VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The idea of exceptionally ordaining older married men of proven virtue to celebrate the Eucharist in isolated Catholic communities is something that should be discussed, said Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.
“It is not about being in favor of or against something, but about attentively evaluating various possibilities without being closed or rigid,” the cardinal said in a new book in Italian, “Tutti gli Uomini di Francesco” (“All Francis’ Men”) released Jan. 22 by Edizioni San Paolo.
The book, by Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona, includes interviews with churchmen named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis was asked by the German newspaper Die Zeit last year about whether, in the Latin-rite church, he could see allowing married “viri probati” — men of proven virtue — to become priests.
“We have to study whether ‘viri probati’ are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in remote communities, for example,” Pope Francis said.
The issue is expected to come up in the 2019 special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to study questions related to the church’s pastoral work in the Amazon. Already at synods in 1990 on the priesthood and 2005 on the Eucharist some bishops — especially from Brazil’s Amazon region — suggested ordaining married men as the only way to ensure Catholics in isolated villages could receive the Eucharist regularly.
Cardinal Stella said that in the Amazon or in some remote Pacific islands, “but not only, there is acute suffering because of a real ‘sacramental emergency,’ which the few priests present are not able to accommodate.”
The discussion Pope Francis wants the church to have, he said, is to look seriously at all the options for responding to people’s real hunger for the Eucharist and honoring its central place in the life of the church.
While the Catholic Church throughout the world, especially in the more secularized West, must improve its vocations work, Cardinal Stella said, it also should study the possibilities and see if “the Spirit suggests something.”
One possibility to explore is the exceptional ordination of older married men in remote communities, he said. “Continuing to maintain their family and jobs and receiving a formation contextualized for their environment, they could offer part-time service to the community they come from in order to guarantee the sacraments, especially by presiding at the eucharistic celebration.”
But an “attentive study and a widespread ecclesial discernment” are necessary before moving in that direction, he said, adding that the ordination of elders in those cases would never mean changing the usual requirements for and ministry of priests in the Latin rite and “in no way would lead to optional celibacy.”
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cardinal stella and those agreeing with him and suggesting women priests need to recall the words of Jesus You cannot serve two masters
It is okay. many Greek-Catholic priests are ordained, and it is okay: God called men to get married.
I am ready to be ordained to, if you wish me to do so.
… so many questions/issues, but here are a few …
1. Why would the proposed ‘older married men’ option only be used for ‘remote communities’? … are the faithful in these remote communities simple second-class Catholics and shouldn’t be afforded a ‘real’ priest?
2. To all the lukewarm progressive Catholics that are screaming for a married/female solution to this so-called shortage, did you encourage your sons/grandsons to become priests when you were given the opportunity? … do you sincerely respect the vocation of priesthood?
3. How is the married/female solution working for others? … has this truly resulted in significant increases in ordinations and in the attendance of the faithful? … is the Truth still being preached/taught to their faithful?
4. For nearly 2,000 years there was no real ‘shortage’ … so why do we only have a problem now? … is it because of our relatively recently ramped-up liberal/progressive society that believes more in servicing their individualism/rights rather than serving God and the needs of our communities/country?
As a Catholic actually living in a semi-remote community that has just one priest ministering what used to be three parishes (containing six mass centres) that are spread over 60 miles (100kms) between the remotest churches, I would love for him to have another priest helping him, but I am not prepared to forgo my faith for this simple convenience.
In 1969, Cardinal Ratzinger (to become Pope Benedict XVI) expressed, “From the crisis of today a new Church of tomorrow will emerge – a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so she will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision … But in all [of this] … the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her centre: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.”
A lukewarm, pick-and-choose type Catholicism of recent years will not survive the future cultural and political tests/fights. We need to stay the course and provide an ‘all-in’ Catholicism to the world which will in turn do more than survive, it will grow.
Typical Modernist tactic. This proposition — an “exception” for remote regions — is just the edge of the wedge that will open the priesthood to all an sundry and, unspeakably, to women. One has to wonder why Conciliarists bother with a priesthood at all, being little more than the largest Protestant Sect in the world.
