Snake Salvation” until his death in February.

He and his family refused to seek medical care for the bite, instead leaving the decision of life or death to prayer. The Coots family told WLEX in Lexington that they were doing the same for Cody.

“We just have to put all things in the hands of Jesus,” they said.

DEVIL IN THE DIVORCE

“Satanic” — that’s how one Iranian cleric is describing the phenomenon of “divorce parties,” a celebration of separation that’s quickly gaining popularity in the U.S., according to The Associated Press.

Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani said in a recent sermon that the people celebrating divorce were “definitely satanic,” and the idea was “a poison for the Islamic civilization and society.”

Iran does permit divorce, and the AP reported that divorce in the country went up by 4.6 percent, meaning about 20 percent of Iranian marriages end in divorce. The cleric’s statement comes after reports that soon-to-split spouses are throwing lavish parties to celebrate their freedom.

The parties can include “freedom cakes,” photo shoots, bands and even a bouquet tossing, the AP reported. While participants are trying to see the silver lining to their divorce, the ayatollah apparently sees only red.

“Disintegration of family and lechery are related to the disgraceful Western civilization,” he said, adding “Western-style freedoms are wrong.”

Meredith Somers covers issues of faith and religion. She can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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