October 10, 2005

Allow priests to marry, Vatican told


From Richard Owen in Rome

LEADING bishops gathered at the Vatican have suggested that Roman Catholic priests should be allowed to marry as a way of overcoming the shortage of priests.

The question of celibacy, which was suppressed under Pope John Paul II, has come to dominate a three-week synod of more than 250 cardinals and bishops.Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, who is seen as a potential future Pope and is chairing the discussion, raised the issue in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Scola said that some bishops had “put forward the request to ordain married faithful of proven faith and virtue, the so-called viri probati,” while maintaining his own support for celibacy. There is a shortage of priests, and reformers believe that allowing married priests would help to attract newcomers.

There is one priest for every 2,677 Catholics, compared with one for every 1,797 thirty years ago. In the United States, where the Church has been hit hard by the crisis involving sexual abuse by clergy, the number of priests has fallen from 58,909 to 42,528. Meanwhile, the number of American Catholics has risen from 48 million to 65 million.

Posted by kshaw at October 10, 2005 06:04 PM