Archbishop Pietro Parolin: Priest Celibacy is Open to Discussion

Epigraph: Then We caused Our Messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow them, and We gave him the Gospel. And We placed in the hearts of those who accepted him compassion and mercy. But monasticism which they invented for themselves — We did not prescribe it for them — for the seeking of Allah’s pleasure; but they did not observe it with due observance. Yet We gave those of them who believed their due reward, but many of them are rebellious. (Al Quran 57:28)


Source: The Huffington Post

Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the new Secretary of State of the Vatican, made some surprisingly frank remarks about priestly celibacy that may indicate a new openness to “the democratic spirit of the times.” Pope Francis’ plans to reform the Vatican and “shake up the church” have received a lot of attention, but he has not yet publicly addressed the issue of mandatory celibacy for priests.

Parolin said in an interview with Venezuelan newspaper El Universal that the tradition of priestly celibacy is not dogma, or a law of divine origin, and is therefore open to discussion. He went on to note that while the church is not a democratic institution, it needs to “reflect the democratic spirit of the times and adopt a collegial way of governing.”

While previous popes have declared some topics closed off from discussion, Parolin’s remarks may be indicative of the possibility of a greater conversation about an ancient Church tradition.

Though it’s not clear exactly when celibacy became mandatory for priests, the first written mandate for chastity dates back to 304 C.E., when Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira stated that all “bishops, presbyters, and deacons and all other clerics” should “abstain completely from their wives and not to have children.” A definitive ruling was handed down at the Second Lateran Council of 1139, which ruled that priests were forbidden to marry.

Parolin said, “it is possible to discuss and reflect on these topics that are not defined faith, and consider some modifications, but always in the service of unity and according to God’s will.”

Canon 277 of the Vatican legal code states, “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.”

Pope Francis frankly discussed the celibacy issue when he was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, speaking candidly about his own struggles and recognizing the fact that there are good priests in other denominations that are not celibate. Regarding celibacy, he said in a 2012 interview, “It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change.”

Removing the celibacy requirement could possibly breathe new life into a church that is already suffering a shortage of priests. However, Rev. Robert Gahl, an Opus Dei moral theologian at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome, thinks that Pope Francis is unlikely to allow married priests during his pontificate. He noted that advocates for option celibacy claim “priesthood is too hard; why don’t we make it easier? But what the pope is saying is, ‘If you make this sacrifice, it would bring you pure joy.'”


Additional Reading

Celibacy or Islamic teaching of Chastity: that is the question?

Categories: Catholic Church, Catholicism

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3 replies

  1. While we are at it, let us please also talk about Trinity, vicarious atonement and Original Sin and if Adam and Eve were the first human couple or not.


  2. According to Bible, about 6000 years ago, Adam and Eve were the first persons created of mankind. But that is not true. Men and women were living on earth for many years before that. The animals they ate, 50,000 years ago, and the fires they burnt in the caves have been discovered in France and other countries.

    Bible says that Eve committed sin and led her man, Adam to do the same. Putting the blame on a lady is not fair. Anyhow, it is said in Bible that death came with the sin. It means there was no death before Adam and Eve ate the apple? That is also not correct. Many people were living and dying before Adam and Eve at the apple.

    Here I may point out a weakness of the church. The church hides the real meaning and does not elaborate. That could be the case of begotten son or death coming due to sin. If it was spiritually (and not literally) begotten son, it could be alright. But church never speaks like that.

    Similarly, death coming with the sin could be spiritual death. It would be alright (perhaps).

    About Trinity, I have explained at various times that church mistook the meaning of the verse of last chapter of Mathew. Jesus (a.s.) had advised his disciples, before going on long journey, to baptize people in the name of Father, the son and holy ghost. He never told them to make son and ghost gods beside the Father. Now the Godhead of church, i.e. three in one and one in three is a dilemma which can never be explained rationally.

    About Atonement, it is funny that sin was committed 6000 years ago and God the Father thought of atonement (remedy, treatment) after 4000 years. Quite surprising.

    For many years, church had unmarried mothers and fathers in the church service. I wonder why they could not call them brothers and sisters instead fathers and mothers ! Keeping them unmarried was basically wrong and against nature. It would be good if the church earnestly turned to some Islamic teachings in the Quran to become aware of real answers to all these problems.

    This is what happens when you mess with nature and the natural law.

    Another example is China. China has had a ‘one child policy’ for a few decades now to control their population. On my last visit to China (2 years ago) I was told by the locals that this policy has now created havoc for the country; The new generation of Chinese children born are the inheritors of a boat load of money. Since one child would inherit all his wealth not only from both his/her parents but from the grandparents and great grand parents. The problem with sitting on this type of money is that now this new generation is the least productive is recent history in China and is more involved in drugs, alcohol, gambling and unproductive activity than ever before.

    The policy of suppressing the natural tendency of human beings mating has also proven to be a dangerous practice. This practice when followed ‘religiously’ as it did by the Christian church proved not only to be a humiliating practice for the church but also proved deadly for the victims involved (mostly children and the innocent).

    If nothing else, as as Muslim, I support Pop Francis for at least entertaining the thought that this practice is not dogma.

    The reason why God made Islam the finality of ALL religions is to iron out these harmful ‘dogmatic’ beliefs that had crept in over the years by man.

    God the Father + God the Son + Holy Ghost = 3
    However, we are told they are ONE. Fine… however, I have a fundamental problem with this. If I want to convert to Christianity today and want to follow Jesus perfectly so that I can become the best Christian and attain peace then I have a major problem. You see I know that I can’t do what God does so I try to follow Jesus the man and not Jesus the God. So far so good…. the problem that I face when I attempt to be a perfect Jesus follower is that I can’t decipher during this 3-in-1 and 1-in-3 definition when Jesus is being God and when he’s being man:

    You see, if all three are one then at what point are they one and at what point can we separate them out? That is, where in the Bible is this distinguished? This is crucial to determine for me to be a proper follower of Jesus! When Jesus walked on water was is Jesus the son or Jesus the God? When he ‘turned the other cheek’, at that point, was he Jesus the son or Jesus the God? When he ate food was he son or god/God? How do I know what act to follow and which one to skip over because I certainly can’t walk on water.

    Adam/Eve came about 6~7 thousand years ago. No one refutes this. Adam was the first person to have been given a set of rules for mankind to follow, hence the first man in that sense. Archaeologist have discovered traces of human footprints and undeniable human artifact dating back around 13,000 years in Chile.
    The people of aboriginal stock of Australia inhabited America 14,000 years ago. The Australian Newspapers captioned the news to the effect that Australians were the first occupants of America.
    If Adam committed the first sin and for argument sake I assume …. and it’s a big assumption.. that sin can genetically be transferred forward to coming generations then how do I convince myself that it can also be transferred back words to the humans before Adam/Eve. Even if I can be convinced of this… how in the world will those poor saps prior to Adam be convinced of this just before they are about to enter hell?
    For Christianity to uphold the concept of atonement it must go against scientific fact of humans existence prior to Adam and Eve… not to mention proving sin being genetically transferable, Jesus willing sacrificing himself, etc, etc.

    oh.. and to think that all this trouble started because a woman (Eve)! I’m going to try and convince my wife of this irrefutable fact today. Hope it goes well!


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