.- Following the rapid dissemination of a quote printed by the Brazilian press this weekend, the newly appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., issued a statement through the Vatican this morning, clarifying that the removal of a requirement for priestly celibacy is not in the immediate works.
On Saturday, the Brazilian newspaper “Estado de Sao Paolo” ran a story in which they quoted the former Archbishop of Sao Paolo as saying, “Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the church…Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things, it has to advance with history.”
The quote was widely distributed and viewed as an indication that a change to the Church’s requirement of celibacy for Latin Rite priests was imminent.
However, as Cardinal Hummes was quick to clarify this morning, the Church has no immediate intention of lifting the discipline which requires a priest to offer the entirety of his life for the Church and remain unmarried.
In regard to the current lack of priestly vocations experienced by many dioceses and religious orders around the world, Hummes said that the opinion of the majority of the hierarchy is that other problems, such as a pervasive culture of secularism, are more to blame than a requirement of priestly celibacy.
Hummes noted that his comments to the Brazilian paper were not meant to be novel. "In the Church it has always been clear that priests' obligation to celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary norm,” he said.
In fact, he continued, while the disciplinary norm has been present in the Latin Church for some time, there exist Eastern Rite Churches united to the Catholic Church in which married priests are a usual occurrence.
“Yet,” he continued, “it is also clear that the norm prescribing celibacy for priests in the Latin Church is very ancient and is founded upon consolidated tradition and upon strong motivations, both theological-spiritual and practical-pastoral, as reiterated also by Popes.”
The cardinal pointed out that, "Even during the recent Synod on priests, the most widespread opinion among the fathers was that a relaxation of the rule of celibacy would not be a solution even to the problem of the lack of vocations, which is, rather, to be linked to other causes, in the first place the modern culture of secularization. This is clear also from the experience of other Christian confessions that have married priests and pastors.”
"This question is not, then, currently on the order of the day for the ecclesial authorities, as was recently reiterated following the latest meeting of heads of dicastery with the Holy Father," he concluded.