Married Priests and Missionary Failure


National Catholic Register, 17 November 2017

A modification in response to pastoral failure within the Latin rite would be a brand-new step.

It is not quite right to say that married priests are coming to the Catholic Church — they have been here for quite some time. But recent decisions by Pope Francis mean that something new is almost certainly coming in a few years — the ordination of married men to the priesthood for the Amazon region of South America. Whether it will be extended more widely remains to be seen.

Earlier this fall, Pope Francis announced that in 2019 there will be a special synod of bishops to consider the pastoral care of the Amazon region in South America, a vast area sparsely populated by mostly aboriginal peoples. The region is largely in Brazil, but it also includes neighboring countries.

For decades, the region has so lacked priests that the remote areas often see a priest only a few times a year. Also for decades, it has been proposed by some that the so-called viri probati(“tested men”), perhaps akin to elders in an aboriginal tribe, be ordained as priests to serve the local population. These would be married men who currently would not be eligible for ordination in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. This proposal never went anywhere.

However, in recent weeks, it was reported that Pope Francis gave permission for this proposal to be discussed at the special synod of 2019.

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