Thursday, March 21, 2013

An Option?

Is Pope Francis open to optional celibacy?

In an 2012 interview about celibacy, then-Cardinal Bergoglio notes that in the Eastern churches priests can be married and "They are very good priests." He says that "It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change."

He states his support for celibacy in the interview. "I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures," he explains. "Tradition has weight and validity."

But what is remarkable is the way he qualifies his statements: "For the moment, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy...." Likewise, when he notes that some organizations are pushing for more discussion about the issue, he says, "For now, the discipline of celibacy stands firm."

"For the moment," "For now" are not the kind of qualifications one normally hears when bishops and cardinals discuss celibacy.

He even goes on to propose a hypothetical: "If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option."

What is totally unacceptable to Pope Francis is a priest who does not observe his promise of celibacy. If a priest falls, he says "I help him to get on track again." By that he means, doing penance and practicing celibacy. "The double life is no good for us," he explains. "I don't like it because it means building on falsehood."

In addition, if a priest gets a woman pregnant, "he has to leave the ministry and should take care of that child, even if he chooses not to marry that woman. For just as that child has the right to have a mother, he has a right to the face of a father."

Pope Francis takes celibacy very seriously. If it is the rule, it must be observed. But could the rule change?


  1. Thank you for this post. I particularly like two points:"The double life is no good for us... building on falsehood." I knew a young gay priest who felt he had to leave the priesthood and his order, because he wanted to be true to his relationship with a young man. Falsehood is a word he had used.

    And the priest who gets a woman pregnant having to leave the ministry. To assume responsibility for his act. Too often, women are asked to carry the whole load of guilt/responsibility. It would be quite a change if Pope Francis started asking the same of men as previous popes have asked of women...

    1. The Pope can speak of great idealism, but the knows how to minister to the needs of real life. Bravo.

  2. If Pope Francis is not the bridge to an optional celibacy rule now; his later papacy
    might well be. He is a man of prayer, study, reflection and real life experiences in a culture
    where family closeness is very important.
    Mark Clark

    1. Right now, he is a wild card, but one who seems to be sent straight from heaven.