Pope Francis discusses revising priestly celibacy in new interview


Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 10, 2023 / 05:45 am (CNA).

In a new interview, Pope Francis has discussed the possibility of revising the Western discipline of priestly celibacy.

“There is no contradiction for a priest to marry. Celibacy in the Western Church is a temporary prescription: I do not know if it is settled in one way or another, but it is temporary in this sense,” Pope Francis said in an interview published on March 10.

“It is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever, whether you like it or not. Whether you leave or not is another matter, but it is forever. On the other hand, celibacy is a discipline.”

When asked by the Argentine journalist Daniel Hadad if celibacy “could be reviewed,” Pope Francis responded: “Yes, yes. In fact, everyone in the Eastern Church is married. Or those who want to. There they make a choice. Before ordination there is the choice to marry or to be celibate,” according to a transcript provided by Infobae.

In response to the interviewer’s inquiry if the pope thought that making celibacy optional would lead more people to join the priesthood, Pope Francis said: “I do not think so,” noting that there are already married priests in the Catholic Church in the Eastern rites.

The pope added that earlier that day he had met with an Eastern Catholic priest who works in the Roman Curia who has a wife and a son.

Pope Francis has spoken about the value of priestly celibacy before. In January 2019 he said: “Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church. I would say that I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no.”

The pope added at the time that he thinks there is room to consider some exceptions for married clergy in the Latin rite “when there is a pastoral necessity” in remote locations due to a lack of priests, such as in the Pacific islands.

The nearly one-hour-long interview published Friday with Infobae, a Miami-based Spanish-language online news outlet, also touched on Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship in Nicaragua, drug trafficking in Latin America, the war in Ukraine, and marriage annulments.

When speaking of annulments, Pope Francis advised to look to what his predecessor Benedict XVI had said on the subject and said that “a large part of church marriages are invalid for lack of faith.”

“And think about it: Sometimes [one] goes to a wedding and it seems more like it’s a social reception and not a sacrament,” Pope Francis said.

“When young people say ‘forever,’ who knows what they mean [by] ‘forever.’”

He added: “A very wise lady once told me: ‘You priests are very lively. To be ordained priests you have to spend six, seven years in the seminary. On the other hand, to get married, which is for a lifetime — because a priest can leave, on the other hand, for us it is for a lifetime— they give us four meetings.’”

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  1. To be fully weighed is whether narrow exceptions simply serve as sharp wedges, whether intended or not (?). Furthermore, a good read is St. John Paul II, “The Church is committed to priestly celibacy,” General Audience of July 17, 1993:

    “…Therefore, although the Supreme Pontiff can consider and decide what is to be done in certain cases, the Synod reaffirmed that in the Latin Church, ‘The priestly ordination of married men is not permitted, even in particular cases;” (Ench. Vat. IV, 1220). The Church holds that the awareness of total consecratio, developed over centuries, continues to hold good and to be increasingly approved.”

  2. This globalist mess seems aimed to justify and show that there are priests in more modes than lavender dress.

    When, O Lord, will the Passion end? Blessed are we, when our church disagrees.

  3. Francis is correct, we’ve had married priests early on, and still have them in the Eastern Catholic rites. Although, that is not the issue. It’s what Peter Beaulieu’s quote of John Paul says, “The Church holds that the awareness of total consecratio, developed over centuries, continues to hold good and to be increasingly approved”.
    Total consecration resembles Christ’s priesthood both in terms of purpose and quality of love. Surely a married man can greatly love God, although the mystique of love exemplified in the divine is in the exclusivity of the totality of giving [why contemplative sisters when making final vows dress as for a wedding and are given marriage bands].
    Our culture is beyond lax. It’s dissolute. Loosening things up in a dissolute society, Pope Francis’ obsession as the remedy for the Church is theoretically inconsistent, and factually counterproductive. We would initially likely have more candidates. Then as likely similar to the Protestants numbers will decrease as at present.
    Catholics out there in the wilderness want a John the Baptist, an Apostle Paul, a Christ. Enough of faint hearted half hearted presbyters and bishops [deacons are not forgotten]. They want fire. They instinctively must see that commitment which gives evidence of our faith, and gives credibility to what we believe. It goes with the territory.

