Pope opposes making priestly celibacy optional

Pope Francis speaking about priestly celibacy with journalists on the plane taking him back to Rome

Pope Francis has said he opposes making priestly celibacy optional, however he may consider allowing married men to be ordained priests in remote areas where there is lack of priests to attend for the needs of the people

Speaking to journalists on the flight back from World Youth Day, the Pope said he would not allow optional celibacy in the Latin Church in a way similar to the practice of the Eastern Catholic churches.

He emphasized a phrase said by St. Paul VI: ‘I would rather give my life than change the law on celibacy.’”

The Catholic Herald reports that Pope Francis said he personally believes that “celibacy is gift to the Church” and that while the prospect of married priests could one day be considered in remote areas that lack priests, he did not agree “with allowing optional celibacy.”

“My decision is: no optional celibacy,” the Pope said. “I will not do this. I don’t feel like I could stand before God with this decision.”

Referring to the abuse summit to be held in Rome next month, His Holiness said he perceived “inflated expectations” about the meeting. The main purpose of the summit, he said, was to make bishops “aware of the tragedy” of abuse.

“I regularly meet with people who have been abused. I remember one person — 40 years old — who was unable to pray,” he said. “It is terrible, the suffering is terrible. So, first, the bishops need to be made aware of this.”

“We felt the responsibility of giving a ‘catechesis’ on this problem to the bishops’ conferences,” he said. The meeting will address “in a clear way” what protocols bishops need to follow when handling sexual abuse, he added.

Asked about the expectations for the meeting, especially the expectations of Catholics who have grown frustrated with the repeated reports of abuse and cover-up by some bishops, the Pope said people need to realize “the problem of abuse will continue. It is a human problem, a human problem that exists everywhere.”

“If the church becomes more aware of the tragedy of sexual abuse, it can help others face the crisis of abuse, especially in families “where shame leads to covering up everything”, he concluded.