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'Bridge Builder'

Hi.From our editorial on the election of Pope Francis:

Anyone who followed media coverage of the papal conclave that elected the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, couldnt help noticing that the same breathless questions were raised again and again by commentators assessing the future of Catholicism. Will the church ever allow priests to marry? Will it ordain women? Will it change its teaching on homosexuality or birth control? Will it permit the divorced and remarried to receive Communion? Is clergy sexual abuse still a problem? Will bishops ever be held accountable for covering up that abuse?When it comes to these persistent conflicts it seems the scrum has barely budged over the past forty years. While most American Catholics think the church should change its positionsor at least moderate its toneon these neuralgic issues, the hierarchy and a group of conservative Catholics influential in Rome remain intent on stressing the countercultural aspect of Catholicism, its power to push back against the overwhelming secularity of American life. The result is a church nearly as polarized as the U.S. Congress.Meanwhile, the church in the United States has lost a third of its members and many doubt such losses can be stanched as long as certain teachingssay, about sexual morality or the role of womendo not change. Conservative Catholics respond that in comparison with the even more dramatic decline of mainline Protestant churches that have embraced supposedly more enlightened attitudes, the Catholic Church is doing fine. Any church that accommodates itself to our individualistic, egalitarian, and morally promiscuous secular culture, they say, is doomed to irrelevance. Better to stay the course; that way, even if losses are high, there wont be a complete collapse. This often seemed to be the default position of Benedict XVI. If Franciss initial remarks and actions are any indication, he promises to engage the larger culture from a less defensive posture.

Read the rest right here.

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The question: "Will the Church change?"This is the wrong question. "Church" broadly understood as the People of God has changed a long time ago. The evidence has surrounded us for a very long time. Catholics, especially women, have been voting change with their feet for decades.The more pertinent questions is: "Will the church's all-male feudal oligarchy change?"For all the positive vibes we get from Francis so far, the jury is very much still out on this question. Excuse me if I remain skeptical. Abandoning the Apostolic Palazzo is a step in the right direction.How can a man rise to the rank of cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires and eventually the papacy without the support of the most reactionary forces in the hierarchy? [Read Ratzinger.]How could we expect him to so easily turn his back on these bunch of bankrupt ideologues that selected him now that he has been "installed" as pope?Francis maybe prove to be nothing more than the hierarchy's latest take on W's bogus "compassionate conservativism."LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!

I am forever in search of Catholic writers and editors who will address with clarity the issue of the requirement of celibacy for candidates for the priesthood. If the leaders of the church are to change this discipline it will not be so that "priests may marry". There is no tradition in either the East or West for permitting men to marry after priestly ordination. There is, however, an ancient tradition, still practiced in some rites and places, by which married men may be called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This practice exists, for instance, among converts from the Anglican Communion. They convert as married men who may subsequently be ordained as priests since their prior ordination is not recognized by the Catholic Church. The question, then, stated clearly is will this Pope entertain conversation by bishops as well as by rank and file Catholics for a change in the discipline so as to open priestly ordination both to men willing to be celibate and men who are already married. There used to be a lot of priests who actually had a calling to be married but had to resign from the priesthood in order to respond to that call. Among those who are left are hardly any who are either called or well suited for marriage. Many of them talk down a change in the discipline with the dictum that "celibacy is not the real problem". It may not be "the" real problem in terms of supplying a sufficient number of priests, but it is certainly a big problem. I also detect that those on the left who deeply desire a shift that would allow the ordination of women, are not eager to discuss the admission of married men. It seems to strike them as an issue of inequality. Let the need of God's people for more priests now be damned, seems to be the position to which they lean. In conclusion, there will be no "optional celibacy" if that is taken to mean that men who are presently ordained might be give the choice of marrying after ordination. The "option" will be to permit both single and married men to be called to priestly ministry.

Jim, Such pessimism. How did Saul become Paul and how did Jesus change the Sons of Zebedee?We have to give Francis a chance. Already he has disarmed us with genuine gestures. He has already shook up the Curia with his actions. The Curia with its penchant for titles and domination. Time will tell. Right now he has my vote.

Ecumenism.What if, through a combination of Pope emeritus Benedict's past efforts, and Pope Francis's openness, the Orthodox re-united with us?It seems almost within reach.

