March 23, 2011
Msgr. Markus Büchel, bishop of St. Gallen, is not in favor of abolishing the celibacy requirement for priests. But he is proposing that "one should also be able to become a priest, without having celibacy imposed." In his diocese, the pastor of Gossau has resigned due to paternity. The priest, Niklaus Popp (44), became sexually involved with the parish housekeeper who is expecting the couple's child. He has chosen to leave the priesthood and stay with his partner and child.
This support for relaxing the celibacy rule is widespread in Europe, Msgr. Büchel stated in the March 23rd issue of the daily Blick, edited in Zurich. However, he adds: "We have to admit that basically, celibacy is on a voluntary basis. Nobody is forced into it. Every man who wants to become a priest decides freely to keep this promise and bear the consequences." He himself has never regretted opting for celibacy.
In the case in Gossau, the rule is as follows: the priest involved "must decide -- either the woman and his child, or the priesthood. It's clear; he can't choose both."
Msgr. Büchel stated in the St. Galler Tagblatt: "A relaxation of the celibacy requirement could help address the problem of the lack of priests in the Western countries." In ten years, there will only be about 30 priests under 65 in his diocese. But the bishop puts the problem in perspective. "There are many countries -- like France, or in Africa or Latin America -- where there are fewer priests per number of Catholics than there are here."