Pope Francis on married priests

A recent interview with Pope Francis has put the issue of married priests out there, with some responding with jubilation and others with consternation as can be observed on social media and in comments sections.

The Catholic Herald reports on the interview here.  An excerpt.

Francis said: “We have to reflect about whether the viri probati are a possibility. Then we also have to determine which tasks they could have, for example in far distant parishes… In the Church, it is always important to recognise the right moment, to recognise when the Holy Spirit demands something. That is why I say that we will continue to reflect about the viri probati.”

A few months ago, the Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff said he had heard that the Pope might introduce a trial period for viri probati in Brazil.

The Pope also discussed the possibility of female deacons, saying that theologians should study the example of Scripture. “What did this mean at that time [of the Bible]? What does it mean today?” He added: “Don’t be afraid! That makes us free.”

Interestingly, we in the Ordinariates who have a long experience of married priests are not necessarily on a progressive bandwagon that includes married priests with a push for ordained women deacons and ultimately women priests.

I am for a chaste priesthood—whether celibate or married.  I am for celibate priests who could have been wonderful fathers and husbands and who have sacrificed the goods of marriage and family for a greater call, not for a celibate priesthood that attracts men who are not simply not attracted to women or interested in marriage and family.

We have a lot to learn about the celibate priesthood in the Ordinariates as the norm in the future will be celibacy and even now our married priests are on a case-by-case basis, requiring special papal approval.

I also think we have to look more to supernatural means of solving such things as vocations’ crises, whether to marriage, the priesthood or to consecrated life.  When we forget about the power of God, and then try to patch the problems ourselves, we compound the problem.  Your thoughts?

1 thought on “Pope Francis on married priests

  1. This is not the first time that Pope Francis has indicated a desire to relax the discipline of clerical celibacy in the Roman Rite, but he has also indicated that he wants the initiative to come up from the various episcopal conferences rather than imposing it on the whole church by papal decree.

    There is considerable wisdom in this, as a change in discipline entails several practical difficulties that bishops will need to address at the local level.

    1. Most parish rectories are configured for celibate clergy, to provide a suite of two rooms (a bedroom and a study) for each resident priest. Reconfiguration of existing rectories, or construction of new rectories, to accommodate significant numbers of priests who are married, many of whom will have children, will be a major expense.

    2. Married priests must receive compensation that’s sufficient to support their wives and their children. The impact of providing this level of compensation for a small number of married priests is “in the noise” of a diocesan budget, but the impact of greater numbers of married priests would require a substantial realignment of diocesan budgets and priorities.

    3. Celibate clergy can relocate to a new assignment in a heartbeat, but transfer of a married priest requires consideration of the impact on his wife (possible employment issues) and children (change of school). This will require a major shift in the manner of personnel management, including some manner of distributing “supply” priests around a diocese so that they can cover an unexpected vacancy or the sudden absence of a pastor wherever it might arise.

    4. Although the acceptance of married priests by the local Catholic population generally has been very high in North America and in other English-speaking countries, there is no assurance of a similar reception in other places. Rather, it’s likely that some places will have a need for extensive catechesis before one can implement such a change effectively.

    5. There’s also a serious concern of what will happen when priests’ marriages get messy — and, sooner or later, some inevitably will. Although permanent deacons take the same vow as married priests not to remarry if their spouse dies, the Vatican has been granting dispensations fairly routinely to permit permanent deacons whose wives have died, leaving young children, to marry again because the sense is that young children need a mother figure. Of course, a member of the clergy being involved in a divorce clearly would NOT be a good situation!

    It’s certainly true that the transition from a predominantly celibate clergy to a predominantly married clergy will be gradual, but that does not alter bishops need to manage these, and probably other, issues in a proactive way if such a restoration is to work.

    But the good news, for the ordinariates, is that a change of discipline in the territory of an episcopal conference clearly will extend to any ordinariates erected within that territory!



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