The celibacy tradition in the Catholic Church since the 11th century, in as much as it promoted chastity among the priests, helped spare the church the financial burdens of providing for large families and to ensure that any assets of the priest would pass to the church if it ever allowed married men into the priesthood.
A shortage of priests in some isolated South American communities, where most Catholics go for weeks or months without attending Mass or participating in the sacrament of confession, is forcing the hand of the Vatican to rewrite a part of its priesthood requirements.
The Roman Catholic church is reconsidering its centuries-old requirement that priests must be celibate in a document suggesting older married men may be ordained in remote areas of the Amazon calling on the church to consider it as a means to overcome the shortage of clergy in the region.
The married men could enter the priesthood even if they already have a family that is established and stable, in order to ensure the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life.
“While affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church, there have been requests that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of conferring priestly ordination on elderly men is discussed. Communities have difficulty in celebrating the Eucharist frequently due to the lack of priests. For this reason, instead of leaving the communities without the Eucharist, the criteria of selection and preparation of the ministers authorised to celebrate it should be changed,” the document reads.
The document also acknowledges that within the church the feminine presence in communities isn’t always valued and discussions on giving women in the Amazon a greater role within the Catholic church has been recommended.
The pressure to allow married priests has been building over years for Catholic fraternity. This proposition for the ordination of married men in specific communities could be a good thing for those urging the church to go easy on the celibacy rule.