From the beginning of his tenure, Pope Francis has been a near-constant lightning rod for controversy, taking a variety of positions on both theological and secular matters that are a stark departure from traditional Catholicism and predecessors such as Pope John Paul II.
The latest example, the UK Telegraph reports, is that Francis has expressed openness to letting married men become priests in special circumstances:
The pontiff took the decision to put a partial lifting of priestly celibacy up for discussion and a possible vote by Brazilian bishops following a request made by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, Il Messaggero newspaper quoted the sources saying.
Cardinal Hummes reportedly asked Francis to consider ordaining so-called viri probati, married men of great faith, capable of ministering spiritually to the many remote communities in the Amazon where there is a shortage of priests, and evangelical Christians and pagan sects are displacing Catholicism.
The cardinal’s request has been echoed by Monsignor Erwin Krautler, the secretary of the Episcopal Commission. He has also suggested that the bishops attending the synod in 2019 on the Amazon, now being prepared in Rome, should consider ordaining women deacons as priests.
Monsignor Krausler quoted the Pope as telling him “speak to the bishops and tell them to make valid proposals,” about such ordinations, the Austrian news agency KNA said.
This isn’t the first time the pope has expressed openness to this radical change from longstanding Catholic practice. Earlier in the year he told Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper that it was at least worth considering what “what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.”
Critics fear that while Francis is framing the position as an exception for special circumstances where there is a grave shortage of priests, if it came to pass it could ultimately be used as a precedent to allow priests to marry on a broader scale:
A Brazilian pilot project could be extended to regularize the position in Africa, where many Catholic priests already have mistresses and children, Monsignor Canobbio told Il Messaggero. “In Africa a good percentage of priests de facto have a family.”
At LifeSiteNews, Pete Baklinski explains why this is such a contentious issue within the Catholic Church:
The discipline of priestly celibacy follows the example of Jesus himself. Priests are called to act in persona Christi, that is, “in the person of Christ.” The discipline also follows St. Paul, who taught in his letter to the Corinthians that a celibate man is “concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord.” The discipline is based, in part, on the understanding that a married man cannot adequately give himself simultaneously to both the Church and a family.
Canon law states regarding celibacy that “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.”
As TFPP has previously covered, Francis has alienated many religious conservatives who normally see Catholicism as a major ally through a variety of controversial public statements, including a grotesque reaction to Fidel Castro’s death and twisting Christianity to lecture Americans about our immigration laws.
What do you think of all this? Share your thoughts in the comments below.