A shortage of priests in the Amazon region has caused Pope Francis to be contemplating whether or not he should ordain respected older married men to the priesthood. But retired Pope Benedict is not having it. He has issued a passionate defense of the Roman Catholic Church’s celibacy tradition.
In his book, From the Depths of Our Hearts, the 92-year-old Pope Benedict defends the centuries’ old tradition, and insists that that the ability to “put oneself completely at the disposition of the Lord” is a criteria for those wishing to be ordained as priests.
“Celibacy must penetrate, with its requirements, all of the attitudes of existence,” he wrote. Benedict 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,” he wrote.
Critics fear that if approved, such a move could lead to a wider dissolution of the discipline of celibacy around the world. It has since been approved by Catholic bishops by a vote of 128-41. But it only applies to some churches in the Amazon region, including parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Allowing married men to become priests is not the same thing as allowing priests to marry, so the change would not affect the rule of celibacy for Catholic priests, who are not allowed to marry.