It is a well-known fact that Catholic Priests are prevented from marrying – a tradition called “clerical celibacy.”
The discussion goes all the way back to the gospels, as some have argued that the apostles themselves were unmarried though the gospels shed little light on the matter.
We do know that clergy members living with women was officially banned at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The issue, however, has remained a contentious one.
The issue has reemerged in recent years with the Amazonian Synods.
What is the Amazonian Synod?
The Amazonian Synods were a series of meetings that went into the planning stage in the summer of 2017 and culminated in October of 2019. The synods involved determining how the church can best serve reclusive and remote peoples in the Amazon.
Because of cultural differences among the Amazonian peoples, as well as the dire need for clergy, married priests and female deacons were rumored to be potential products of the synods early on. However, whether these issues would come up and what it would mean for the universal church remained unclear.
The full text of the Amazonian Synod is available online and sheds significant light on the subject.
What the Amazonian Synod Actually Says about Married Priests
According to the text,
“We appreciate celibacy as a gift of God (SC1967 1) to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity, and we pray that there will be many vocations living the celibate priesthood. We know that this discipline "is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood" (PO 16) although there are many practical reasons for it...
“... We propose that criteria and dispositions be established by the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region.”
Should the pope choose to move forward on the proposition, it could open the door for married Catholic priests. The question then would be whether they would only exist in the Amazon.
What it May or May not Mean for the Universal Church
A number of possibilities are explored in the text of the document. One includes the formation of an “Amazonian Rite” alongside the currently existing seven liturgical rites. Some of these rites already allow for married priests.
However, the document also states that “some were in favour of a more universal approach to [ordaining married priests].”
While Pope Francis has stopped short of saying that he is in favor of allowing married priests, he has encouraged the faithful to be more “open minded” to “new approaches” in the church.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Indirectly Comments
The debate was further fueled by the publication of a book partially written by pope emeritus Benedict XVI, which became available this week. The book includes a lengthy defense of clerical celibacy.
While Benedict XVI no longer has the authority of a sitting pope after stepping down in 2013, he is recognized as an authority on church law and tradition. His traditional and conservative nature is often viewed in opposition to Pope Francis who has a more modern and flexible approach.
Article written by Johnathan Jaehnig with Christian Catholic Media News
Jon Jaehnig is a professional freelance writer and journalist, specializing in technology and health. He is a practicing Catholic and active Knight of Columbus living in upper Michigan, USA.