Cardinal says married priests possible later this year

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Married priests could be a possibility if prelates ask Pope Francis to allow it, German Cardinal Walter Kasper says.

Kasper, who is considered one of Francis’s close theological advisers, says such a change could be made during this year’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon set for this October, if the prelates were to ask Francis about it.

The ordination of women, even to the diaconate, is out of the question, however.

Kasper says this is because it would undermine a “millennia-old tradition”.

At the same time, Kasper notes, the Catholic Church would “collapse” without women.

“If the bishops agreed through mutual consent to ordained married men – those called viri probati – it’s my judgement that the pope would accept it,” he says.

“Celibacy isn’t a dogma, it’s not an unalterable practice.”

Kasper says he would prefer to see celibacy continuing to be an “obligatory way of life with a commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ”.

However, he points out, “this doesn’t exclude that a married man can carry a priestly service in special situations”.

Kasper’s views seem at odds with those of Francis, who in January addressed the issue of possibly ordaining married men, during the in-flight press conference on the way back to Rome from Panama.

“I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy,” Francis said at the time.

“I’m not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy. No,” he said.

He added, however, that he believes theologians should study the possibility of “older married men” being ordained, in “far, faraway places,” such as the islands in the Pacific.

Even then, he said, they should be ordained only to celebrate Mass, hear confessions and anoint the sick.

At the time, Francis also said the question of married priests is a matter to be “prayed on” and discussed by theologians, and is one he personally hasn’t meditated on enough.

“It’s not for me to decide. My decision is, optional celibacy before the diaconate, no,” referring to the fact that future priests typically are first ordained as deacons.

“I will not do this. I don’t feel like standing in front of God with this decision,” Francis said.

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