So Pope Francis has opened the door a crack to married priests in what will be seen as perhaps his most significant statement since becoming pontiff.
"Celibacy is not a dogma. It is a rule of life that I appreciate very much and I think it is a gift for the Church, but since it is not a dogma, the door is always open," he said in an interview after his Middle East trip.
Though the tradition of celibate priests goes back 1,000 years it is not Catholic Church dogma and is, therefore, open to change.
Not before time. The church would be renewed in so many different ways if priests could marry. The pedophile scandals would be firmly in the rear -view mirror and much better adjusted young men would apply for the priesthood.
And why not? It would be an idealistic way to serve those in need and your community while retaining the right to a home life and family.
There is nothing natural about celibacy. The church cannot have it both ways, insisting sex is a gift from God for procreation yet denying their own priests that basic right.
St Peter was married according to three separate gospel passages as were several early popes. Celibacy only became the law around the 11th century.
The Second Lateran Council attended by 500 bishops held in 1139 forbade marriage. In 1563 the Council of Trent reaffirmed the ban.
Now comes Pope Francis.
Will he change it? Apparently he would have to submit the request to the Pontifical Council on the Interpretation of Texts. (They last changed the statute disallowing women as altar servers, girls now serve mass)
Will priests get to marry? It would be earthshaking if it happened, but this pope is an earthshaker to begin with.
His comments certainly seem to indicate his preference for change. Let us hope he has the courage to implement it.
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