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Catholic MPs urge Pope Francis to allow ordination of married men

By on Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church were the subject of an Intelligence Squared debate

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church were the subject of an Intelligence Squared debate

Catholic peers and MPs have written to Pope Francis asking him to consider permitting bishops in the United Kingdom to ordain married men as priests.

The parliamentarians, led by Rob Flello MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool argue in their letter that it is anomalous that married Anglican priests can be received into the Catholic Church and ordained as Catholic priests but married Catholic men cannot do the same.

The 21 parliamentarians from all political parties suggest that “if the celibacy rule were relaxed, there would be many others who would seek ordination bringing great gifts to the priesthood.”

The signatories also reiterate that celibacy should be retained for bishops in order to indicate the “continuing high regard we have for those who are able to live a genuinely celibate life.”

But in a 2012 interview, Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio) said that he favoured maintaining priestly celibacy. He said: “In Western Catholicism, some organizations are pushing for more discussion about the issue. For now, the discipline of celibacy stands firm. Some say,with a certain pragmatism, that we are losing manpower. If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option.

“For the moment, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures. What happens is that the scandals have an immediate impact. Tradition has weight and validity. Catholic ministers chose celibacy little by little. Up until 1100, some chose it and some did not. After, the East followed the tradition of non-celibacy as personal choice, while the West went the opposite way. It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change. Personally, it never crossed my mind to marry. But there are cases. Look at the case of the Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo. He’s a brilliant guy. But as a bishop, he had a fall and resigned from the diocese. This decision was honest. Sometimes we see priests fall into this.”

The full text of the letter signed by parliamentarians is printed below:

Your Holiness, We write to you as Catholic members of both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament.

First, we would like to warmly congratulate you on your election and assure you of our prayers and of our support as you work for the deep renewal of the Church. We would also like to place one specific request before you.

Your two predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, guided we are sure by the Holy Spirit, generously permitted the ordination of married Anglican clergy as Roman Catholic priests. These men and their families have proved to be a great blessing to our parishes.

Based on that very positive experience we would request that, in the same spirit, you permit the ordination of married Catholic men to the priesthood in Great Britain.

In recent years we have been saddened by the loss of far too many good priests. If the celibacy rule were relaxed, there would be many others who would seek ordination, bringing great gifts to the priesthood.

If celibacy were retained for bishops, as in the Eastern rites, this would signal the continuing high regard we have for those who are able to live a genuinely celibate life.

We recognise that the Church is serious about the New Evangelisation and the need to renew the Christian faith in our secular societies. As such one of our priorities must be to ensure that parishes have priests to administer the sacraments, therefore we believe that allowing married priests is desirable and imperative.

In the first instance, based on the Anglican precedent and the desirability of subsidiarity, it would be logical and greatly welcomed by the faithful, if you were to consider permitting our bishops in England and Wales and in Scotland to ordain married men where they believe it would meet the pastoral needs of the local Church.

We very much hope this proposal finds favour with you. Please keep our country and its people in your prayers. Thank you. We remain, Yours sincerely,

Rob Flello MP
Prof Lord Alton of Liverpool KCSG KCMCO
Dr John Pugh MP
Prof Baroness Hollins
Stephen Pound MP
Baroness Goudie
William Cash MP
Lord Hylton
Thomas Docherty MP
Rt Hon Lord McAvoy
Michael Dugher MP
Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC
Tom Blenkinsop MP
Rt Hon Lord Touhig KSS
Chris Ruane MP
Patricia Glass MP
Ronnie Campbell MP
Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP
Meg Hillier MP
Jonathan Evans MP
Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP KSG KCMCO

  • RightInCali

    No, friend. You are wrong. PERIOD.

  • RightInCali

    You quote the “fence around the Torah”; Jewish priests were married. You have just destroyed your own argument.

  • RightInCali

    You speak for yourself, on a blog, under a fake name.

    Now THAT inspires confidence.

  • RightInCali

    I am reporting you to your Bishop.

  • RightInCali

    What an amazing and shameful display of Pharasaical legalism.

  • RightInCali

    Catholic tradition can justify married priesthood both in practice and Biblically. As for the rest…go find another religion.

    You say “living in the 21st century.” That amounts to demanding that Church redefine morality in light of current mores. That is called modernism. Modernism is a heresy.

  • RightInCali

    As a religious and political conservative, I consider the term “rigid right” a grave insult.

    These people are not conservatives. They are medievalist zealots.

  • RightInCali

    You are exactly correct.

  • RightInCali

    “That treats it as a merely legal thing.”

    You’re right, it is. Then again, you’re the one of the crowd that asserts Peter left (effectively divorced) his wife for religion’s sake. I have trouble taking that statement –or anyone who espouses it — seriously.

  • RightInCali

    Some of those men were married. What’s your point?

  • RightInCali

    So, married men can’t be trusted? Wow. What a statement. I hope you’re not married.

  • RightInCali

    Everyone has a vocation, whether to the priesthood or something else. Vocations are heaven-sent, meaning everyone’s vocation is equal. Priests just have a different calling in life than non-priests. In short, they have been called to a different job.

    To dispute this is to say that a priest is a superior human being than everyone else because of his calling in life — his job. That is nonsense and smacks of Divine Right medievalism.

