Pope Francis rings the changes

RELIGION:

ROME: Pope Francis has issued a papal decree that he hopes will help the Catholic Church maintain its relevance while putting an end for all time to accusations of widespread sexual abuse and paedophilia by clergy.

Announcing his Christmas decree, His Holiness (pictured above with an unknown man) said the church was being left behind by a rapidly changing society.

“We must all recognise that our Mother Church needs to reflect our modern world,” he said to a gathering of the faithful in St Peter’s Square outside the Vatican. “Not even the reforms of the 1960s decreed by one of the great modernisers of our church, Pope John XIII, could keep pace with a rapidly changing world.

“Even  after his pontificate the world was more Shirley Bassey than celibacy; more chase titty than chastity; more carnal than cardinal; more lay a preacher than lay preachers, and more Vespas than vespers.

“Now, more than 50 years later we must take bold steps beginning with the one I announce today.

“It is time to put an end to the shameful humiliation, pain and suffering the young in our care have had inflicted upon them for far, far too long. Their pain has been deeply felt.”

His Holiness decreed that from January 1, 2019, all Catholic priests worldwide would be allowed to enter into mutually agreed “marriages” of convenience – or as Pope Francis described the arrangement, Nuns with Benefits – not just with women of the cloth such as nuns, sisters and abbesses but with female church officials and helpers and females in teaching and health-care roles in Catholic schools and hospitals.

“I’m hopeful that with God’s guidance Catholic priests around the globe will grab this opportunity with both hands,” Pope Francis said. “More than they already do now, anyway,” he chuckled.

But as part of a trade off, priests must sign a statutory declaration that they agree to immediately desist from also having sex with their current choirboy and pageboy lovers and pre-school children in their parishes until they reach their majority.

“While this decree will update activities within our church, I draw the line at up-date activities within our church, at least under-aged ones,” the Pope said.

“Young bodies need time to develop and mature and that surely must be the bottom line that dictates our approach to such serious pastoral matters.”