UPDATE 9/28/2010: Another Belgian prelate has added his voice to the call for optional celibacy. Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp joined his colleagues from Bruges and Hasselt this week and Josian Caproens, chairman of the Interdiocesan Pastoral Council, a group of lay people working in the church, joined in the chorus. “The time is now really ripe, certainly in Western Europe, for priests to be able to choose a celibate life or not,” Caproens said.
UPDATE 9/20/2010: A second Belgian bishop, Msgr. Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt has also gone on record as supporting optional celibacy. "I can imagine two sorts of priesthood. Those who live celibately and those who have a relationship — are married," Hoogmartens told VRT radio. A spokesman for Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard, the head of Belgium's Roman Catholic Church, said in reaction to the two bishops's comments that any discussion of structural issues surrounding the church should be held at a global level, and not be limited to Belgium.
Sat 18/09/2010 - 12:34
The new Bishop of Bruges Jozef De Kesel has questioned celibacy for priests and called for an open discussion on the position of women in the Church. Monsignor De Kesel made his comments on VRT Radio’s news and current affairs programme ‘De Ochtend’.
Jozef De Kesel took over the reigns of the Bruges Diocese after the former Bishop Roger Vangheluwe resigned when it was revealed that he had sexually abused his nephew during the 1980’s.
The new Bishop of Bruges believes that the Church shouldn’t be blind for the suffering of the victims of child sex abuse by members of the clergy.
Jozef De Kesel believes that celibacy should no longer be a prerequisite to becoming a priest.
“I think that the Church should ask itself if the mandatory character of the rules governing celibacy should be upheld.”
“You could argue that those for whom celibacy is impossible at a personal level should also be given the chance to join the priesthood."
The Bishop went even further.
When asked if women should be allowed to become priests he replied that “It certainly could be discussed and I hope it will be.”
“However, it’s an even more sensitive issue than the problem of celibacy."
“I think that the issue of celibacy will be acted on much sooner than that of women priests.”