March 14, 2023 9:23am
Updated: March 14, 2023 10:42am
Pope Francis says the Catholic Church's celibacy decree for unmarried men ordained as priests is a "temporary prescription" that could be reconsidered.
"In the Western Church, celibacy is a temporary prescription," Francis told the Argentinian outlet Infobae late last week, as translated. "I do not know if it is settled in one way or another."
Francis, whose papacy is known for being more progressive, also said that being a priest is an eternal obligation, even if someone leaves the Catholic Church. "Celibacy, on the other hand, is a discipline," he said.
When asked whether the nearly millennia-old decree could be reconsidered, Francis replied: "Yes. In fact, everyone in the Eastern Church is married. Or those who want to. They make a choice. Before being ordained, they opt to marry or to be celibate."
In both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches, the latter of which is in full communion with the Vatican, married men are able to be ordained as priests but not bishops.
The Latin Catholic Church began requiring priestly celibacy starting in the 11th century under Pope Gregory VII, according to Catholic.org. Some exceptions have been given, however, such as in the case of married former Anglican priests who became Catholic priests.
Advocates for priestly celibacy say it is a beautiful vow made in devotion to God. Detractors argue that allowing priests to get married would help solve the growing global priest shortage.