Monday, November 17, 2008

Married priests want to return to the Church, without giving up the family.

This article appeared on (Brazil) in Portuguese under the title "Padres casados querem voltar à Igreja, sem abrir mão da família". English translation by Rebel Girl.

It is estimated that at least seven thousand priests have left the altar. Conflict with celibacy is one of the great challenges of the priesthood. 11/16/2008

The Catholic Church in Brazil has approximately 18 thousand priests, but the number has been larger. It is estimated that at least seven thousand priests have left the altar to get married.

In recent years, many decided to embrace the relationships that they had kept secret, get married and therefore were forced to leave the priesthood.

Having been expelled from the church, two thousand are now part of the national movement of married priests. Many of them now want to be accepted back into the Catholic Church, without giving up the family.

"I'm never going to be leave the priesthood. I will continue working humbly," said Father Osiel, 62 years old, married, with five daughters, whose main cause is optional celibacy. This week he was officially dismissed from religious activities by the Archbishop of Goiania.

"He cannot exercise his ministry. But he will be a priest forever," says the archbishop of Goiania, Dom Washington Cruz, about the incident.


The celibacy conflict in the Catholic Church is one of the great challenges of the priesthood. It has bothered priests for centuries and is a problem for the Vatican. But it was not always so. Celibacy only became mandatory in the 16th century.

"I think that the church does not intend to change it, since the Code of Canon Law that was promulgated in 1983 continues this requirement: celibacy for the priest," says D. Ancelmo Chagas de Paiva, Ph.D. in canonical law.

"Celibacy has nothing to do with dogma. It is a political and legal choice by the Church. The Pope can, whenever he wants, if he likes, say: Celibacy is finished," said the coordinator of the married priests’ movement, Father João Tavares.

With two daughters and a granddaughter, the Portuguese priest João Tavares, who arrived in Maranhão 40 years ago, left the priesthood in 1979 to get married. In recent years he has organized meetings with other married priests.

On the outskirts of Sao Luis, in Maranhão, Father Caetano, celibate for 18 years and married for four, joined the Old Catholic Church, a separate sect from the Roman Church, to continue celebrating religious rites. There, we found a group of married priests.

"I felt the need, the desire to build a family, so, in order not to cause a scandal, problems, shock, I said: I prefer to leave," says Father Ronaldo Farias.

"I have a case before the Roman Rota Tribunal; I could quietly go back to exercising my functions as a married priest," says Father José Caetano Souza.

"Celibacy is a disciplinary matter within the Church. And as such, the matter can be changed. I cannot say when it will be changed. I think it's unpredictable," says the Archbishop of São Luís do Maranhão, José Belisário.

To arrive at a ceremony of ordination, a seminary student need to focus a lot. When he finishes the equivalent of high school, he still needs to study philosophy and theology, and then, yes, he is ready to become a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is then that he takes the most crucial vows of his life: poverty, chastity and obedience.


The Catholic Church under the command of the Pope has two large divisions in their rituals: the Latin, adopted in Europe, Africa and the Americas, and the Eastern. The churches of the Eastern rite, although subordinate to the Vatican, accept married priests, provided that the marriage occurred before ordination.

"In our case, we who are of the Latin church have always thought there was a very good fit between celibacy and priestly ministry. But there may be a time when this will change too," says D. José Belisário, Archbishop of São Luís.


"Nobody is immune to love. Love can come into the life of a person after a final choice," says Minas Gerais native Fábio de Melo, 37 years old, who is priest, professor, singer and composer. He has already recorded 11 CDs and is considered a pop star. Despite the success and the temptation of harassment, he is in favor of mandatory celibacy.

"The celibacy is a gift for my priesthood, because it helps me be more free. It helps me have more time for my mission," he says.

"How do I deal with harassment? By treating the person with respect, asking for respect, while deleting what needs to be deleted," he explains.

Celibacy will continue to feed many controversies. The Vatican has not shown a willingness to review that issue any time soon.

Photos pro and con: Frs. João Tavares and Fábio de Melo

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