Following an enormous shortage of clergy in the Catholic church, Pope Francis has said he is open to married men becoming priests to combat the challenging problem.
Speaking to the German newspaper, Die Zeit during an interview, the leader of the Catholic Church said that he would be open to a change in the rules governing eligibility for the priesthood to combat what he called an “enormous problem” for the Church.
“We need to consider if ‘viri probati’ could be a possibility.If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities.” The Pope said.
“Viri probati,” which is a Latin term for “tested men” or married men of outstanding faith and virtue, could be, according to the Pope, an alternative solution to the present rule, which prohibits the priest from marrying in the Catholic Church. According to the Pope, the “Viri probati,” option would allow “tested men” who is already married to become priests. However, single men who are ordained priests would not be allowed to marry. Asked whether “Voluntary celibacy” would qualify one to be ordained a priest, he said that “is not a solution.”
Pope Francis’s recent stand on the priest and celibacy is sharply different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. who unequivocally backs the ban on priests to get married.
Recently, the Catholic Church is facing a lot of challenges from both outsides and within the church. Obviously, the strict rule in the church that forbids catholic priests from getting married has been attributed to the high rate of sex scandals – especially the child abuse – in the church.The problem has tainted the image of the church, created big scandalous ridicules of the religious organisation as well as resulted in sharp criticisms of the establishment from different quarters. Some voices within the church have been calling for the ban on priests’ marriage to be lifted in the church to minimize the social and biological stress on the priests. Worse still, since the child abuse scandal became known to the public after years of denials and cover-ups from the Catholic church, the church has spent thousands of millions of dollars in compensation.Many believe more accusations, and for that matter, compensations will still come up. However, there are other conservative elements in the church who vehemently oppose any changes in the church’s rules. Using biblical references to support their stand, this group strongly insists that priests should not marry because they (priests) act “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ). Therefore, priests, they argue, must act like Christ and emulate Christ’s celibacy.
Definitely, in a deeply conservative and secretive Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who is widely loved and admired, is seen by many as a reformer. The question some are asking is, with the recent sex scandals in the Catholic church, coupled with millions in compensations being paid to the victims as well as the worrisome acute shortage of clergy in the Catholic church, will Pope Francis’ new liberal stand on the priest and celibacy make or tear the Catholic establishment? Definitely, time will tell.