Irish bishop calls for serious look at married priests

An Irish bishop wants his fellow bishops to set up a body to look at the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood.

Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore has urged his colleagues to arrange a commission to this end.

Bishop O’Reilly also wants such a commission to study the possibility of female deacons.

He will raise the idea at the next meeting of the Irish bishops in October.

“I think the other bishops would be open to the idea of a discussion and we are reaching a situation where we have to look at all the options possible,” he said.

Bishop O’Reilly told The Irish Catholic that his proposal was in response to Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis has encouraged individual bishops and bishops’ conferences to be creative in looking at ways to do ministry in the future, so I think we have to consider all options,” he said.

Bishop O’Reilly’s proposal comes in the wake of a 10-month “listening” process in his diocese.

This saw a diocesan assembly and a new diocesan pastoral plan to tackle the challenges facing the Church, including a declining number of priests.

As an example of what could be done, Bishop O’Reilly pointed to a commission in Brazil studying the possibility of ordaining married men in response to the shortage of priests.

Mandatory celibacy for priests in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church is a matter of law and tradition, not doctrine or dogma.

Church authorities have at times given permission for married clerics of other Christian traditions who become Catholic to be ordained as priests.

Currently, the Catholic Church permits only men to be ordained as deacons.

A 2002 study by the International Theological Commission concluded that the role of female deacons in the early Church cannot be considered equivalent to that of ordained male deacons.

It also concluded that the permanent diaconate belongs to the sacrament of orders, which the Church believes is limited to men alone.


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