Readmission of married priests under discussion
A Vatican meeting presided over by Pope Benedict yesterday discussed the possible readmission of "priests who at present meet the conditions foreseen by the Church", while reaffirming "the value" of celibacy.
A Vatican statement said "the value of the choice of celibacy according to Catholic tradition was reaffirmed as was the need for a solid human and Christian formation, be it for seminarians as well as priests who have already been ordained," Reuters reports.
The meeting had been called to debate a strategy to deal with the schism threatened by controversial Zambian Archbishop Emanuel Milingo's plan to create a personal prelature for married priests following his recent ordination of four married men in Washington DC.
The meeting had been called to reflect on requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and on requests for readmission to the priestly ministry by priests who had married.
According to Church law, a man who is allowed to leave the priesthood, under a procedure known as a laicisation, must receive a separate dispensation from the vow of celibacy from the Pope.
Many men, however, have married without this dispensation and want to regularise their position in the Church.
Some men who left the priesthood to marry are now widowers or separated, their children are adults and they want to return to active ministry.
The statement said the meeting discussed "the possibility of readmission to the exercise of the ministry of priests who at present meet the conditions foreseen by the Church." It did not elaborate.
Milingo, who rejects the automatic excommunication he has incurred, is planning a convention for more than 1,000 married priests and their wives in New York for 8-10 December.
The Church insists that its priests remain celibate and has so far ruled out letting them marry.
Advocates of a married priesthood and optional celibacy say this would make some men more willing to join the priesthood and ease the shortage of priests in many parts of the world.
In an open letter to the Pope issued two weeks ago, Milingo said "over 150,000 married priests stand waiting and willing to serve" the Church.
"These men are already trained and experienced in theology and ministry and have many years experience as married men. These are men who have loved their wives, and raised families. They ought to be called back to ministry immediately," he said.
"The very life of the Church is at stake. Without priests, there is no Mass or Eucharist. The Eucharist is the centre of the Catholic-Christian experience and faith. No Eucharist, no Church," Milingo wrote.
Milingo, a charismatic faith healer and exorcist, is not just a keen proponent of marriage, but tried it himself in 2001 at a mass ceremony held by the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
Vatican reaffirms priestly celibacy (Reuters, 16/11/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop Milingo Official Website
Holy See Congregation for the Bishops
Vatican calls married priest summit over Milingo (CathNews, 15/11/06)
Married Archbishop excommunicated over illicit ordinations (CathNews, 27/9/06)
Controversial Zambian archbishop a married priest - again (CathNews 19/9/06)
Archbishop Milingo returns to ministry (CathNews, 20/11/02)
Archbishop Milingo expected to return to full ministry (CathNews, 4/6/02)
Vatican regrets marriage of Archbishop Milingo (CathNews, 30/5/01)
Korean ambassador mediates in Archbishop Milingo affair (CathNews, 21/1/01)
17 Nov 2006