  4. What a fine prescription for the creation of a new aggrieved minority group: “My father was a Catholic priest who neglected me because he was so concerned with the eternal destiny of the souls of his one thousand parishioners.”

  5. A disparity exists in a very fine mission of reaching the peripheries, drawing in the broken and alienated, the poor to the heart of Christ, which is at best an interpretation of Pope Francis pontificate – and at worst incoherence, dissolution of doctrine.
    Jonathan Liedl authored an essay at NCReg quoting ecclesial sources, notably prelates known for their orthodoxy, Conley Lincoln NE, Tobin Providence RI who praise the effort to reach out yet hesitant to praise the lack of mission description. While Card Pell calls Francis’ Church of Synodality, words to the effect of a toxic nightmare.
    Discussion on celibacy, one of the lesser significant issues long discussed prior to his pontificate, pales compared to the outcry over suppression of the TLM. More significant however are the bedrock doctrines reaching back uninterruptedly to the Apostolic beginnings. Marriage as opposed to Adultery, heterodox sexuality as opposed to homosexuality are held by many of us as non negotiable doctrines of the faith Apostolically handed down.
    Reaching out to the peripheries is a good thing. Is softening doctrine the singular means or is there a better mission description for the Church? Inexorably, the response reverts to Christ and his example of tenderness of reaching out to the publican and prostitute while reserving the truth as the last word. As he did with the woman at the well and the publican. We can do that if we recover the fire and missionary spirit of a Francis Xavier, a Peter Claver, a Saint Francis.

    • Yes, “[r]reaching out to the peripheries is a good thing.” But, has this verbiage become code language for demolishing the “backward” center?

      One doubts that the Good Shepherd left behind and unprotected, the ninety-nine! Seemingly irrelevant, yours truly is reminded of the Galileo fiasco. Insight is offered by Giorgio de Santillana in “The Crime of Galileo” (University of Chicago Press, 1955). Applicable, yes? to today’s dismantling of sexual morality, the human person, and solid commitment to either marriage or priestly celibacy, this about Galileo’s ordeal:

      “One thing can be concluded for certain, that an extremely capable outfit of ‘hypocrites without Nature and without God’ [Fulgenzio Micanzio, a Servite friar from Venice] […] was operating effectively inside the hierarchy [….] The working of great administrations is mainly the result of a vast mass of routine, petty malice, self-interest, carelessness, and sheer mistake. Only a residual fraction is thought. To try to look into them is as unprofitable as to stare at the wall of Plato’s cave.”

      Then, quoting the Jesuit astronomer Fr. Greinberger (who watched with disappointment as his Order defended its turf in Aristotelian astronomy): “If Galileo had only known how to retain the favor of the Jesuits, he would have stood in renown before the world, he would have been spared all his misfortunes, and he could have written what he pleased about everything, even about the motion of the sun” (footnoted). So, today, how many “hypocrites without Nature and without God,” especially among the Jesuits themselves, are kowtowing to the Jesuits?

      Yet another mutilation of the Church—the tribalism of some religious orders? Yesterday the denial of heavenly bodies, and today the denial of our fully human bodies?

      • Yes, a good, informative review and analogy. Journalist, author William Shirer described Nazi pol theorists, high ranking officers as “intellectual gangsters”. It fits the current Jesuit tribalism. It’s the idolatry of the intellect.

  6. He should stop instigating problems where there are none. With ever fewer congregants showing up for Mass, who does he expect to financially support father so-and-so and his wife and 6 kids?? Or are we now to have “part time” priests? Maybe the pope should stop digging himself into an ever deeper hole. And thats pretty easy. Stop talking to reporters.

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