Why the pope said no to married priests

Lack of prayerful discernment is the reason Pope Francis said no to the Amazon synod’s suggestion that the Catholic Church should allow priests to be married.

The question of addressing a priest shortage in the Amazon by ordaining older, mature and married men (viri probati) from local communities was one of the issues raised at the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

The Synod’s primary purpose was to discuss pastoral strategies for evangelization, catechesis, and pastoral care in the region, which spans several South American countries, and is beset by social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Notes from the pope that were included in an article published last week reveal his thinking about married priests.

“There was a discussion … a rich discussion … a well-founded discussion, but no discernment, which is something different than just arriving at a good and justified consensus or at a relative majority,” Francis said.

Francis said prayerful discernment became impossible because debate became a parliamentary-style battle between different sides.

Synods of bishops should be opportunities for prayerful reflection, not parliamentary lobbying, he said.

A synod is a “spiritual exercise,” a period for discernment of how the Holy Spirit is speaking, and for self-examination regarding the motive beyond positions.

“Walking together means dedicating time to honest listening, capable of making us reveal and unmask (or at least to be sincere) the apparent purity of our positions and to help us discern the wheat that – up to the Parousia – always grows among the weeds.”

“Whoever has not realized this evangelical vision of reality exposes themselves to useless bitterness. Sincere and prayerful listening shows us the ‘hidden agendas’ called to conversion.”

After the synod, Francis published his response, in the form of an apostolic exhortation titled Querida Amazonia.

In this, he avoided any reference to married priests. However, he called for missionary clergy to be sent to the Amazon, and for bishops to promote prayers for priestly vocations.

He endorsed the bishops’ final document where 128 voted in favour of ordaining married deacons in remote regions, and 41 voted against. It meant that while married priests are off the table in the short term, it remains a live possibility.

“I like to think that, in a certain sense, the synod is not over. This time of welcoming the whole process that we have lived challenges us to continue walking together and to put this experience into practice.”

These and other comments suggest the door is not closed on future reforms.


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News category: World.

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