“Whether celibacy is kept or not will not matter a whit to whether the Church remains Catholic.”
From John Allen in Crux:
Not wasting any time, the chairman of Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon kicked things off Monday morning by putting the hotly contested issues of married priests and the role of woman squarely on the assembly’s table.
“Another issue consists in the lack of priests at the service of local communities in the area, with a consequent lack of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, as well as other sacraments,” said Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, appointed by Francis to serve as the relator, or chair, of the Oct. 6-27 gathering.
“This means pastoral care made up of sporadic visits instead of adequate daily pastoral care,” Hummes said.While Americans and Europeans often complain of priest shortages, church statistics suggest there’s one priest for every 1,300 baptized Catholics in both regions. In Latin America overall that ratio is 1 priest to 7,800 Catholics, and in some parts of the Amazon it can soar to 1-15,000 and higher.
“Participation in the celebration of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, is essential for the full and progressive development of Christian communities and a true experience of the Word of God in people’s lives,” Hummes said. “It will be necessary to define new paths for the future.”
Hummes then got concrete about what those “new paths” might be.
“During the consultation stages, local communities, missionaries and indigenous persons, faced with the urgent need experienced by most of the Catholic communities in Amazonia, requested that the path be opened for the ordination of married men resident in their communities, albeit confirming the great importance of the charisma of celibacy in the Church,” he said.
Hummes then indicated the reflection won’t stop at married men.
“Faced with a great number of women who nowadays lead communities in Amazonia, there is a request that this service be acknowledged and there be an attempt to consolidate it with a suitable ministry for the women who lives in these communities,” he said, without specifying what that “suitable ministry” might be.
The reference to women drew applause in the synod hall.
Meanwhile, my blog neighbor Msgr. Eric Barr takes a clear-eyed look at the celibacy issue (and others):
What very well might happen is a change in pastoral practice for the Church in the Amazonian culture. This could, indeed, be earth-shattering because chances are there will be a proposal adopted to offer priestly ordination to worthy older married men. Catholics in the West may well be startled, at first, since that seems to strike at the very nature of their Church. Unfortunately, Catholics are poorly educated on what counts as Church teaching and what doesn’t. Yes, celibacy is the practice of the Church in the West. But that’s exactly what it is–a practice, not a dogma of faith. We had over one thousand years of Church history with married priests and bishops, and the Church hummed along nicely, thank you.
I don’t want to minimize the effect of such a proposal being adopted by the synod. Anyone who thinks that such a move would only apply to the Amazon is foolish. Married priests in the Amazon would signal the death knell of celibacy for the secular clergy in the West. I truly believe this. To think that many Catholic priests could be married while prohibiting others from doing the same would cause a terrible morale crisis and lead to widespread rejection of the requirement of celibacy. That’s a big deal, but not the catastrophe the RadTrad heretics are predicting.
Celibacy is not a dogma; it is a discipline. It can be dressed up in a fine spirituality but in the end it is a discipline not necessary to preserve the Truth of the Church. It is a worthy thing to have a discussion over whether the 800 year mandatory practice should be kept, but whether it is kept or not will not matter a whit to whether the Church remains Catholic.