Priestly Celibacy
Secretary of State of the Vatican Archbishop Pietro Parolin says Pope Francis should change the Catholic policy on celibacy.

Some rather surprising remarks were made about the priestly celibacy by the new Secretary of State of the Vatican Archbishop Pietro Parolin. The remarks could mean there’s a new openness to the change in times.

There has been a significant amount of attention given to Pope Francis’ plans to change the Vatican – although he has yet to make any announcements regarding the mandatory celibacy priests must follow.

Parolin said the priestly celibacy has no law of divine origin and the tradition to change this policy is open for debate. He said the church isn’t a democratic institution and should change with the times. Popes in the past have said several topics were not open for negotiation but the remark Parolin made could mean the Church may let go of this tradition.

It’s not known when exactly priests were ordered to maintain their celibacy. However, the mandate for it goes back to 304 C.E. after Canon 33 with the Council of Elvira said every deacon, presbyters and bishops need to abstain from their wives and cannot have children. In 1139, the Second Lateran Council forbade priests from even marrying.

Parolin said discussions will be held and changes could be made but God’s will and the service of unity will always be considered.

When Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, he had blunt discussions about the celibacy issue, truthfully being open about his personal struggles and distinguishing the fact that good priests in other religions did not have to practice celibacy. In a 2012 interview, the pope said it was more of a discipline matter and not faith. It said the policy could be changed.

With the removal of the celibacy police, new life could be given to the church, which is suffering from a lack of priests. Rev. Robert Gahl, Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University’s Opus Dei mortal theologian, said it’s not likely that Pope Francis will agree to priests being married during his tenure. Gahl said advocates for the change claim it should be easier to become a priest. The pope, on the other hand, has said, if the sacrifice is made, you’ll experience total happiness.

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