The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has said married priests in the Church are possible “under certain conditions in certain regions”.
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Marx told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that he could “well imagine that one can come to the conclusion that it makes sense, under certain conditions in certain regions, to allow married priests”, as katholisch.de reports.
Marx, who is also the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, was responding to a question on October’s Pan-Amazon Synod in Rome, in which he will be a participant.
The working document of the Synod contains a request that Synod delegates study “the possibility of priestly ordination… for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments”.
“It’s not about celibacy alone, but about the future of the priestly way of life”, Marx explained to the newspaper.
The cardinal said he was concerned “whether and how celibacy can be lived in such a way that it is a positive sign and does not damage priests in their lives”.
As katholisch.de recalls, an abuse study commissioned by the German bishops found that levels of child abuse were lower among deacons (1%) – who can marry – than among compulsorily celibate priests (5.1%).
Marx added that precisely because of the sex abuse crisis, seminaries may need “to become even more stringent” in the candidates they accept for training for the priesthood.
For him personally, “when it comes to the personal maturity of a candidate, I must have the moral certainty that he can cope with his celibate way of life” before ordaining him to the priesthood, the cardinal explained.
Just as it is for the Pan-Amazon Synod, optional celibacy for priests is also a topic for discussion in the German Church’s “binding synodal process”, in planning since March this year.
But earlier this week, Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne warned that any revision of aspects of the discipline of the universal Church – such as priestly celibacy – could lead the German Church onto a “separate path” that could split Catholicism both nationally and globally.
However, Cardinal Marx rejected such a concern, explaining that with the synodal process there will be “no special German way”.