The pastor of America’s largest Catholic church believes the Vatican should reconsider its celibacy requirement, saying in a recent interview that there are many men who would make good priests, if not for that barrier.
Monsignor John McSweeney, 75, told The Charlotte Observer that he’s been around many married Protestant pastors who do “great work” and that he met many men in seminary who also would have been excellent priests had they been permitted to marry.
“Many men I was in the [Catholic] seminary with would be great priests today except for one thing,” McSweeney said, noting their desire to wed.
The priest, who plans to retire next week and move to Jamaica or Haiti to serve the poor, made his comments after reports earlier this year that Pope Francis is open to lifting the celibacy requirement that priests currently serve under.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, the pontiff said it is worth exploring whether married men could be more readily admitted to the priesthood, though he said “voluntary celibacy” wouldn’t solve the Catholic Church’s worldwide priest shortage.
“We must also determine which tasks they can undertake, for example in remote communities,” Pope Francis said.
It should be noted that his comments didn’t appear to extend to allow unmarried priests to wed after they take their vows.
The history surrounding Catholic celibacy is quite complex, with some arguing that priests were able to be married for the first chunk of Christian history. In fact, Cornell University professor Kim Haines-Eitzen called the celibacy mandate a “late development in church practice.” Others, though, counter that the marital policies were actually more murky than that.
Read more about Haines-Eitzen”s perspective here.