Priests should be allowed to marry

Priests should be allowed to marry

One of the Catholic Church’s leading doctrinal figures has reiterated his call for the institution to reconsider allowing priests to marry.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta shared his views in an interview with the Times of Malta, saying that allowing priests to marry could prevent them from leading secretive lives that conflict with their vows.

Serving as the adjunct secretary of the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Scicluna highlighted the challenges priests encounter due to the celibacy requirement.

He observed that the widespread phenomenon of priests engaging in hidden, long-term relationships underscores the difficulties tied to this ecclesiastical rule.

“Experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously consider” Scicluna said, noting his open discussions at the Vatican while acknowledging that the ultimate decision is beyond his authority.

The current crisis in vocations does not solely drive Scicluna’s push for reconsideration, although he acknowledges this issue.

Arguing that the decision to pursue the priesthood should be based on faith, not a compromise between personal and spiritual commitments, Scicluna asks “Why should we lose a young man who would have made a fine priest just because he wanted to get married?”

He pointed out that the rule of celibacy is not doctrinally immutable, implying that a papal decree could modify this tradition.

“If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priests have to be celibate” Scicluna told the Times of Malta.

Since the Catholic Church prohibits priests from getting married, some do so in secret and even have children in secret, Scicluna said.

“This is a global reality; it doesn’t just happen in Malta” he clarified.

“We know there are priests around the world who also have children, and I believe there are those in Malta as well.”

Reflecting on the Church’s history, Scicluna noted that celibacy was not mandatory during its first millennium.

He advocated for learning from the Eastern Rite churches which permit married men to be ordained, suggesting a way forward to reconcile tradition with contemporary challenges.

While celibacy continues to have an important role in the church, the archbishop said it should once again become optional for those who wish to live their faith that way.

In the 12th century, the First Lateran Council established a prohibition against marriage for priests, deacons and subdeacons within the Latin-rite of the Catholic Church.

“We absolutely forbid priests, deacons and subdeacons to associate with concubines and women, or to live with women other than such as the Nicene Council (canon 3) for reasons of necessity permitted, namely, the mother, sister or aunt, or any such person concerning whom no suspicion could arise.”

This marked the formal inception of celibacy requirements for clergy in this tradition.

However, a significant shift occurred in 1951 when Pope Pius XII introduced special dispensations that allowed converted Lutheran ministers to join the Catholic priesthood as married priests.

This move initiated a gradual acceptance of married former Protestant clergy within the Latin-rite Catholic priesthood.


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