It is always dangerous to evaluate someone based on less than a month on the job. But saying that, the thing that I am cautiously optimistic about with Pope Francis is that he is willing to listen and to consider various changes. Even if he does not make them all, if he can tone down the rhetoric, maybe move some of these issue to the back burner and replace them with efforts to "do for the least of these" and stop the demands for compliance replacing them with a willingness to teach and explain,and even consider that others might be right, he will have been a major improvement over his predecessors. Celibacy is but one of the issues. A misunderstanding of the role of sexuality in marriage and its relationship to birth control, obviously is another. The role of women is a third. I hardly expect Francis to make dramatic changes in all of these. But if he only indicates a willingness to explore some it will be greatly appreciated. And possibly set in motion changes by a future pontiff.

No, no, no, no, yes and who knows. But this pope, so far, with his deacon's heart, seems more focused on bringing good news to the poor than thinking about those other questions.

John Feehily:I have a few questions about what you wrote. Can you tell me how you see these questions?First, whats the reason for saying that a person not yet ordained can marry now and still be ordained later, but a person already ordained cannot marry? To me, that seems inconsistent.Also: You say that those who favor a married priesthood are not eager to discuss the admission of married men. Myself, I havent noticed that. Whats your reason for thinking that? Finally: You say that that same group of people opposes admitting married men to the priesthood because it seems to strike them as an issue of inequality. I dont understand. What inequality are you referring to?Thanks.

Wonder if he will not remain focused on the poor and the gospel mission and allow episcopal conferences to make regional decisions on some of these issues in order to best meet the needs of the poor, the sick, the un-evangelized?Rather than a top down, hierarchical one time decision, why not adopt the methods of Paul, Peter, the early Patristic Fathers/Mothers who went out on mission preaching the gospel and allowed these questions to be determined by local Christian communities. Wonder if his initial gestures don't indicate some of this approach.

"First, whats the reason for saying that a person not yet ordained can marry now and still be ordained later, but a person already ordained cannot marry? To me, that seems inconsistent."Hi, Gene, I'm not John Feehily, but I want to note that John did give a rationale for writing that: what he described is an ancient custom in both East and West. And it holds true today in the Roman Catholic church for so-called permanent deacons: married men may be ordained to the diaconate, but unmarried men are unable, according to church law, to marry after ordination. However, there is an exception to this last: there is a combination of circumstances in which a widowed deacon may, with the permission of the pope, remarry and remain a deacon in good standing (briefly, those circumstances are: young kids, old parents and indispensable ministry). The existence of this exception indicates that the prohibition on marrying - or at least remarrying - after ordination is not a matter of hard-and-fast doctrine - at least for deacons. But ecumenically, I would think it could be problematic if the Western church started permitting its priests to start marrying after ordination.

"Wonder if he will not remain focused on the poor and the gospel mission and allow episcopal conferences to make regional decisions on some of these issues in order to best meet the needs of the poor, the sick, the un-evangelized?"One thing we've learned about Francis is that there is no predicting what he will do. But I'd think that the issues named in the editorial aren't really regional in nature; for the most part, they touch on sacraments that pertain to the universal Church. If he wants to include bishops more than his predecessors have in considering these issues, perhaps the way to do it would be via synods or even ecumenical councils.

Jim:Thanks for your reply. The rationale, you say, is the custom. But can we go back a bit further and ask: What is the basis for the custom? What is the reason why it was established? Also: Can you see how, at least to me, it seems discriminatory? How would you reply to that?

Jim - beg to differ. Ordination is a sacrament of ministry; celibacy is a juridical law. In the West, we had married clergy for 12 centuries (and longer if you read the Actae of the council of Trent - this was one of the main Trentan council goals in terms of reforming an issue impacting parishes, dioceses, etc. and was linked to residency/benefices). Would suggest that the East's custom is more that bishops can not be married.Every council since the 12th century has not allowed celibacy to be a subject for discussion; synods - well, the current passive nature of the synods would have to dramatically change from *advise* to *legislate with power & authority*. Episcopal conferences have been asking Rome to ordain *viri probati* for years.

Were there others who, like me, were stumped by the words viri probati near the end of Bill deHaass comment? Well, I now have it on very good authority i.e. Bill that the phrase means of good reputation; in good standing in the community; wise, experienced. Bill says it was discussed and debated at Vatican II.

Jim Pauwels:A follow-up question: whatever the reason was for establishing the custom, is there any reason why it could not be modified, or even discarded, if, after discussion, it was concluded that such changes would be for the good of the church?

John Feehily: why is he long-standing tradition (small t) of not allowing priests to marry post-ordination sacrosanct?A tradition kept simply for its own sake, unexamined, unrevised, may cease to communicate life and freedom. If it alienates a body of the faithful, if its scriptural foundation is dubious or reflective of circumstances that no longer apply, *if it does not equip the community for mission*, then its essential tie to the core of the gospel must be questioned. Brendan Byrne, SJ, Paul and the Christian Woman, The Liturgical Press (1988).

