The dissolving vow of celibacy

With the dwindling number of laymen joining the priestly order, there has been a new found openness to the marriage of the ordained.

The dissolving vow of celibacy

By Anitta Bejoy
The approach of Pope Francis regarding the vow of celibacy has sparked many a debate. With the dwindling number of laymen joining the priestly order, there has been a new found openness to the marriage of the ordained.

Celibacy is rightly deemed to be an integral part of priestly consecration. The twelfth-century second Lateran Council, introduced the tradition of celibacy which later was affirmed in 1563 by the Council of Trent. The decisive stand taken by the Church was in response to the declining priestly morality at that time. The definitive observation in the Scripture, "But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." (1 Cor. 7:9), is in accordance with this.

The fall in the number of Christians in Brazil over the past few decades could be attributed to the conversion to Evangelism, which allows their clergy to be married. In the light of this conversion, the catholic bishops of Amazon convened to move this a bit further by appealing to the Pope to consider the marriage of clergy. Consequently, Pope Francis decided to gradually revoke the vow of chastity, thereby enraging the conservatives in the Church.

The appointment of two married men as deacons by the Catholic Church of Mumbai in March 2017, was a welcome change. Granted that the deacons can deliver a sermon, baptize, serve as a witness to the wedding, distribute the Holy Communion, pay a pastoral visit to the dying and officiate the funeral services, they cannot however conduct mass, hear confessions or anoint the sick. History was made when Cardinal Ivan Dias, the former Archbishop of Mumbai, ordained two married men to be permanent deacons on January 22, 2006.

The proposal of allowing married men to the priestly order is to be considered gravely in a special synod of bishops in 2019 with regard to the evangelisation in the Pan-Amazon region.

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