    Military, medicine, public safety, and numerous other vocations are even more physically and mentally demanding, to say nothing of time-consuming, than the priesthood. Yet no one argues that those following such vocations must be celibate to devote their entire energies to their very important vocation.

    The priesthood is a career like any other. Some are called, most are not. They are human beings, and are entitled to a normal, godly human life like everyone else. That would make them better priests with a better understanding of reality.

    In short, let’s stop treating priests and priesthood with such unseemly idolatry.

  • paulpriest

    Opine all you like but it won’t ever make invalid orders valid

  • paulpriest

    Get over it…anglican orders are invalid and nothing’s gonna change it.

  • LocutusOP

    Probably not.

  • bazzerman

    It is interesting to note that the discussion here is totally about the Church in Europe. There are now more Catholics in the world then there have ever been. According to the Pew Research Centre (http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Catholic/The-Global-Catholic-Population.aspx) the absolute number has tripled since 1910 and remained fairly constant as a percentage of the world’s population. What has changed is the shift from the west and so called “developed” world to Asia, Africa South America. So much for Vatican II being a disaster or failure. The seminaries in Africa are having to turn people away as they are full to the seems.So perhaps the issue is the failure of the Church to engage with Western Culture; going back to Latin and the old ways will not help this. The Church must find new ways to fight moral decadence; this does not mean tearing up the principles of our faith in the Risen Lord; but looking at how we can re Evangilise our society.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    MOST WELCOME.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    Not as wives but as themselves as Apostles.

  • Dr Falk

    as I say Father I’ll leave the text to stand so those who will read can decide.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    To see things in the right perspective we have to go to the original context of the demands of the Lord. St.Luke unlike others mentions also “WIFE” in the context of things and people they were asked to leave behind; “Any one who loves his father or Mother, brothers, Sisters or property more than me is not WORTHY OF ME….. Who said that? It is quite foolish to think that JESUS LEFT OUT WIFE here and made an exception or concession…..When Peter told the Lord, “we have left everything for you…” he meant exactly everything the Lord demanded. (If Peter made a mistake later, impulsive as he was, it is no standard for anyone WORTH HIS SALT).

    Some people like Peter who were already married and matured in their marriages and it is in that state of being satiated in their natural cravings, that they chose to follow the Lord. Like RIPE FRUITS they fell into the hands of THE LORD at the touch of his Divine fingers. Peter must have made a blunder later, but then, that is only that much and nothing more like a DIVINE STANDARD for LIFE AND BEHAVIOUR for others except of the half-hearted.

    Even in natural Religions there is a phenomenon called Sannyas and Vanaprastha, after the satiation of natural cravings in marriage, (this means specifically SEXUAL CRAVING, the desire to be joined to one’s wife’s body in and through the sexual act) so many people choose this path of Sannyas and Vanaprastha to experience the Joy of being totally with God.

    No one is seen here carrying his girl with him.

    The married state is heart-divided state. It is quite laughable to think that the Lord needed only such second rate people – people still attached the body of their wives( a case in point: the memorable words of the WIFE of TULASIDAS, the author of RAMCHARITMANAS, so revealing and inspiring in this context, contact any Hindi Scholars from North India), people with a divided heart; it looks like people trying to travel keeping their one foot on one boat and the other on another one.

    It is still more ridiculous to think that there were not truly generous Souls available for the Lord.

    The TRUE PROBLEM with many Christians is that they don’t know THE TRUE WORTH OF THE LORD, THE PERSON OF THE SON OF GOD INCARNATE because they do not MEDITATE on GOD’S WORD from where TRUE KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM come; instead they become comfortable in the traps set up by their Leaders with too many TEACHINGS and the rest of the things for their being kept occupied.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Dr Falk

    Thank you Father.

    (1)Your reading of Jesus’s words is not the only one possible. It’s possible the separation was for their work while the Lord was with them and after this their wives were present as mentioned in 1 Corinthians.

    (2) I have not suggested that ‘truly generous souls’ are not available. I believe they are.

    (3) I disagree in seeing the ‘truly generous souls’ as only celibates. Some of the most truly generous souls are husbands and wives – sometimes one parent families with the parent doing their best to bring up their children – true generosity. Please don’t locate true generosity only in celibacy.

    (3) Again I don’t accept the marriage = earthly ( ‘people still attached the body of their wives’) whereas clerical celibacy = heavenly (‘truly generous Souls available for the Lord’). I think it’s all in the hearts of those in the state. Please don’t deify clerical celibacy not disparage marriage and sexual love – God can be in both or in neither.

  • RightInCali

    You purport to speak for God, do you? How nice.

  • fromphil2bobby

    Ordaining married men as priests is not the problem, Pope Benedict XVI did that, the problem is with existing priests, he brought in Anglican clergy because of the crisis thinking it would help solve the it all but, celibacy needs to end and hopefully with the experience Pope Francis had when that girl ‘dazzled’ him, he must have been meant to go through that ordeal because he is now pope and we pray that he does something about this problem the sooner the better…..it can’t go on for the sake of saving the Catholic church, it really can’t go on.
    God did not make male and female for nothing, it was for a purpose, priests are human and they were made by God through the love of their parents, St. Peter the first pope was married, I really don’t know what this is all about.

  • Jjae

    Maybe we could copy the eastern rites in communion with the Catholic Church and allow marriage if it’s before ordination? I mean we are low on priests.