Pope Francis’s new number two, Archbishop Pietro Paolin, made headlines last week for saying that priestly celibacy could, in theory, be changed. While this idea isn’t new—priestly celibacy wasn’t mandated until the eleventh century and it’s certainly not church dogma—it’s got the several well-known Catholic priests talking.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, James Martin, SJ, contributing editor at America, said that Archbishop Paolin making the comments “is itself is an indication of change,” and speculated that the 8 super-cardinals would probably discuss the topic when they gather in Rome this week. “Look, change does happen,” he said, “If anyone can effect change, not on a dogmatic level, Pope Francis can.”
On Fox News, Fr. Jonathan Morris said that “there are pros and cons to both options, honestly.” He said that “there needs to be more dialogue about it. Talk about the pros and cons.” He speculated that there are “a lot of people out there, I think, who could be very good priests who don’t feel the call to celibacy. And I hope there is more discussion on this.”
On Twitter, CNN contributor Fr. Edward Beck replied to a younger priest who said he didn’t know of any peers who were interested in married life:
— Father Edward Beck (@FrEdwardBeck) September 16, 2013
Before he was elected Pope, Francis addressed the topic, too, saying that clerical celibacy is “a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change.”