US priests group asks bishops for married clergy dialogue

A group representing hundreds of priests has asked the United States Catholic bishops to start dialogue towards the ordination of married men to the priesthood.

The Association of US Catholic Priests, which represents about 1000 mostly Vatican II-era priests, wrote to the bishops last month.

According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter, the motivation for the request came from concern for “the pastoral care of souls”.

The association stated that married priests are needed to “serve the pastoral needs of people”.

Members of the association have also been encouraged to discuss the issue with their own individual bishops, where appropriate.

Among factors cited for the request is inclusion by the Roman Catholic Church of ordained married clergy from other denominations.

Falling numbers of priests, increased workloads for current priests and parish closures are among other reasons cited.

The association referred to an encounter between Pope Francis and a bishop from a remote diocese in Brazil last year, in which Francis was reportedly open-minded about solutions for priest shortages.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler reportedly confirmed that he and the Pope discussed the ordination of viri probati (“proven married men”) into the priesthood.

“It was up to the bishops to make suggestions,” the Pope is reported to have told him.

A bishop should not act alone, the Pope told Bishop Kräutler.

He indicated that “regional and national bishops’ conferences should seek and find consensus on reform and we should then bring up our suggestions for reform in Rome”, Bishop Kräutler said.

In their letter, the US priests’ association asked their bishops to “accept the offer of Pope Francis to consider the possibility of ordaining married viri probati as priests”.

They requested the bishops begin a broad consultation process that would seek input from diocesan staffs, parish priests, deacons and the laity.

As of February 3, no reply had been received from the US bishops.

An association spokesman, Fr Bob Bonnot, said the association is not asking the bishops to respond to them, but to take up the issue among themselves.


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