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Future of the Catholic Church

January 19, 2007 • Volume 17, Issue 3
Is the church adapting to today's world?
By Peter Katel

Introduction

Pope Benedict XVI blesses one of 21 new priests, many from Africa and Latin America, during an ordination Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on May 15, 2005.  (Getty Images/Giuseppe Cacace)
Pope Benedict XVI blesses one of 21 new priests, many from Africa and Latin America, during an ordination Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on May 15, 2005. (Getty Images/Giuseppe Cacace)

Religious and social conflicts are roiling the Roman Catholic Church. Amid seething tensions between the historically Christian West and the Muslim world, Pope Benedict XVI has alternated confrontation with Islam and conciliation — each approach prompting intense criticism, both within the church and among Muslims. Conflict over the church's ban against condom use has proved no less divisive. In addition, wide-ranging sexual abuse of youths by more than 4,400 American priests so far has cost the church $1.4 billion in legal settlements and expenses. In Africa, conflict centers on resistance to the church's law that priests practice celibacy and never marry. Meanwhile, even as the number of Catholics worldwide has grown to more than 1 billion, the number of priests and nuns has dropped catastrophically, sparking the growing influence of the Catholic laity.

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