Desperate shift: Catholic Church considers allowing married men to become priests in Amazon

Could married men become Catholic priests?

In a historic shift, the Vatican will consider ordaining older married men as priests to address the shortage of clergy in remote areas of the Amazon.

Vatican opens debate on married priests in the Amazon.

A proposal from the Vatican announced that bishops would debate introducing the idea of “viri probati” — married men of proven character — during an upcoming summit in October. These men would be indigenous, respected members of the local Catholic community with grown-up families.

The document also includes other progressive ideas such as giving women leadership roles and promoting the need to protect the environment in the Amazon.

The idea of ordaining married men has been around for decades but received renewed attention under Pope Francis. As the first Latin American pope, he is familiar with the challenges that churches in the Amazon face.

This wouldn’t be the first time married men would be allowed to become priests. Some married Anglican priests can still be ordained when they convert to Catholicism.

Ultimately the document wants Catholicism, which as of now is barely present in the region, to be deeply rooted there. The only way to do so is by being more inclusive and incorporating indigenous culture, the document says.

It’s undeniable that there is a shortage of priests in the Amazon’s remote areas: Catholics in the region may go months without attending Mass. Ordaining married men has the potential to change the course of the church’s growth in the area.

[BBC, Reuters, France 24, AP, New York Times, Financial Times]

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