Pope Francis didn’t hint requirement for priestly celibacy will be lifted

March 20, 2023 People's Journal 309 views

ON the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his election to the See of Peter, Pope Francis sat down with Infobae — a news agency from Argentina — to reminisce about his pontificate and to discuss issues affecting the Church and the world.

In the interview, Pope Francis said: “There is no contradiction for a priest to marry.”

He called priestly celibacy “a temporary prescription” and said that it’s a prescription that could be reviewed.

The Holy Father made clear what he meant by his words.

He said celibacy is a “temporary prescription” inasmuch as “it is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever.”

Secular media outlets and even some Catholic news organizations immediately jumped to the conclusion that the pope is open to revising the discipline of celibacy and that he even might lift it.

Pope Francis said no such thing.

When the requirement for celibacy was openly discussed at the 2020 Amazon Synod, Pope Francis chose not to even mention celibacy in his postsynodal exhortation.

The interview provides an opportunity to ponder the priesthood and celibacy.

The Church’s teaching on celibacy is different from her teaching on the indelible character of ordination and holy orders being reserved to men alone.

These are dogmas taught by the Church that need to be believed lest we fall into heresy or dissent.

That ordination to the priesthood forever marks a man was universally believed until the rise of Protestantism in the 16th century.

The Church has always lived Hebrews 7:17 (“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek”).

Only after Protestants criticized the ordained ministry did the Council of Trent solemnly define that it is divinely revealed that every priest is a priest forever. Today, when priests are released from the obligations of the priesthood they do not become laymen again. They are simply given permission not to exercise the duties and obligations of the priesthood. They remain priests. No priest is ever “laicized,” despite the popularity of that unfortunate word.

In 1976, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted in its decree Inter Insignores that the Church had no authority to ordain women because Christ himself did not choose women to be among the Twelve and because the apostles, who were given authority to teach after Christ ascended, never chose women either.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this conclusion in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

A year later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that the saintly pope’s letter was declaring that it’s always been taught that women can’t be ordained.

There may come a day, as happened in the 16th century, when a pope or an ecumenical council must solemnly declare that this is a divinely revealed truth, but for now, it’s part of the ordinary and universal magisterium that we must believe women can’t be ordained lest we become dissenters to the Catholic faith. Celibacy is in a different category.