We need more priests. The eastern rites of our church has married priests. The Latin rite needs needs married priests. Let’s get over it. The old boys network must be pushed aside and celibacy must be made optional. Now. Before its too late. Also the reason about Christ not ordaining women is just an excuse of the old boys network. Get married male priests and later will follow female priests. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us. Start listening and disregard the old boys network.
you say the eastern church has married priests so the latin should do the same protestant churchs do not believe in the real prescence of christ in the eucharist should we go along with that?
We keep circling back again and again to married clergy and not enough vocations to the priesthood. Why isn’t this a problem in other countries, i.e. Poland, Countries in Africa and India, where their priests are now ministering in the US. It is the culture of death in the US leading the way. All in the name of progress. The US Church needs to be more vociferous in speaking up morally on things that the Catholic Church and its teachings do not condone. Even if it means driving people away, maybe Pope Emeritus Benedict may be right in that smaller might be more effective. Being progressive to include all for the sake of losing all is not always the answer. Look at the morals of the country over the past 5 decades. The decadence has led to where we are today w/out the Church speaking up at the pulpit!
Female deacons would be good and are needed.
Laymen could lead prayers at a Communion Service – with Ministers of the Eucharist distributing the consecrated host. Lectors could do the mass readings of the day. Or, with a technical edge, the Mass from a nearby centre could be ‘live streamed’ or played from a recording. I don’t know what the theology is on ‘physical presence’ at Mass , but if the alternative is nothing … the important thing after the Eucharist, is the Church celebrating it.
Regarding women as priests:
With the possible exception of the presiding deaconesses of the early Church and of abbesses like St. Brigid, who effectively were bishops of their territories in early medieval Ireland, historically there is little precedent until the 20th century for women carrying out the functions of men in major orders. But whether this is the unchanging will of God or a result of historical circumstance is not so clear (pace St. John Paul II and Sr. Sara Butler).
To assert that “The reason we cannot have female priests is because Christ did not call women to the priesthood. This can never be changed.” is to ignore the power of the Holy Spirit sent by our Father and his Christ to guide the Church in every age according to the needs of the times. Canonists and church historians know that radical changes have occurred in the ministry of all the sacraments since apostolic times. The anti-modernist myth of the unchanging Church and its unchanging rituals, so beloved of conservative Catholics, is an image of our post-Reformation culture of rigidity and fear and of a static cultural anthropology, rather than of the freedom of the Spirit and openness to cultural change advocated by the theologians of Vatican II and by Pope Francis.
Granted, women were not called to preside at the Eucharist in the earliest Church. But perhaps this was because of the cultural limitations of time and place which Jesus himself, being fully human, necessarily shared.
Therefore, to argue that Jesus Christ did not institute women priests during his earthly ministry in the first century is beside the point. The question is, what does our Lord, risen from the dead and freed from the cultural limitations of time and place, want his Church to do in this matter NOW.
Jesus told us to discern the signs of the times. The signs of our times include the steps taken by our separated brethren in ordaining women over the past hundred years. They also include the manifest work of the Holy Spirit over the past two centuries in liberating slaves from servile bondage and women from old cultural constraints. God in our times is at last breaking down the barriers and inequality not only between Jew and Gentile and between bond and free but between male and female (Galatians 3:28).
For these reasons, I would suggest that both in the name of Christian unity and to carry out the work of the Holy Spirit we should consider moving towards the Catholic ordination of suitably charismed, morally proven women to preside at the Eucharist, as well as the elimination from the priestly ministry of men who lack the requisite charism of office and moral character.
Women “priests”? You mean “priestesses”? Sounds kind of pagan, doesn’t it?
Of course, this will not be a reform initiated in the remote Pacific Islands. Like extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, it will be initiated in the United States and Western Europe as utilitarian coverups for the lack of priests, the lack of bishops seriously interested in pushing vocations, the “bankers hours” approach of most American rectories, and the next wedge issue for undermining a celibate priesthood.
