Vatican formally opens discussion on married priests

married priests

The Vatican has officially thrown open the question of the Catholic Church ordaining married men.

It is the most direct mention ever by the Vatican of the possibility of married priests.

The proposal, released around 10 pm Monday, NZ time, comes in a working document prepared for the Synod of Bishops in the Pan-Amazon.

In trying to formulate a new pastoral vision for the Church in the Amazon, the document urges a “return to the early Church” in creating appropriate ministries.

Viri Probati

The recommendation mentions ordaining older married men, “viri probati”, (Latin for ‘men of proven character’), in remote areas of the Amazon.

These older men will preferably be “indigenous, respected and accepted by their communities, even if they have stable families”, the document said.

The document also affirms celibacy as a gift for the Church and, according to The Tablet, the Synod will also look at whether the priesthood must always be linked to the exercise of power jurisdiction in the Church, raising the question as to whether priests can be ordained to administer the sacraments, rather than govern.

Some say it could pave the way for married priests in other areas.

Earlier in the year when asked about viri probati, Francis said they “could only be a possibility in these far, far away places—I think about the islands in the Pacific”.

Pope Francis made the “Pacific” comment in February during an in-flight interview on the way back from World Youth Day.

Transplanting Europe

Relator General of the Amazon Synod, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, recently hinted at the possibility of married clergy.

“So often we worry about managing to transplant the European models of priesthood onto the indigenous priests.

“But someone rightly has noted that too much concern is given to the profile of the ordained ministry putting it before the community that receives it.

“It should be the other way around: the community is not there for its minister, but the minister is there for the community,” Hummes told La Civilta Cattolica.

Opponents say relaxing the rule for the Amazon will certainly fuel calls for it to be relaxed elsewhere.

Already, married men who convert from Protestant churches can be ordained Catholic priests.

Married men in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church can also be ordained.

Women leaders

The document also calls for an “official ministry” including leadership roles for women.

It does not name nor identify the role.

The official title of the document is, ““Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology.”

The Synod is scheduled for October this year.

At the end of the Amazon Synod of Bishops, conference participants will vote on the final articles which will be sent to the pope, who will decide whether or not to make the recommendations official.

Sources

 

News category: World.

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