Pope Francis, on Wednesday, refused to endorse a proposal to allow married priests in the Amazon region, in what would have been a special exception to the celibacy rule for clergy.
In an October summit known as a synod, Amazon bishops called for admitting married men into the priesthood, only in their region, to make up for an acute lack of clergy in remote rainforest areas.
In a document marking his official response to the summit on Married Priests, Francis makes no mention of this, and also rules out letting non-priests give the key sacraments of the Holy Communion and confession.
An exception to the celibacy rule for priests, albeit limited to the Amazon region, would have likely enraged traditionalists, who already see Francis’ papacy as too liberal.
This latest development comes a few weeks after Pope Francis was warned by the retired Pope Benedict reaffirming of the priestly celibacy. The retired Pope had issued a passionate defence of clerical celibacy,to which Francis is considering an exception that would allow some married men to serve as married priests.
The retired Pope Benedict warned in a book that he co-authored with Cardinal Robert Sarah.
“The ability to renounce marriage in order to place oneself fully at the disposal of the Lord has become a criterion for priestly ministry,” Benedict XVI writes.
He also wrote that he believes celibacy carries “great significance” and is “truly essential” as a priest’s path to God becomes the foundation of his life.
“The call to follow Jesus is not possible without this sign of freedom and of renunciation of all commitments. Celibacy must penetrate, with its requirements, all of the attitudes of existence,” he wrote.
Though Pope Francis has also defended celibacy — calling it a “gift” to the church and saying it should not be optional — some of the Argentine pontiff’s allies have pushed for exceptions, saying the priesthood needs to modernize and find ways to make up for a severe shortage of vocations.
The French daily Le Figaro published excerpts of the book “From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church,” co-authored with conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah; The Associated Press obtained galleys of the English edition, which is being published Feb. 20 by Ignatius Press.
Benedict’s intervention was extraordinary, given he had promised to remain “hidden from the world” when he retired in 2013, and pledged his obedience to the new pope. He has largely held to that pledge, though he penned an odd essay last year that blamed the sexual abuse crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
The book is likely to fuel renewed anxiety about the wisdom of Benedict’s decision to call himself “emeritus pope,” rather than merely a retired bishop, and create the unprecedented situation of a former pope living in the Vatican gardens near a current one, and wearing the white cassock of the papacy.
We wait till on the 20th for the release of the book by Ignatius Press…