Pope opposes making priestly celibacy optional

He is willing to consider exceptions for "pastoral necessity"

Pope Francis: “Celibacy is a gift to the Church.” (Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

The following comes from a Jan. 28 story by Catholic News Agency.

Vatican City — Pope Francis said he is opposed to the idea of optional priestly celibacy in the Latin rite, and he would consider it only for very remote places if a serious need existed.

“Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church,” the pope said Jan. 28. “I would say that I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no.”

Speaking aboard the papal plane from Panama to Rome, Pope Francis said he does think there is room to consider an exceptions for married clergy in the Latin rite in “very far places” “when there is a pastoral necessity” due to a lack of priests, such as in the Pacific islands.

However, he said that he has not thought or prayed sufficiently about the issue to come to a decision on it, and that he would not want to put himself “before God with this decision,” even if it suggests he is “narrow-minded.”

His comments were made ahead of a synod on the pan-Amazon region to be held in October, at which priestly celibacy is expected to be discussed as it pertains to the remote Amazon basin where there is often a shortage of priests.

Pope Francis also recalled the writing of German Fritz Lobinger, bishop emeritus of Aliwal, South Africa, who argues for the possibility of ordaining “viri probati,” or “proven men,” in places where there is a dire lack of priests. These married priests could, he suggested, administer the sacraments and celebrate Mass, though they would not have the full competency of ordinary priests.

Francis called this idea “interesting,” and said it could provide a basis for considering the question, but that it should be studied by theologians. At the same time, he emphasized that his personal opinion was against making celibacy a choice candidates made as they prepared for ordination: “optional celibacy before the diaconate, no… I would not do it. And this remains clear.”

“It is something to study, think, rethink, and pray about,” he said.


  1. In one way, the Pope seems to be saying ‘I don’t want to touch this — let’s see what the next guy says.’

  2. But celibacy does not apply to the homoheresy !

  3. because he’s going to use women deacons as a back door to women priests

  4. Pope also opposes answering the dubia. Also opposes responding to Vigano.

  5. And yet the Church allows married Anglican priests who convert to the Catholic Faith to remain both priests and married…it makes no sense theologically. So the Church would rather close or consolidate parishes rather than allow married men to be priests…I prefer the gift of married priests than closed doors!

  6. There is nothing for Pope Francis to reflect or pray about concerning relaxing the discipline in allowing priests to marry. Pope Paul VI settled this in Sacerdotalis Caeliatus in 1967. Ample reasons why a celibate priesthood is superior, practiced since the 4th century.

  7. Deacon Craig Anderson says

    Responding to a couple of comments: Married Anglican men have been ordained to the priesthood in part at least because they responded to a felt call to the priesthood before they were Catholic. And, no apostolic Church, Catholic or Orthodox, “allows priests to marry.” Married men may be ordained to the priesthood. There is a big difference. Think: do you want your priest on “Catholic Match?” Full disclosure: as an Eastern Catholic, we do ordain married men to the priesthood. It is not a theological issue, as has been noted. However, all Churches value celibacy and it has been the discipline and tradition of the Latin Church for a very long time. Men will respond to a call to the celibate priesthood when and where the Church is…

    • Deacon Craig Anderson– that has been my worry, since Vatican II!! No– our priests are HOLY!! they are supposed to be good, celibate, and holy– and imitate Christ! Celibacy is a divine gift! When young, I recall priests in cassocks, wearing a gold ring on the finger of their left hand– a wedding ring, given to them at ordination, to signify their marriage to God! And they would say their Latin breviary! They are an “alter Christus” for us, on the most holy Altar of God!! I would DIE to see one of them going out, running around with girls in the parish, or girls on the street! God help us!

  8. I always wondered how a priest in a very remote place could successfully marry and raise a family, taking his wife and kids to the worst places on earth– usually very dangerous, too!! Who would want that?? None of the Spanish missionaries got married, in remote locations. Neither did missionary priests like St. Damien, of Molokai, with all the lepers. Dedication to priestly celibacy imitates the holiness of Christ!

    • Deacon Craig Anderson says

      Again, no Catholic (or Orthodox, for that matter) Church allows priests to marry. That’s not even being considered. In Eastern Catholic Churches, married men have been ordained priests and, historically, they’ve often served in small, remote villages with their families. That said, the long-standing tradition in the Latin Church, which makes up 98+ percent of Catholics in the world today, is priestly celibacy. Where the Church is truly living out the Catholic Faith, men will respond to the call to be celibate priests. Several Roman Catholic dioceses are already good examples of that.

      • Yes, Deacon Anderson– I have always known, a seminarian may enter the priesthood either single or married, in the Eastern Catholic churches!! If married, his wife and children usually help in his work, as a family. They are very successful, spiritually, I think– because their religious life is interwoven with their culture! No modern evils! And unmarried priests (and bishops) can never marry.

  9. Then why bring it up at all?

  10. The Catholic Church is in decline in many places throughout the world, most notably in the USA and Europe. Which is better, to hold on to a practice without a theological basis, and close churches and make it harder for people to receive the Sacraments, or to allow good and holy married men to be ordained, and infuse new life in the Spirit into the Church? Celibate priests do not have a monopoly on the ability to minister, to speak well and touch hearts and minds, and to bring the love of Christ to others. When holiness and leadership are so desperately needed, why close the door to people who can help because of a practice? As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:5, “Do we not have the right to marry a believing woman like the rest of the…

    • Better to have ONLY dedicated priests! Married men have nothing to do with it. They are dedicated to their wives and families. A priest who is fully committed to Our Lord– is a true priest, chosen by God! Who cares about closing church buildings?? Holiness and priestly dedication and sacrifice, for Jesus Christ– are most important! Good priests are married to God– and dedicate their lives in service to God and His people! Better to have a few dedicated, holy priests– than to have a thousand poor ones, not truly called by God, not truly holy nor dedicated to God!

  11. Sandy– A Catholic priest is not like a Protestant minister, with speaking talents, and Christ-like love, (etc.) to bring souls to Christ. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is far holier, than a Protestant ordination to their ministry! Holy Orders is actually a prelude to Saintliness, in Heaven! At Ordination, a priest receives an eternal, indelible mark on his soul– and he also becomes “another Christ,” an “alter Christus,” on the Altar of God– and brings to us the holy Sacraments– which contain the Divine Life of the Living Christ, straight from Heaven! As you will recall– St. Paul gave his whole life to Christ, remaining celibate, for the sake of the Kingdom — our true Life is in Heaven, with Christ!. .

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