Pope Francis in his latest interview has hinted that he would review the Roman Catholic Church’s rule of priestly celibacy.
Francis, who previously opposed the idea that celibacy was an option for leaders of the church, appeared to loosen his stance when speaking with Argentine outlet Infobae. He called celibacy an individual “discipline” instead of a “contradiction” to the church.
In the interview, which was conducted to mark the 10-year anniversary of his election as pope, Francis said: “There is no contradiction for a priest to marry. Celibacy in the western Church is a temporary prescription. It is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever, whether you like it or not. Whether you leave or not is another matter, but it is forever. On the other hand, celibacy is a discipline.”
Celibacy in the church
Clerical celibacy has been officially mandated in the Catholic Church since the 11th century. Centuries prior it was tradition for priests to vow abstinence. The ruling has been controversial within the church for at least 1,000 years, but the Vatican has persisted enforcing the requirement. Until now, Francis, like his predeccesors, preached the rule as well.
Germany’s Catholic Church recently voted to request the Pope end the requirement.
Appearing to consider the request, Francis said: “Everyone in the Eastern Church is married, or those who want to. Before ordination there is the choice to marry or to be celibate." The pope cited the Eastern Rite Catholic Church, which gives more liberty to its priests.
“We have one in the curia [papal court] — I ran into him today — who has a wife and a son. There is no contradiction in a priest being married," he continued.
Also in the Infobae interview, which was published in Spanish, Francis, 86, expressed concern about rising global divorce rates.
He suggested people are marrying too young. “Sometimes one goes to a wedding and it seems more like it’s a social reception and not a sacrament. When young people say forever, who knows what they mean by forever.”