You 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.