Britain’s top Catholic cleric thinks the church should lift the ban on Roman Catholic priests marrying.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien announced on Friday that the church’s age old requirement for priests to remain celibate is “not of divine origin,” and needs to be reconsidered by the ruling body of the Catholic Church. He told BBC Scotland, “There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church – in some branches of the Catholic church – priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine of origin and it could get discussed again. For example the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry – Jesus didn’t say that.”
There is a real possibility the subject will be discussed again, because as the Associated Press reports, the 74-year-old Cardinal will “form part of the conclave of cardinals that chooses the next pontiff,” after Pope Benedict XVI abdicates at the end of this month. O’Brien points out that policies which are not considered “basic dogmatic beliefs,” unlike abortion and euthanasia which he says the church can never accept, could be changed by the new Pope. He said that although he never considered marriage himself, stating that his duties with the church keep him more than busy enough, “many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy … I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.” O’Brien explains that the Pope has granted “special dispensations” for the married Anglican clergy who have joined the Catholic Church in recent years. These “traditionalists,” who opposed the ordination of women and many other changes in the Anglican church, were allowed to stay married while also being ordained in the Catholic Church.
When asked if he thought the new Pope may come from somewhere other than Europe the Cardinal said,
Well I would be open to a Pope from anywhere if I thought it was the right man, whether it was Europe or Asia or Africa or wherever. It is something which the cardinals have to think about seriously, having had Popes from Europe for such a long time now – hundreds of years – whether it isn’t time to think of the developing world as being a source of excellent men. And of course we do have excellent cardinals from other parts of the world as well – highly intelligent, well-trained, deeply spiritual men from other parts of the world.
O’Brien also said that he thought a “younger” cardinal would probably be a better selection this time around. He explained that a younger Pope would be able to hold office for a longer period of time, and maybe “get more things done, to steady us up a wee bit and give us something of the courage of the earlier apostles again.” The Cardinal did say that he has not yet decided who he will support to become the next Pope during the conclave next month.
One can only hope however, that O’Brien’s “progressive” beliefs are shared by the other Cardinals who will play such a large part in directing the fate of the Catholic Church.
Photo: AP/Scott Campbell