Will the Church change?If you answer this in terms of ordination, celibacy, etc., you are speaking from what Francis calls the self referential church. The Cardinal from Havana has published some comments and Francis' notes for his speech in the congregations before the conclave that touch on this idea.If you answer this in terms of who the church will change and how, you open the Church to great internal transformation. If the question is not "who do we ordain?" but "what do the poor need to hear?" the self referential questions have a way of resolving themselves.

In ordination typology, the one being ordained is being espoused to Christ and the Church. Thus, the prohibition of being married to another spouse. But a person who has already responded to the call to the sacrament of matrimony may subsequently, with the encouragement of his spouse, to respond to a call to priestly ministry. This is not an easy thing to do well, but many Orthodox priests have managed well. The Orthodox, however, only elect celibate priests to service as bishops.I was referring to priests who are critical and negative about the prospect of extending ordination to proven married men because they know this will change the clerical culture. Some of them are same sex attracted--even if not acting out such desires--and may be fearful that people would be more likely to think of them as being "gay" since they are not married. I don't think that makes sense logically, but is more of an emotional thing. I would gladly welcome the ordination of mature married men and believe they would enrich the church. I believe it is a matter of justice that this change be instituted since the alternative is to continue closing and consolidating viable parish communities for the lack of celibate priests.

This discussion seems to be moving from the editorial to each one's own "self-referential" (what a wonderful concept for discussion!) concern. What I have been thinking is that none of us, or almost none of us, in 1960 really grasped what John XXIII was up to when he called a council. Certainly the peritii whose efforts bore fruit in the council didn't see the way ahead at that moment. Maybe Pope John didn't either. We may be at a similar moment.So far, nothing F, S.J. has done irritated me, and a lot of what he had done has made an old heart swell with joy. (Someone said this morning that there was no corpus on one of the crosses he used over the weekend. I said it was probably the cheapest cross available. Someone else said the corpus must have fallen off, and he had sent the rubber bands for it back to his newspaper dealer in Buenos Aires. This is the kind of pope I could grow to love.)Since no one flogging his own self-referential interest predicted what we have so far, I would prefer to watch and wait and pray a little longer before telling F, S.J. how to be a pope. Meanwhile, it won't kill us to provisionally pay attention to those Catholics we have stridently been not paying attention to -- as the editorial suggests. If nothing else happens, that exercise still will be good for our souls.

"Jim beg to differ. Ordination is a sacrament of ministry; celibacy is a juridical law. In the West, we had married clergy for 12 centuries (and longer if you read the Actae of the council of Trent this was one of the main Trentan council goals in terms of reforming an issue impacting parishes, dioceses, etc. and was linked to residency/benefices). Would suggest that the Easts custom is more that bishops can not be married."Bill, I don't think anything I wrote contradicts in a basic way what you've written here. I agree that celibacy is a law - with some reasoning behind it - and that there is a tradition of married clergy in the West, including today, and in the East both in ancient times and today. However, both West and East have followed the chronological sequence I've described.Gene: for an understanding of some of the reasoning for celibacy,

Claire: isn't it a bit presumptious to assume that it is incombant on the Orthodox to "reunite with us?" There is an implication that they left the One True Church and "we" stayed therein.A little history here ....What caused the schism? It was not the excommunications of 1054; not differences in theology, discipline, or liturgy; not political or military conflicts. These may have disposed the churches to draw apart, as did prejudice, misunderstanding, arrogance, and plain stupidity. More fundamental, perhaps, was the way each church came to perceive itself.The eleventh-century reform in the Western Church called for the strengthening of papal authority, which caused the church to become more autocratic and centralized. Basing his claims on his succession from St. Peter, the pope asserted his direct jurisdiction over the entire church, East as well as West.The Byzantines, on the other hand, viewed their church in the context of the imperial system; their sources of law and unity were the ecumenical councils and the emperor, whom God had placed over all things, spiritual and temporal. They believed that the Eastern churches had always enjoyed autonomy of governance, and they rejected papal claims to absolute rule. But neither side was really listening to the other.In addition, since the ninth century, theological controversy had focused on the procession of the Holy Spirit. In the life of the Trinity, does the Spirit proceed from the Father only, or from the Father and from the Son (Filioque in Latin)? The Western church, concerned about resurgent Arianism, had, almost inadvertently, added the word to the Nicene Creed, claiming that it made more precise a teaching already in the creed. The Greeks objected to the unilateral addition to the creed, and they strongly disagreed with the theological proposition involved, which seemed to them to diminish the individual properties of the three Persons in the Trinity. In 1439 Greek and Latin theologians at the Council of Florence, after debating the issue for over a year, arrived at a compromise that, while reasonable, has not proven fully satisfactory. http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1990/issue28/2820.html

Sorry, I snipped that previous comment. Gene, for an understanding of some of the reasoning for celibacy, you might check out Vatican II's decree on the ministry and life of priests, especially paragraph 16.http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents... are historical reasons, too, for the celibate priesthood in the West, although I'm not much of a church historian and I'm sure others can talk more authoritatively than I can on the subject.

