Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore has said he is talking with other bishops about establishing a commission to consider the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood. The commission would also discuss appointing female deacons.
Kilmore covers the county of Cavan and sections of other counties nearby.
The Irish Catholic reports that he is making the proposal as a result of a 10-month listening process in his diocese which led to a diocesan assembly and a new diocesan pastoral plan to confront challenges facing the Church, including the declining number of priests.
Ireland is in the midst of a priest shortage which will grow much worse in future years as the average age of those in the priesthood now is in the sixties.
In 2008 there were 4,750 priests in Ireland, In 2028 it is estimated that number will be down to 1,500.
The bishop plans to discuss the idea of a new commission at the next meeting of the bishops’ conference at Maynooth in October and “take it from there.”
“I think the other bishops would be open to the idea of a discussion and we are reaching a situation where we have to look at all the options possible,” he said.
Bishop O’Reilly said his proposal was in response to Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis has encouraged individual bishops and bishops’ conferences to be creative in looking at ways to do ministry in the future, so I think we have to consider all options,” he said.
Francis has also stated that "Celibacy is not a dogma of faith ...not being a dogma of faith the door is always open."
A similar commission, under the leadership of Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Bishop Erwin Kräutler, was created in Brazil to study the possibility of ordaining married men in response to priest shortage.