Married men as priests? This could be the start of a Roman Catholic revolution

5184Source: The Guardian

BY

The Vatican has opened debate on ordaining married men to meet a shortage, showing its ability to be pragmatic and to react

Desperate times need desperate measures. Reading between the lines, that’s the subtext of the document released by the Vatican this week that opens the door to the possibility of ordaining married men. Elderly ones, mind. And they must be, in the church’s inimitable habit of complicating everything under the sun by saying it in Latin, viri probati. That translates, apparently, to “men of proven character”. Which at another time you’d have been forgiven for thinking should go without saying.

The document, a working paper for a synod on the issues of the Pan-Amazon region, paints a picture of a dire crisis in which Catholics hungry for their faith are unable to access “the sacraments” because of what is widely described in the church as “a shortage of priests”. Apparently, would-be churchgoers sometimes go months at a time without any contact with a priest, which means they’re unable to be present at mass, to receive the Eucharist, or to go confession. “For this reason,” says the document, “the criteria of selection and preparation of the ministers authorised to celebrate it should be changed.”

For many hundreds of years – but, crucially, not forever – Catholic priests have been celibate men. The logic is that because Christ chose men to be his apostles (in a history that was written by men who ignored or underplayed the role played by women in many crux gospel moments), only men can be priests; and, further, that they will be better, more dedicated priests if they are able to give themselves totally to the priesthood, unencumbered by partners or children. None of this was spelled out by the founder of the Catholic church, and, in fact, for several centuries after his death (and, Christians believe, resurrection) it is certain that married men were priests, and it’s possible that women were priests too.

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