"whatever the reason was for establishing the custom, is there any reason why it could not be modified, or even discarded, if, after discussion, it was concluded that such changes would be for the good of the church?"I agree that, as a law, clerical celibacy could be modified to some extent. (Laws frequently have doctrinal underpinnings, but as I indicated in my previous comment, I don't view clerical celibacy as a hard-and-fast doctrinal matter).

"Also: Can you see how, at least to me, it seems discriminatory? How would you reply to that?"Hi, Gene, I'm not completely sure what you mean by discriminatory. If you mean that it discriminates against married men that they can't be ordained to the priesthood (in the Roman Catholic church), or that it discriminates against ordained men that they can't marry, I guess I would say that in both sets of circumstances, these men entered into their states of life, presumably with their eyes wide open and understanding the implications and consequences of their life-long choices. So I don't see it as unfair or discriminatory in this sense. I see it more as a necessary consequence of a way of life that is freely embraced.

Married men are ordained in the Catholic church regularly: the Orneryariate is a good example. And then there are those other married ministers who have "poped" over time and been accepted for ordination without having to ensconce their wives in a convent and sell their children into slavery.Oh, the rules can be and have been bent whenever it is to the advantage of the 1% who are the Grand Benders.

Jim, I'm sure you're right that some, particularly the Orthodox, would see it as presumptuous. For better or for worse, my frame of reference is that of Roman Catholicism. Even my efforts to think of others betray my parochialism!

In 1439 Greek and Latin theologians at the Council of Florence, after debating the issue for over a year, arrived at a compromise that, while reasonable, has not proven fully satisfactory.It's only an issue in the Latin version of the Creed. When the Creed is read in Greek it is the same as in Orthodox churches. "the Catholic Church has refused the addition of kai tou Uiou to the formula ek tou Patrou ekporeuomenon of the Symbol of Nicaea-Constantinople in the Churches, even of Latin rite, which use it in Greek. The liturgical use of this original text remains always legitimate in the Catholic Church."http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/pccufilq.htm

We know that there are many practicing married priests in South America. It seems more low keyed than denied. Alluding to this Cardinal Oscar R of Honduras said that between Rome and us "there is a very big ocean." I don't think that is the fight Francis should concentrate on right now. He has wisely focused on the heart of the gospel which is to help the downtrodden. Which are many. From the terribly poor in India, Africa and South America this is a need crying to the heavens. If we do not insist on what Jesus insisted on the issue of priestly marriage, or any other issue, deserves no attention.

''well, the current passive nature of the synods would have to dramatically change from *advise* to *legislate with power & authority*"Bill deH --Indeed. For the Curia to change, the power of policy-making has to be removed from it and given back to the real bishops, the ones with responsibility for actual dioceses. It would seem that a permanent 'synod' of bishop/cardinals would be the best substitute for the Curia. Until Frances moves to establish such a group I don't think we can talk about actual, meaningful change in the governance of theChurch. Changing the current players without changing the structure would just be cosmetic.

Always thought that the Eastern Patriarchs felt that they came from the apostle, Andrew, rather than the Western Patriarch from Peter. (now that title has been suppressed by B16).Celibacy - in 12th century, always thought that this was a disciplinary step to reform wayward priests; to control issues around inheriting church property; eliminating the practice of benefices being passed down to nephews, sons, etc. It was a positive step to address a crying issue in the church.Would suggest that we have reached another *crying issue* in the church and a change in discipline may be very appropriate. Currently, we have significant regions of catholics who are denied sacraments including eucharist because of a disciplinary rule - does that really make sense?Also, celibacy is a charism - but, currently, in the West, it is a forced obligation in order to be ordained. Which makes little sense - if you are forced or compelled, it is not a free act = thus, creating other issues in our faith and sacramental understanding.The concept and understanding of priesthood was changed by VII - check the documents you cite. They purposefully chose not to use the word *sacerdos*; rather, they chose to use *presbytr* to convey and reform from a purely machinistic/objective/cultic understanding of priesthood. Priesthood is an office; a ministry (note how often VII uses the word ministry in connection to priesthood). The purpose of priesthood is mission; living the gospel. It is not to be a separate, cultic, group. The priesthood finds its foundation in baptism - not clericalism. In fact, one good reason to reform now is the experience of clericalism - and its offspring via sexual abuse; putting women in second place; refusing to implement VII's people of God idea. This is how I connect this question/issue to the original post on Francis - he appears to focus on mission; that clericalism is a threat to mission; etc. and thus wonder if he won't get us back to VII's original reforms?

