THE POPE GrvEs a rare interview to a British TV crew this week when Panorama (BBC1, 9.30pm, Monday) visits the Vatican to investigate what it calls the "celibacy crisis" facing the Catholic Church today.
Two factors, Panorama claims, have brought this crisis to a head: firstly, the revelations of sex scandals involving clerics of all ranks in Ireland, the US, Canada and elsewhere, and secondly the departure of thousands of priests who have left their ministry to marry. Reporter Julian O'Halloran travels to the United States and Brazil in search of evidence in the US he hears about the effect of hundreds of cases of priests accused of the sexual abuse of children, while in Brazil he talks to a bishop who wants the Vatican to change its stance and allow the ordination of married men.
Back home in Britain he meets members of the Advent group, an organisation of married ex-clerics who are pressing for a relaxation of the celibacy rule, and in a piece of film that has already been the subject of media attention attends an illegal "Mass" celebrated by Advent members.
In the face of such scandals, calls for change and, in many parts of the world, a chronic shortage of priests, Panorama's question to the Pope is: can he resist a re-think?
Don't hold your breath for the answer, though: John Paul has made his hard-line views more than clear in the past, and is presumably unlikely to choose a BBC current affairs programme as the conduit for an about-turn on hundreds of years of Vatican thinking.