Should we have married priests?

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

This is a question that has been raised before but the answer of the Western Catholic Church had always been a strong “No”. The Orthodox Catholic Church had retained the married clergy tradition.

Last November 7, LifeSiteNews shared a copy of an interview of Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a close ally of John Paul II and the previous head of Italy’s bishops’ conference. He reacted to the proposal of the recently held Amazon Synod in Rome where one final recommendation was the ordination of married men to the priesthood. The Cardinal said the Synod “made a wrong choice” in addressing the issue of lack of priests in the Amazon and by extension in other countries as well. He added that he hopes Pope Francis will not confirm the recommendation.

The Cardinal said that “In the Amazon and in other parts of the world, there is a serious shortage of priests, and Christian communities often remain deprived of the Mass. It is “understandable that there is a push to ordain married deacons as priests. In this sense, most of the synod was in favor of ordaining married deacons to the priesthood and mature married men.

“In my opinion, however, this is the wrong choice. And I hope and pray that the Pope, in the upcoming post-synodal apostolic exhortation, will not confirm it.”

He cited several reasons for saying that the Amazon should not be an exception for lifting the ban of married priests. The first reason, according to him is that “in today’s ‘eroticized society’, priestly celibacy is a great sign of total dedication to God and to the service of our brothers.”

Although the synodal document refers to the situation in the Amazons, the document opened the doors to its universal application and the adoption of criteria, like the standing of a person in the community, and who had passed “adequate formation.”

The Cardinal, however said that “relinquishing the discipline of celibacy in even just one region would be to yield to the spirit of the world, which always tries to penetrate the Church, and that would hardly stop with exceptional cases like the Amazon.” He added that to adhere to the requirement for celibacy the “the married priests and their wives are not immune to the effects of the crisis in the institution of marriage.” This implies the possibilities, for instance, of marital separation and the issue of children.

“Their human and spiritual condition could not fail to be affected,” he said. When asked by the interviewer whether having married priests would create a “mess,” the Cardinal answered affirmatively.

He admitted that celibacy was a trial for him, even though “it is a great gift that the Lord gave me.” For him, a consolation has been his close relations with his sister and other family members, as well as his friendship with young people. He said, “And I am fortunate to live with people who are like a family to me.”

In order to address the scarcity of priests and the problems of vocations, the cardinal had one “decisive answer” to the problem of vocations to the priesthood: “We Christians, and in particular we priests and religious, must be closer to God in our lives, lead a more holy life, and beg God for all this in prayer. Without getting tired.”

He implies the need for the clergy to be models that young men can look up to in the service of God through the priesthood.

He said he agrees with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI that “the crisis of Europe is anthropological -man no longer knows who he is. The main reason we no longer know who we are is that we no longer believe we are made in the image of God; the consequence is that we no longer have our identity, compared to the rest of nature.”

The Philippine Church also suffers from the problem of fewer priests although there are many Filipino clergymen who serve in other countries. There are many barangays where Masses and other sacraments are administered only once a month and enrolment in our diocesan seminaries have not increased in proportion to the growing number of Catholics.

Despite this, most Catholics still are not in favor of married priests. We believe our priests should devote to the ministry without disruptions by a family.