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US priests urge optional celibacy

More than 160 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese have signed a letter urging the US bishops to allow married men to be ordained for the diocesan priesthood.

"We urge that from now on celibacy be optional, not mandatory, for candidates for the diocesan Roman Catholic priesthood," said the letter.

Dated 16 August, it was sent to the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Wilton Gregory.

"The Catholic Church needs more candidates for the priesthood, so that the church's sacramental life might continue to flourish," the priests said.

They called celibacy a "great charism" and predicted that some priests would continue to choose it should it become optional. They argued, however, that "marriage and its many blessings" are "compatible with the priesthood and even enhancing of priestly ministry."

Of the 442 retired and active priests who are attached to the Milwaukee Archdiocese, 128 signed the letter. In addition, 35 priests in the archdiocese who belong to religious orders signed it.

Catholic News Service

Milwaukee Priests Seek End to Celibacy Rule (New York Times)
Group Seeks Celibacy Debate (Washington Post)
Effect of celibacy letter debated (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

21 Aug 2003