Vatican May Be Open to Ordaining Married Priests in Exceptional Circumstances
Facing a still-growing priest shortage, the Vatican has begun discussing the idea of ordaining married men of a very narrow description for specific Catholic communities. Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and Pope Francis have both confirmed that the Vatican is discussing the possibility and has begun investigating the doctrinal concerns related to the policy. In a new book by Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona, Cardinal Stella suggests that the Vatican is particularly troubled by the lack of eligible priests for remote or isolated Catholic communities and is open to discussing the possibility of ordaining older, married men of “proven virtue” to serve these congregations. The move “in no way would lead to an optional celibacy,” the cardinal says, and it is likely to be discussed next year at the special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to discuss pastoral work in the Amazon. The Catholic church has faced an increasing shortage of priests worldwide since the 1940s but has been reluctant to introduce reforms that might allow more who feel called to the vocation to partake in pastoral service. Notably, the Vatican has repeatedly shut the door on the ordination of women and the removal of celibacy as a requirement.