I have not seen that ordaining women pastors has increased the ranks of membership in Protestant communities, in fact it has been very divisive and caused splits in various denominations. I have also been dismayed to see female clergy marching for abortion rights which is incomprehensible to me. There is also the matter of the damage that ordaining women would do to Cathlolic-Orthodox relations. I also respectfully disgree that female clergy will bring more men back to church.
What about older men who are not married?
It’s time to be serious about older married men being made priests as it is the way foward.It will not only alleviate the shortage of priests but will help produce more devoted ones to serve the congregation.
Another possibility that I reckon has merit is the return of already ordained men who have earlier left the priesthood and subsequently married. Some of these men, now likely well on in years, could be ready and willing to be “recycled” for sacramental ministry in remote, rural areas.
This prospect is especially apt in Australia where remote, rural communities have empty presbyteries and churches with the Trustees not sure what to do with these buildings; selling is sometimes not an attractive proposition for a range of reasons.
If, as a couple, they went to minister (each in his/her particular way) to isolated Catholic communities, they would undertake to live together as “brother and sister” or “father and daughter” as the case maybe — or else live separately.
Well, you just never know, do you?
The problem is not celibacy, therefore it will not be solved by ordaining married men. This is simple as 2+2. Yes, it is true that married men could be ordained to the priesthood validly (as they are in the eastern rites and under the special provisions for converted anglicans). We can talk all we want about it, but one thing is sure, it is not going to solve the problem of which the shortage of priestly vocations is only the tip of the iceberg. One thing which should be considered is whether this “solution” is going to create more problems… (as we already have in some places with married priests and married deacons).
“Catholic” Philly afraid of viewpoints that don’t toe the liberal line. Is this a comment box or an echo chamber? You can only dodge truth so long. Cowardice is not a foundation for a sound Catholic life.
There was nothing in my comment that warranted it being rejected, other than it ran afoul of your heterodoxy.
Luis, I highly recommend that you read Sr. Sara Butler’s book “the Catholic Priesthood and Women.” Sister believed that the all male priesthood was a reflection of the status of women, and hoped that was changing. She was asked by Pope Paul VI to study the issue, and her scholarly work changed her mind. The reason we cannot have female priests is because Christ did not call women to the priesthood. This can never be changed. Celibacy, on the other hand, is a discipline, and it can be changed.
Today’s Vatican never tires of seeking stupid solutions to Church problems. The Church receives the number of vocations it deserves. If there’s a vocation crisis, it is only because we are undeserving. We owe God more repentance and prayer. It’s just this simple.
So you think this idea of ordination of older married men is a stupid idea? The least you can do is suggest some smart reasons to address the shortage of priests. Also, what have we Catholics done to “get what we deserve.” Sounds like you are judging in an area reserved for God alone.
You have a valid point: we do deserve the condition we are in, concerning vocations. BUT….
What about the innocent laity in the “backwoods” of the world, who have no access to the full sacramental life of Catholics, because of the lack of priests to serve them? They exist. And they, the truly poor of this world, will be able to testify against the rest of us, we who did not do what we could, to feed them.
We need women priests. I hope there will be celibate female priests before more married male priests. Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is a sign that we need in today’s world. Why should we have more married male priests when there are so many celibate women who would be wonderful priests? The Catholic Church should recognize that religious patriarchy is cultural rather than dogmatic and start ordaining women to the sacramental priesthood. More men will go to church when we have women priests.
Pero que tonterías dices, hombre
Luis, we do “need women priests”. We need men … manly men to answer the call. That’s a closed argument. Pope JPII, (Saint), spoke very clearly on that stating he wasn’t even able to make that change since it was Christ himself who chose men to be priests.
Even in the Old Testament – men from the house of Levi were priests. It’s an impossibility.
What women “need” to do is to rediscover authentic femininity which is directly at odds with the marxist femininity that has caused in part the crisis in the Church we see today.