In response to Sammy's post: Yet another thing conservatives don't understand about America. I was thinking about this recently... It has alwasy seemed to me that there is an inherent danger that the religious in the Vatican must be entirely out of touch with the real church. For example, it must certainly be hard to grasp the real shortage of priests when you are completely surrounded by priests every day in the Vatican. The thought which was new to me, though, was that there might be something valuable in this separation because it allows the church leaders to pursue doctrinal purity. We certainly don't want the church changing its positions simply because they are out-of-sync with popular thought. We want the church to change its positions when church leaders come to a new understanding of something.
The real danger of this separation, though, is that while the Vatican leaders are working toward some ideal notion, they risk losing their church. This is what I see as the current state of the church. We desperately need to allow women to become priests. The church needs to recognize the life-saving potential of stem cell research. And the church needs to realize that contraception is not the same as abortion. But, I can't see these changes coming from the isolated Vatican community.