From ............. REUTERS

March 22, 1994

By Philip Pullella


VATICAN CITY (Reuter) - The Vatican warned priests Tuesday the church would not tolerate open criticism and reminded them to stick to clerical clothes, shun smart cars, abstain from sex and stay out of politics.

A 100-page manual on priestly behavior told the world's 400,000 priests that the Roman Catholic church was not a democracy but a hierarchical organization that would not allow criticism of its teachings.

"So-called "democratism' becomes a grave temptation because it leads to a denial of the authority...of Christ," it said.

The code of conduct added: "The priest should be identifiable primarily through his conduct but also by his manner of dressing."

Clergy should wear "suitable ecclesiastical dress" -- either a cassock or clothing distinguishing them from non-clerics.

Despite appeals from Pope John Paul II, many priests often still wear ordinary, non-clerical clothing, even in Rome.

The directive said priests "must lead a simple life and avoid anything which could have an air of vanity."

They must "eliminate any kind of affectation and luxury" in their living quarters, means of transport and choice of holidays.

They should be "friends of those most in need" and reserve most of their attention for the poor.

The code said priests could not hold political office or government posts except in extraordinary circumstances and with Vatican permission.

The Vatican was in open conflict during the 1980s with priests in Nicaragua who held office in the leftist Sandinista government. They were suspended.

The manual said the Church was convinced of the theological validity of its rule that priests be celibate.

Some Catholics believe priests should be allowed to marry, saying that a married priesthood would help the Church face a shortage of clergy in many areas around the world.

Supporters of this idea also say married priests would reduce the risk of sex scandals in the priesthood.

A number of Roman Catholic churches, particularly in the United States and Canada, have been embroiled in sex scandals in which priests have been accused of molesting children or having affairs with women parishioners.