FAITH

After bishops call for married priests, pope urges new ways

Oct 27, 2019, 9:31 PM
Pope Francis delivers his speech during a Mass for the closing of Amazon synod in St. Peter's Basil...
Pope Francis delivers his speech during a Mass for the closing of Amazon synod in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — On the heels of a landmark call by Amazon region bishops for married men to become priests, Pope Francis on Sunday exhorted Catholics to be open to fresh ways of evangelization, saying the church must “open new roads for the proclamation of the Gospel.”

He also cautioned against self-righteousness, in an apparent slap at conservative critics who fear he is weakening the church’s foundations.

Allowing married men to be ordained in remote Amazon areas with severe shortages of priests would chip away at the church’s nearly millennium-old practice upholding priestly celibacy. It would also help the church compete with evangelical and Protestant churches that have been increasingly winning converts there.

A three-week-long Vatican gathering, or synod, on the special needs of Catholics in that South American region featured a vote by a majority of the more than 180 synod bishops who proposed the ordination of married men with established families to help minister to the region’s far-flung faithful, where some Catholics don’t see priests for months, even years.

Francis expressed gratitude that the bishops spoke with “sincerity and candor.” He has said he will put his response in writing by year’s end.

Addressing the public in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he and synod participants felt spurred to “leave comfortable shores” in seeking new ways to carry out the church’s core mission to spread the Catholic faith.

Francis has often praised celibacy for priests. It the Argentine-born pontiff embraces the appeal from bishops on his native continent, it is not clear whether that might trigger an erosion of the celibacy rule elsewhere.

Ordaining married men, even in limited circumstances, risks deepening the antipathy in strongly conservative church circles toward Francis, whom they deem to be dangerously progressive.

Francis said he and the bishops “felt spurred to go out, to leave the comfortable shores of our safe ports to sink into deep waters — not in the swampy waters of ideologies, but in the open sea in which the Spirit invites us to throw out the fishing nets,” he said, referring to Gospel writings about fishing for the souls of people.

In prepared remarks, which he didn’t read, he appeared to hint at the appeal for married priests when he encouraged being open to “new things.”

His critics, including so-called traditionalist Catholics, insist the Vatican adheres strictly to centuries-old rules demanding that priests be celibate, unmarried men. But in the first centuries of the church, married men did serve as priests. Even the first pope, St. Peter, hand-picked by Jesus, was married, as were many of the first apostles.

Currently, the Vatican allows married men to become priests in Eastern rite churches. Eager to include converts, it has also allowed married Anglicans to remain, priests, when they join the Roman Catholic church.

In a possible reference to those who consider themselves guardians of the faith, Francis warned against self-righteousness and what he derided as “self-canonization.”

The idea that mature, married men of “proven virtue” could become priests has been suggested for decades, including during the papacy of St. John Paul II, a darling of conservatives.

But the Amazon synod’s formal proposal was the first official call for it.

Francis might seize that momentum. But he also might tread cautiously to avoid disorienting faithful whose trust in the church hierarchy has been seriously eroded by decades of pedophile priest scandals in many countries.

Italian theologian Marinella Perroni, noting in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa that the ban on married priests became formal more than 1,000 years after the church’s founding, ventured that it could be more than a century before marriage is no longer an impediment to ordination.

Synod bishops also called for the Vatican to revive the study of whether women can be ordained as deacons, a lesser role than priests. During Francis’ papacy, a commission to study that prospect produced no action.

Deborah-Rose Milavec, a co-director of Future Church, an advocacy group for progressive change, was cautious about whether there would someday be female deacons, especially since any married priest in the Amazon would probably be selected from the ranks of male deacons.

Francis also echoed environmental concerns by the Amazon bishops.

He lamented that the Amazon’s native peoples had been considered “backward and of little worth,” and denounced those who have despised their traditions and sought to erase their history as well as “occupy their lands and usurp their goods.”

“How much alleged superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today!” Francis said. “The mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister earth.”

Today’s Top Stories

Faith

A screenshot of a facebook post made to the parents of Macie Hill....
Mark Jones

Father of girl who died in Kaysville parade is thankful for those who helped

An 8-year-old girl died Monday in an accident during the Kaysville Fourth of July Parade. Her father is thankful for all who assisted his daughter.
2 days ago
The new monuments at This is the place heritage park....
Mark Jackson

This is the Place Heritage Park to unveil monuments for early Black pioneers

This is the Place Heritage Park will unveil a monument dedicated to early Black pioneers on July 22, just in time for Pioneer Day.
6 days ago
praying football coach...
JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press

Supreme Court sides with coach who sought to pray after game

The court ruled 6-3 along ideological lines for the coach. The justices said the coach's prayer was protected by the First Amendment.
10 days ago
downtown slc general conference temple square...
Simone Seikaly

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reacts to Roe v. Wade

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responded to the Supreme Court decision on Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade. Their statement began by reasserting a belief in the sanctity of human life. It also listed possible exceptions for members who may seek an abortion, which include […]
13 days ago
supreme court. it just ended remain in mexico policy...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Justices rule religious schools must get Maine tuition aid

The most immediate effect of the court's ruling beyond Maine probably will be felt next door in Vermont, which has a similar program.
16 days ago
Photo credit: Just Add Chocolate Facebook page....
Lindsay Aerts

Chocolate shop apologizes, renames Book of Mormon-themed Twinkies

A Utah County chocolate shop has renamed its Book of Mormon-theme Twinkies after it was accused of being racist. The shop has also apologized.
27 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
After bishops call for married priests, pope urges new ways