Married Catholic Priests

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Don’t blink!

It’s not farfetched for members of the Roman Catholic faithful in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1 to soon discover in the future the priest saying mass for them is very much married.

Such a historic change to the tradition of celibate priesthood has already been set in motion after a summit of Catholic bishops meeting at the Vatican last week boldly recommended to Pope Francis allowing ordination of married men as priests in parts of the world.

It could bring an end to the restriction on celibacy and lead to similar reforms elsewhere in the world, including the Philippines.

128 bishops voted for the proposal; 41 went against it. Many of the bishops wanted a “universal approach, meaning support for married priests around the world.

It’s the first time a summit of Catholic bishops has backed such a historic change to the tradition of celibacy among priests.

With the proposal of the bishops, it is first zeroed in the Amazon Region, composed of the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Coping with the growing clergy sex abuse scandals and declining number of priests worldwide, Pope Francis has an open mind of opening the priesthood to married men – an issue that has long been taboo.

Unlike other priests in other denominations, Catholic priests are not allowed to marry. The celibate priesthood has been a tradition of the Latin Rite Catholic Church since the 11th century.

Pope Francis has long stated he appreciates the discipline of celibacy but since it is not a doctrine, it can change.

Such a recommendation by the Catholic bishops would crack the roughly the 1,000-year-old restriction and potentially revolutionize the Catholic priesthood.

Pope Francis thanked the bishops for their candor. Francis and the participating bishops known as “synod,” felt encouraged to “leave comfortable shores” in seeking new and better ways to propel the church’s mission in spreading the Catholic faith.

Pope Francis declared to a crowd at St. Peters Square,  “ In the synod, we asked it of ourselves, desiring to open new roads for the proclamation of the Gospel.”

“To leave by the Gospel, one must go beyond one’s self. We felt prodded to go out, to leave the comfortable shores of our safe ports to sink into deep waters – not in the swampy waters of ideologies, but in the open sea in which the Spirit invites us to throw out the fishing nets, “the Pope explained, apparently referring to parables of fishing for souls of people.

Pope Francis explained the faithful sometimes ask how they can propagate the word of the Gospel.

It’s expected that by year’s end, Francis will draw his conclusion about the request of the bishops.

When he became pope, he frowned on the pomp of the Vatican, served notice to the church’s 3,000 strong civil service that he meant to be its master, to his support for migrants and his views on global capitalism.

But most of all, his controversial moves to re-examine the church’s teachings about sex has scandalized conservatives and reactionaries.

When the synod met regarding the issue of ordaining men into priesthood, many believed it will not be approved by majority of the bishops. But the voting of the bishops proved otherwise.

His conclusions will be eagerly awaited by the catholic faithful in many parts of the world, like the Philippines, where evangelical Protestant churches are increasingly winning converts.

At St. Peters Square, the Pope appeared to hint at the appeal for married priests. In them he noted, that setting off from shore meant being “open to new things.”

Pope Francis, urging acceptance to new ways, can be a possible rebuke at conservative critics who holds the view (justifiably or unjustifiably?) that with his open mind, he could be weakening the Church’s foundation.

Pope Francis’s critics include the so-called “traditionalist Catholics,” who insist the Vatican a stick to centuries-old rules demanding that church’s priests be celibate, unmarried males.

Pope Francis’s humility and modesty have transformed him into a popular figure around the world. But sadly, inside the church, his reforms have infuriated conservatives.

More saddening to note that   Pope Francis is one of the most hated persons in the world today.

Hated not, by Protestants, Muslims or atheists but some of his own followers. Outside of the church, he is hugely popular.

When he became pope in 2013, his actions caught the imagination of the world: he personally carried his own bags, settled his bills in hotels.

He asked of gay people, “Who am I to judge?” He washed the feet of Muslim women refugees.

Inside the church, conservatives hold the view his spirit may divide the church.

Such mixture of hatred and fear is common among “enemies” of the pope. Francis, being the first non-European pope in modern times, and the first ever Jesuit pope, was elected as an outsider to the Vatican establishment.

He was expected to have enemies. But none foresaw just how many he would make.

If the measure of intelligence is the ability to change, then hear from Zorpo Limmias, 64, a Cordilleran and a devout Catholic, who, talking with Ah Kong last week about the issue of married Catholic priests, said, “A mind is like a parachute or umbrella. It won’t work if it’s not open.”

To paraphrase Zorpo, he is very much amenable for Catholic priests to be married, or to accept married men and be ordained as priests, saying, “In my personal opinion, it will be a great pastoral change for the church.”

Zorpo went further, “It will stop altogether the sex scandals that have been reported having hounded many Catholic priests.”

Even President Rodrigo Duterte claimed he and other of his schoolmates were molested when they were studying at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University. He identified the priest.

Dwelling on the supposed sex scandals, Zorpo related a story of how an elderly priest invited one day a young priest to come over for supper.

During the meal, the young priest could help but notice how shapely and attractive the housekeeper was.

Over the course of the evening, the young priest wondered if there was more between the housekeeper and the elderly priest than met the eye.

Reading the young priest’s thoughts, the elderly priest said, “I know what you must be thinking. But I assure you, my relationship with the housekeeper is purely professional.”

Sometime later, the housekeeper informed the elderly priest that after the young priest had gone, their beautifully ornamented silver spoon, its handle enclosed with gold, was missing.

“You don’t suppose the young priest took it?” the housekeeper asked the elderly priest.

“Don’t worry, I’ll write and ask him,” the elderly priest told the housekeeper, which he did. His letter read:

“My dear young priest, I am not saying you took our silver spoon mounted with gold. But the fact remains that it went missing many days after you left the house.”

Immediately, the elderly priest received a letter reply from the young priest which said.” Dear Father, I am not saying that you do sleep with your housekeeper, neither I am saying that you do not sleep with your housekeeper.”

“But the fact remains that if you were sleeping in your own bed, you would have found your silver spoon mounted with gold.”

Today, some theologians view celibacy has fueled the clerical sexual abuse crisis, fostering a culture in which even a consensual adult relationship becomes something to hide.

Some clerics also make another point: that many of good would-be priests have stayed away, opting instead to start families – maybe to the detriment of the church.

Still, other are more direct, saying, “We need married priests. Flexibility requires an open mind and a welcoming of new alternatives. It’s as simple as that.” – Bony A. Bengwayan

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