Pope Francis has once again rocked the traditional Catholic world by suggesting that he would be open to ordaining married men as priests. Currently, only converts to the faith who were previously married can be married.
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The news is shaking up the faithful, but seems to many in the faith as a viable option for the Roman Catholic Church’s catastrophic shortage of clergy.
The German newspaper Die Zeit broke the story. In their interview with Pope Francis, the Pontiff characterized the shortage of Catholic priests as an “enormous problem.”
“We need to consider if ‘viri probati’ could be a possibility,” he said. “If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities.”
Viri probati is Latin for “tested men,” an idiom that means married men of who have demonstrated exceptional faith and virtue.
This expansion of the priesthood would allow married men to be ordained as priests, but would not allow for ordained priests to marry.
Currently, only protestant ministers who are already married when they convert to Catholicism can be ordained and married. Eastern Catholic churches have a tradition of married priests, too.
The Pope isn’t open to opening up the rules on celibacy for priests, though. “Voluntary celibacy is not a solution,” he said.
married and be a Roman Catholic priest, providing they have their wives’ permission.
This celibacy of priests is built on a desire to emulate the life of Christ, and has been reinforced by the teaching of Popes St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis had previously appeared much less welcome to the idea of married priests. In his book “On Heaven and Earth,” Pope Francis wrote, “For the time being, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy with the pros and cons that it has, because it has been ten centuries of good experiences more often than failure.”
Opening up this option would pave the way for countless deacons of the church to participate more in the life of their congregations. Currently the Catholic Church relies on numerous priests who immigrate to traditional Catholic communities in Europe and America from their missionary outposts in Africa, India, and throughout Asia.