WASHINGTON, Apr 16, 2002 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Pope John Paul II will tell American cardinals in Rome next week that bishops have to be real bishops if they expect to get their church in order, Vatican insiders told United Press International Tuesday.
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, president of the New York-based Institute on Religion and Public Life, said: "Bishops have to free themselves from the influence of therapeutic experts and lawyers. They must once again be overseers and shepherds to priests and the faithful alike."
The meeting between the pontiff and 11 U.S. cardinals plus some other church leaders also will be attended by Colombian Cardinal Dorio Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Congregation for the Clergy, and Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation of Faith.
Ratzinger, who turned 75 Tuesday and is suffering from circulatory problems, has just handed in his resignation "to spend the rest of his life doing theology rather than acting as the perpetual 'Panzer-Kardinal,'" according to friends. But the pope asked the hard-nosed German to stay on.
Sources in Rome and the United States listed the following potential topics to be discussed at next week's meetings:
-- Resignations: "It seems likely that the Holy Father will suggest to some bishops to resign," a Vatican prelate said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Cardinal Bernard Law, who has been accused of covering up the misdeeds of pedophile priests, may be asked to step down as archbishop of Boston, according to a prelate at the Vatican.
Neuhaus said, "I can see no good argument against his resignation." Law has said he had no plans to give up his position.
-- Celibacy and women's ordination: "I believe the requirement of priests to remain celibate will come up," United Press International's source at the Vatican said, "but you can rest assured that this pope will never waive this rule.
"This has to do with his personal experiences as a priest in Poland under two totalitarian regimes, first the Nazi occupation, then communism. His celibacy has served him well then. He was free to act without jeopardizing the lives, the freedom, or career prospects of dependants."
"This kind of hyperventilation is not helpful and it sorely misunderstands the nature of the problem and what is likely to be done about it."
"Celibacy is not the issue here," said Neuhaus, "but homosexuality is very much an issue. After all, the victims of abuse by priests were boys and young men."
While knowledgeable observers in Rome do not rule out that the next pope would permit the ordination of married men, they see no chance for the consecration of women priests.
The former is an issue the pontiff could resolve by himself, sources in Rome pointed out, but the latter would require a radical change of Catholic theology.
In the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and conservative Lutheran or Anglican understanding of ministry, a priest stands in for Christ at the altar. "For a woman to do this would be an ontological impossibility," the Vatican prelate told UPI.
-- Seminary education: Vatican insiders told UPI that John Paul II was well aware of the "gay subculture" dominating some U.S. seminaries since the 1960s.
Neuhaus, too, confirmed that this charge, which Michael S. Rose articulated in his new book "Goodbye! Good Men" was "essentially correct, though perhaps a trifle exaggerated."
Like Vatican observers, Neuhaus said radical changes had occurred in many seminaries, which are located in well-run dioceses.
He especially mentioned Denver, Rockford, Ill., Atlanta, and Baltimore with its showcase school, Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsville, Md., which has just built a new dormitory to accommodate the influx of divinity students.
Neuhaus confirmed Rose's rule of the thumb that where the bishop is strong and faithful, there is no shortage of candidates for the priesthood.
UPI's Vatican source related how impressed he was with the quality of the new priests from Germany and France he runs into in Rome. "No wet fish these," he said, "but vigorous and earthy young men." Neuhaus said this squared with his observations in the United States.
As for the pedophile priests, Donohue said, "The fundamental problem is a lack of discipline."
The prelate in Rome said: "This problem is about to be resolved -- for good."