Here are a couple of interesting articles from “National Catholic Register,” both related to marriage.
The first is on Pope Francis allowing a discussion to take place among the bishops of the Amazon region on the question of married priests. The ratio of Catholics to priests in the Amazon region is 10,000 to 1, three times the world average and five times the average for the United States. These priests have a difficult time traveling such large spans of territory, so the Catholics of the Amazon go long stretches without access to the sacraments, in particular the Holy Eucharist. The bishops of the Amazon region, who will meet in synod in 2019, requested of Pope Francis permission to discuss the possibility of ordaining married men of “proven virtue” to the priesthood, and Pope Francis reportedly said he would allow it. We’ll see where that goes, but it’s important to point out that this is far, far from Pope Francis considering doing away with the celibacy requirement for Latin-rite priests universally. Whatever requirements for celibacy that are lifted, if that even happens, would apply only to that region and would likely begin with men who are already ordained deacons.
The second article is about three bishops from Kazakhstan issuing a six-page document that amounts to a profession of faith in the “immutable truths about sacramental marriage.” The bishops issued their profession, they say, in response to certain interpretations of Pope Francis’ encyclical Amoris Laetitia that they regard as too liberal in allowing Catholics who have divorced and civilly re-married to receive Holy Communion. The Kazakh bishops are concerned that interpretations of Amoris Laetitia by bishop conferences in Germany and Malta, which have been approved by Pope Francis, are opening the door to “the plague of divorce” and felt the need to re-affirm the indissolubility of marriage and the integrity of the Eucharist in light of what they see as the confusion among the faithful caused by these interpretations.
In my mind, if the pope and bishops of the Amazon feel that married priests will help meet the sacramental needs of the faithful in their region, I don’t see a problem with that.
As for Amoris Laetitia, I absolutely think the faithful could benefit from some clarity on this matter, and that it’s the responsibility of the pope and bishops to provide that clarity. Right now, the Church’s teaching on divorced and civilly re-married Catholics receiving Holy Communion is being regularly ignored in many parishes in the United States. I don’t think changing the Church’s teaching is the answer so much as converting the hearts and minds of the Catholic faithful to be ever more faithful.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.