Five key issues for the next Pope

Five key issues await the next Pope, reports the Guardian.

Contraception and Aids

Pope Benedict XVI appeared to signal a break with traditional teaching on the use of condoms almost three years ago when he said the use of condoms was acceptable "in certain cases". If, for example, a male prostitute used a condom to reduce the risk of HIV infection, he said, that could be considered "a first step in the direction of moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants". The example, however, was carefully chosen: by deploying it, the pope avoided the issue of birth control and made no mention of condom use in heterosexual relationships.

Sexual abuse within the church

The horrific sexual abuse scandals that have erupted in the US and Europe and haunted so much of his papacy are far from resolved. Although he has spoken of the church's "shame" over what he termed the "unspeakable crimes" committed by paedophile priests and apologised to victims, many critics feel the Vatican was – and still is – far too slow, too reluctant and too secretive when it comes to acknowledging and investigating sexual abuse.

 Homosexuality and same-sex marriage

Despite long ago condemning physical and verbal violence against gay people as deplorable and something deserving of "condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs", the pope made it clear that he had no intention of departing from the church's teachings on homosexuality and gay marriage. In his final Christmas message, he said modern attitudes to sexuality and moves to promote same-sex marriage constituted an attack "on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child".

Abortion
Pope Benedict's decision to give a top job to a cardinal who believes terminations to be wrong even in rape cases spoke volumes about the Vatican's enduring opposition to abortion. In 2010, he appointed Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, a position often regarded as the third most important job in the Vatican as its holder is responsible for drawing up shortlists of future bishops.

Women

The pope addressed the issue of women's place in the church during an address in Rome in 2007, saying: "Jesus chose 12 men as fathers of the new Israel, 'to be with Him and to be sent out to proclaim the message', but … among the disciples many women were also chosen. They played an active role within the context of Jesus's mission." 

FULL STORY Next Pope's in-tray: five key issues (Guardian)

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