VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church should “think seriously” about allowing priests to marry, a senior Vatican official and adviser to Pope Francis said in an interview published on Sunday.
“This is probably the first time I have said this publicly and it will seem heretical to some people,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who is also deputy secretary in the Vatican’s doctrinal office, told the Times of Malta.
Pope Francis has ruled out any possibility of changing the Roman Catholic rule requiring priests to be celibate. But it is not a formal doctrine of the Church and could therefore be modified by a future pope.
A Vatican spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Scicluna, perhaps best known for his investigations into sexual abuse crimes, noted that priests were allowed to marry during the first millennium of Church history and that marriage is permitted today in the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church.
“If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priests be celibate,” he said. “Experience has shown me that this is something we need to seriously think about.”
Scicluna, 64, said the Church had “lost many high priests because they chose marriage.”
He added that “there is a place” for celibacy in the Church, but that we must also take into account the fact that a priest sometimes falls in love. He must then choose “between her and the priesthood and some priests cope with this by secretly engaging in romantic relationships”.
The debate over whether Catholic priests should be allowed to marry has lasted for centuries.
Priests are permitted to marry in the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church as well as in the Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican Churches.
Opponents of the married priesthood claim that celibacy allows a priest to devote himself entirely to the Church.
In 2021, the pope rejected a proposal to allow some elderly married men to be ordained in remote parts of the Amazon where in some places the faithful only saw a priest once a year.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Ros Russell)
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