McManus links Third World pope, married priests

Arinze, Cardinal2.jpgYou can agree or disagree, but conservative religion columnist Michael “Marriage Savers” McManus — a mainstream Protestant — has an interesting point to make about the papal conclave. He asks this question: In the age of imploding ordination statistics, would a Third World pope — especially one from Africa — be more likely to allow priests to get married than a pope from Europe or elsewhere in the First World?

I wonder, who will be more upset when they read the following — Catholics on the left or the right?

The church’s position on this issue is contradictory. St. Peter and many early priests, bishops and popes were married. Celibacy began to be required because married priests allowed their children to inherit church property. While celibacy is required by most priests, John Paul permitted 200 Lutheran and Episcopal priests who were married to become U.S. Catholic priests. And there are thousands of “Eastern Rite” Catholic priests in Eastern Europe who are married. Why? Centuries ago, the church made the change to compete with Orthodox priests who are allowed to marry.

What about the competition by Protestant clergy, who are not only allowed to marry, but can offer better pastoral service since the average pastor serves 100 people? No wonder Protestant churches are growing rapidly in Latin America, home of 483 million Catholics, double that of Europe. There is only one priest for 4,000 Catholics in Africa and one per 8,000 in Latin America. Millions can attend Mass only once every few months. Global South cardinals feel the shortage even more acutely than U.S. Therefore, I predict that U.S. cardinals will support a Global South prelate willing to call for optional celibacy. None have done so publicly, but the issue will be debated as they vote.

That’s his opinion. It’s an interesting connection between two major issues and one that would be interesting to investigate, all of you GetReligion readers who are currently in Rome.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    I’ve just begun reading this blog, and have been very impressed with its content. However, there is one error: the Catholic Church did not allow Eastern Rite priests to marry due to competition with the Orthodox. Rather, Eastern Christians kept that tradition upon reunifying with Rome. Rome did not institute it or reinstitute merely to help keep up with the Orthodox. (In America, Eastern Catholic priests were forbidden from marrying because American R.C. bishops feared losing congregants to to the Easterner and also were suspicious about whether married priests were truly Catholic. That regrettable incident was unique to America,however, and was correct by JPII. There are married Eastern Catholic priests in America again, though some eparchies are still adapting…)

  • Dan Berger

    One other distinction to remember (TMatt is certainly aware of this, but a lot of Protestants aren’t) is that the term “married priests” in the ancient tradition doesn’t mean what Martin Luther meant by it.

    To wit, married men may be ordained as priests. Ordained priests may not marry. This is the ancient Catholic (and Orthodox) practice. It is very much different than the Western Protestant practice established by Luther, in which ordination is no bar to marriage.

  • Samuel J. Howard

    This is still not right.

    Eastern Catholic priests (generally) have always been able to marry before ordination. Both before they broke with Rome and after they returned.

    Yes, there are prudential aspects to the Western discipline. Mostly, however, it is spiritual.

    Protestant pastors only serve 100 people vs. priests w/thousands. Well, maybe, but that’s apples and oranges. Priests are required to have usually a college degree or at least two years of college and four years of seminary formation. Some Protestant sects require no educational formation. Furthermore, there are a lot fewer Protestants around in a lot of these countries which improves their numbers.

    If you were to count full-time ministers/practicing member the numbers would be a lot closer.