Bishops’ head defends priestly celibacy

The Church should “deepen its understanding of the uninterrupted tradition of priestly celibacy in the Latin rite” says Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Ouellet says a deepened understanding of celibacy is preferable to grabbing at quick solutions to resolve the current lack of priests.

He makes the claim in his newly published book “Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy.”

Ouellet says he is “skeptical” of the proposed idea in the Amazon  of ordaining to the priesthood “viri probati” – older, married men.

Without naming names, he says he also knows some  in higher positions “in the Roman Curia” who have similar doubts.

“I am not against the fact that there is a debate, but I think at this time of history and of the Church there is a need of reflection…” he says.

“And so, my intervention is to substantiate the debate, to give something substantial to aid discernment.

“I remain skeptical out of convictions and knowledge of the Catholic tradition in the Latin rite, so I think this has to be very much taken care of in the debate”.

Ouellet says he remains open to what will happen during the synod.

Ouellet also says he knows Francis has mentioned having no intention to change Church practice on priestly celibacy in the Latin rite.

He has not excluded the possibility of an exception, however.

Ouellet has given Francis two copies of his new book and that Francis is happy he is joining in on the viri probati debate.

He says in writing it, he thought it was a good time to contribute his years of “knowledge, wisdom, and experience” to the Church’s discussion of priestly celibacy, and in the particular context of this month’s Amazon synod, to the debate on “viri probati.”

“I think that priestly celibacy, but also religious consecration, is a powerful witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ and to his call to follow him and to leave everything to be with him, and to do what he asks us to do.

The close link between celibacy and the priesthood “is the fact that the priest is in charge of … proclaiming and giving the definitive and ultimate Word of God to the world,” he says.

“The link between celibacy and the priesthood in the Latin Church comes from the apostles and it has been kept through the centuries despite times of decadence, of difficulties, of refusal…

“It’s been always difficult, but it remains an extraordinary witness to the divinity of Christ and to the presence of the Risen Lord among us so that we give him an answer, because he is there, calling us to communion.”


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