Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brazilian priests ask for alternatives to celibacy; make a proposal to the Vatican


SAO PAULO – The “Encontro Nacional de Presbíteros” (“National Meeting of Priests") in Brazil has asked the Catholic Church to find alternatives to mandatory celibacy for priests, according to media reports.

Proposal for married priests

The document, approved by 430 representatives of 18,685 priests from 9,222 parishes throughout Brazil, proposes to the Vatican the ordination of married men and the readmission of priests who abandoned their functions to get married, the O Estado de Sao Paulo daily says. The gathering “does not suggest the complete abolition of celibacy, which would continue to be an option for the religious orders and congregations for example, but they propose that there be other types of ordained ministry”, the daily specifies.

The petition will be sent to the Congregation for the Clergy, presided in the Holy See by the Brazilian cardinal Claudio Hummes, who was the archbishop of Sao Paulo.

The gathering is also seeking “clearer and more definite directives on the pastoral accompaniment of couples in second marriages” (divorced Catholics who have remarried). Currently these faithful, united in civil marriage, cannot take communion or go to confession.

Hummes, who participated in the gathering at the Itaici monastery in Indaiatuba, warned that both demands contradict the current norms which the Church “has no intention of changing”, said the Sao Paulo newspaper.

English translation by Rebel Girl. Within the next couple of weeks the Comissão Nacional dos Presbíteros should be publishing the final document from the meeting, titled "Subsídios para reflexão." If you can read Portuguese and want more information, check out these articles:

Padres pedem discussão sobre o celibato, Folha Online, 2/20/2008

Padres sugerem o fim do celibato, O Estado de Sao Paulo, 2/20/2008


For those who read Spanish, the version of this story in El Pais has even more interesting details:

* An unnamed Brazilian bishop alleges that the Catholic Church in Brazil already has ordained married laymen as priests but that "Rome knows but does not want it made public."

* That Eucharistic celebrations are permitted in private homes in areas where there are no priests.

* That the document also contains a demand for democratization of the process for nominating bishops.

* With regards to divorced and remarried couples, this article adds that Brazilian priests are among the most liberal on this issue and rarely deny communion to couples in this situation

* Finally, the document also asks for the Church to be more open and reach out to the faithful beyond the "parish". It points out that in Brazil on average over 1 million Catholics a year have converted to the Protestant churches which are less bureaucratic and attract those who are poorer and have less formal education.

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