The Vatican is discussing the possibility of married priests… and other things:
This Sunday kicks off a three-week meeting of bishops at the Vatican to discuss, among other things, ordaining some married men as priests to help alleviate a shortage of Catholic clergy in the nine countries of the Amazon region.
Pope Francis convened the meeting, called a synod, to discuss environmental and religious issues in the Amazon and give special attention to the needs of indigenous communities there. The region includes parts of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana. The Vatican has invited 184 bishops and priests from those countries and from around the world to participate in the synod and vote on measures. Thirty-five women, mostly religious sisters and nuns, have been invited but will not have voting rights.
There will be 17 representatives of the Amazon’s indigenous populations, including 9 women, will attend as well.
But before it even begins, the synod has become the center of controversy for both conservatives and liberals.
The Pope told bishops from the region to “be bold” in their proposals for the meeting and Bishop Erwin Krautler, the church’s Secretary for the Commission on the Pan-Amazon Region, says he hopes the meeting will address not only ordaining married men, but women too.
“We don’t just speak about men because it’s exclusionary,” Krautler told CNN. “We also want to include women.”
The possibility that centuries of Catholic tradition of a celibate priesthood might be overturned has caused conservative outrage.
Since I’m not a Catholic, I don’t believe my opinion matters here. But, for those who happen to be interested, I don’t think the abandonment of the traditional celibacy requirement for priests would be a bad thing. Married priests, even with the concomitant risk of nepotism, are vastly to be preferred to gay priests, which has been the reality since at least Vatican II.
Furthermore, the Biblical requirements for a deacon not only don’t preclude marriage, they actually require it, and the fruits of priestly celibacy have not been generally positive.
Considerably more troubling is the possibility that this Amazonian synod will be used to push the ordainment of women, which would mark the beginning of the end of the Roman Catholic Church.