In the remote Brazilian town of Tabatinga, João Souza da Silva helped construct the Roman Catholic church where he got married 31 years ago, a wedding that officially ended his boyhood dream of becoming a priest.
He may get a second chance, as Catholic leaders in the vast Amazon basin consider whether the church should let married men become priests in certain cases. The issue is likely to be discussed at a gathering of bishops Pope Francis has called for next year about the church in the Amazon.
The Vatican is contending with a shortage of clergy, as well as a growing challenge from evangelical Protestantism, which allows married ministers. Pope Francis has said the “door is always open” to married priests, though recent predecessors have rejected the idea.
Around the world, the ratio of Catholics to priests has risen sharply in recent decades, to 3,100-to-1 in 2015 from 1,900-to-1 in 1980, according to Vatican statistics. It is especially high in South America—7,100-to-1, almost four times as high as in North America.
Permanent deacons—those who aren’t preparing to become priests—are typically married men, and they have taken up the slack in many parts of the world. There were 45,300 permanent deacons world-wide in 2015—three quarters of them in North America or Europe—compared with 416,000 priests.
But deacons can’t celebrate Mass or hear confessions, essential limitations in a church where the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are of central importance.
conservative voices caution that opening the priesthood to married men would undermine the traditional identity of Catholic priests as representatives of the celibate Christ.
The Rev. Gary Selin, author of a book on the theology of clerical celibacy, argues that ordaining married men would be a “quick fix” that would ignore the underlying causes of the priest shortage, which include inadequate recruitment efforts and “rampant materialism in our society.”
Catholic doctrine doesn’t require priestly celibacy, which is a discipline that has changed over time. Married priests were common in early Christianity, though they were expected to abstain from sexual relations after ordination and weren’t permitted to remarry if widowed. But by the 16th Century, celibacy became the rule in the Latin Church.
Today, fewer than 2% of the world’s Catholic priests are married, most of them clergy in the two dozen Eastern Catholic Churches, which are in communion with Rome but follow the Orthodox practice and allow for married priests. Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
February 27th, 2018