Pope Francis is considering making a greater allowance for married men to become ordained priests, specifically in geographical areas where it’s difficult to recruit the desired candidates.
The pontiff is scheduled to hold an assembly in Rome with Amazonian bishops from Oct. 6 to 27, when he will reportedly discuss the ordination of married Catholic priests in remote areas like the Amazon, according to the Daily Beast.
The pope is supposedly considering making the exception to the Catholic Church’s common practice of priestly celibacy — which is rooted in tradition, not doctrine (CCC 1580) — to allow for priests in remote areas to deliver sacraments like baptism, confession, weddings, and funerals.
If approved, the potential exception would afford more married men the opportunity to serve as priests in underpopulated areas with glaring clerical vacancies, like South America’s Amazon region.
The proposal states, “Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life.”
Although Francis is considering the allowance, he echoed the words of former Pope Paul VI in January of this year, saying he would rather die than change Church tradition when it comes to priestly celibacy.
Some have been supportive of the idea of allowing for married priests in remote areas.
Bishop Rafael Cob, apostolic vicar of Puyo, Ecuador, who is scheduled to attend the assembly in Rome next month, said the Catholic Church must “respond to a concrete challenge in a concrete reality.”
“The Amazon is a geographically difficult region to evangelize, first because of its distance, its inaccessibility,” he said. “But there also is a lack of candidates who can or want to be priests with the issue of celibacy. So, logically, the Church is looking for new methods to respond to concrete challenges.”
Others, though, have not been at all thrilled with the proposal.
Some conservative clerics are reportedly prepared to ask for Pope Francis’ resignation if he signs off on the proposal to allow more married men to serve as priests in remote areas.
Additionally, a symposium of students of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released a statement over the weekend, voicing their concerns about the proposal.
“As the priest only exists from his relationship with Christ, a participation in the lifestyle of Christ would seem to be appropriate for those who are to act his person,” the statement read in part. “According to the constant tradition of the Latin Church, celibacy is seen as a clear witness to a belief-filled hope and generous love for Christ and his Church.”