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IS POPE FRANCIS THINKING OF RELAXING CELIBACY? Featured

Written by  Friday, 17 June 2016 00:10

Bishop Ambo David

 

No. In fact he still expects ordained ministers who are vowed to celibacy to stay on as celibates. He's not talking about allowing them to marry. I think he expects those who are already ordained and vowed to celibacy to remain faithful to their vows. A promise is a promise, and is meant to be kept by the ordained minister for as long as he possibly can.

Sometimes though, as in the case of priests vowed to celibacy who realize that they cannot keep the vow, a petition for a dispensation from celibacy may be submitted by them to the Pope. In such instances, even when the Pope grants the petition, he still withholds their faculties to exercise the ordained ministry. In short, he is not yet extending to them the privilege of serving as "married priests". They remain as priests in essence, but are removed from the clerical status and allowed to function in the Church only for lay ministries.

What the Pope seems to be considering lately, especially in places where there is a dearth of priestly vocations (such as in Europe), is the possible ordination of married men to the priesthood--meaning men who have not made a vow of celibacy. We have, for instance, married men who have already been ordained to the diaconate. This phenomenon is already prevalent in the United States, not yet in the Philippines.

 

By the way, it is wrong to refer to married deacons as "lay deacons". The moment they are ordained they also become part of the clergy or the ordained ministry. Unlike the unmarried candidates who, at diaconal ordination, have also made a promise of celibacy, these men were married already before they became deacons.

It is to some of these married men that Pope Francis seems to be considering the possibility of extending the ordained ministry. Actually, this is happening already in some countries, such as in the cases of married Anglican priests who convert to the Catholic Church and are allowed to serve as "married priests" in the Catholic Church. There are also "married (meaning, non-celibate) priests" in some Eastern Catholic churches that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

It looks like Pope Francis is not yet considering the inclusion of former celibates who have been been "dispensed" from celibacy, in the category of "married priests" allowed to exercise priestly faculties. Will he eventually extend it to them too? Your guess is as good as mine.

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