The new Secretary of State for the Vatican, Arbishop Pietro Parolin, told a newspaper Wednesday that the traditional, yet often controversial, mandate of the Catholic Church of the priesthood of having to remain celibate, is now open for discussion and some “modifications” as long as it serves the good of the church.
The TODAY show reported that even Pope Francis had alluded to this possible change before he was pope.
“Pope Francis himself did speak remarkably on this subject last year, before he was pope, saying that he supports celibacy for priests for the moment…adding that Eastern right churches that do have married priests are still very good priests,” said TODAY.
Before Pope Francis, the celibacy rule has been very strict, and not really welcome for discussion.
Pope John Paul II stated in a 1988 address to the bishops, “The Church offers to the world a witness of singular importance to Christ’s love through the celibacy of her priests. Celibacy involves the total gift of self to the Lord for life-long service in his Church, with the renunciation of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God. It is a gift that God gives to his Church and that manifests the charity which inspires her.”
Parolin, who is second in charge in the Vatican, went on to say he sees the Vatican’s celibacy law as one of the biggest challenges for Pope Francis in terms of unity of the congregation and the shortage of priests in the church.
Dr. Hosffman Ospino, Director of Graduate Programs in Hispanic Ministry at Boston College, tells NBC Latino the fact that celibacy is a practice and not Church dogma is not new. He also says this was not in an official statement, but part of an informal interview that the Vatican Secretary of State did in Venezuela to discuss his new position.
“His answer was the standard answer the church has given in the last 50 years,” says. Dr. Ospino. “It can be discussed.”
He adds, though, that the new Secretary of State is now inviting people to open the conversation.
“My sense is eventually Pope Francis will invite conversation about issues like this one,” says Dr. Ospino. “In October, he will meet with a group of eight cardinals he appointed when he was elected from around the world, and this issue might come up. He wants to find out the major concerns from around the continent. My hope is that at least we can have this conversation.”