The prospect of having married priests is looking more likely, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has said, following the Pope having given permission for the issue to be discussed at a synod of bishops.
Commenting on reports that the possibility of married men being ordained to the priesthood would be on the agenda of a special Synod of Bishops for Latin America’s Pan-Amazon region to be held in Rome in October 2019, the ACP said “It is an issue that is gaining momentum”.
It is understood that Pope Francis agreed to allow the issue to be considered following a request from Brazil’s Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, who asked the Pontiff about the possibility of ordaining so-called ‘viri probati’ – married men of great faith, to enable the Church’s ministry in the region.
The main purpose of the Amazon gathering, the Pontiff has said, will be to identify new paths for evangelisation in the region, which covers Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Surinam. Particular attention, he said, should be paid to the region’s “often forgotten” indigenous people.
The challenge of ministering to such remote communities is particularly acute in a region where there is just one priest for every 10,000 lay people and where evangelical and Pentecostal Christians and pagan sects challenge Catholicism.
The Pontiff has previously said ordaining married men could help address such situations, recalling that clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Church rather than a dogma, and telling Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper earlier this year that “We must consider if viri probati is a possibility. Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.”
Others have expressed concerns about whether married priests are a real solution to vocational shortages, with Meath-based priest and EWTN contributor Fr John Hogan, for example, noting that the first responsibility of married priests is to their marriage and family, rather than their parish.
“If a priest has his hours he does them as with other jobs, but outside of that, family,” he said, adding, “If I were married, my priority would be my wife and children, as it be should be for any married man.”