Sorry for the mispellings above. Also, wanted to add that Father's mention above of the *old* image of a priest as marrying the church is dated and makes little sense today. Last year, there was a talk by an Italian cardinal that went viral in the traddie blogs when he went on for 10 pages using this image and then reinforcing it with references to a priest's mother; and their relationship. Sorry, taken to an extreme, it could be interpreted as fairly neurotic.

I think there should be an amnesty for all the priests who left to get married. Re-instate them, after a period of spiritual discernment, renewal, and probation, and the priest shortage will be, if not over, far mitigated. The way in which at least some of these men entered the priesthood was without the maturity or opportunity to realistically understand their own calling to marriage. In the name of discipline, the rules were held firm at the cost of many good and generous servant-leaders whose only crime was that they came to realize their call to marriage after they were ordained. Yes, our historical practice does not include the practice of weddings for the already ordained. But is that "Tradition" or "traditions"? Given the history, the requirement arising from that tradition should be waived for those who came into Holy Orders under the old dispensation. There are, you can be sure, clergy of other denominations who married after their ordination -- there being no such prohibition in Christian churches descended from the Reformation -- and they are now welcomed into Catholic ordained ministry regardless. This is one reason why Catholics feel there is an unjust application of the law of celibacy in addition to some questions about its necessity and/or desirability.

Rita - what does laicization mean? What would it mean to revoke laicization? I'd think those questions would need a lot of exploration before we can seriously consider the idea of an "amnesty".

Jim, you are not suggesting that laicization is as powerful as the sacrament of orders, are you? I was taught that priests are priests forever, and laicization is an administrative action decreeing that a priest assume the status and be treated as a lay person. Revoking a laicization would mean recognizing the still present character and behaving in accordance with it rather than the pragmatic fiction of the laicizing.So what do you think needs to be explored? (since I have now foolishly jumped to an odd conclusion that I understand your concerns, let me recognize I am probably clueless and need to hear what concerns you)

Jim McK - no, laicization is not a sacrament or, er, an "un-sacrament". But pretty clearly, laicization has the character of a *permanent* end to formal ordained ministry. Why is that? Why must it be permanent? That's what needs to be explored.Think of it this way: of the very large cohort of men who left the priesthood to marry over the last few decades, presumably quite a few of them are no longer married - they are widowed, or divorced with an annulment. Some fraction of those men presumably would still have the health, energy and the desire to function as a priest - in those senses at least, they would seem to be "suitable" for the priesthood. Yet I have not heard that any of those men have had bestowed on them an "administrative action" to revoke the "administrative action" that ended their priestly ministry. (Perhaps this does happen, and I'm not aware of it). Why is it that this doesn't happen more often - or at all? The need for priests is there. These men not only have the formation for the priesthood under their belts - sacramentally, they're *already priests* and in many cases have years of pastoral experience to boot. To use crass business language, they could be instantly productive.The so-called priest shortage has been ramping up for decades. Why hasn't been amnesty been pursued for decades? There must be a reason (or more than one reason). What is it?

Jim @ 9:10 --Oh, Jim, you know the answer to that one: Avoiding scandal -- number one!! The people, who expect their priests to be celibate as a guarantee of their spiritual dedication, depend upon the hierarchy to uphold this norm without fail. Lowering morale among those celibate clergy who remain -- number two!! If some are married, the others will question their own commitment to celibacy and feel aggrieved at the sacrifice it entails.Some have said it's meanness, spite over these guys having broken the cardinal rule and gotten away with it. However, I think it's not right to attribute low motives such as this. So what about scandal and morale? As for scandal, I think there should be a 50 year moratorium on anyone in the hierarchy judging what is going to scandalize the laity. After the management of sex abuse cases, their credibility to judge what's a scandal and what isn't is severely in question. Besides, it scandalizes the faithful more to have a double standard that is harder on priests of the Roman Rite than those coming from other communities. As for morale, there's a point to that, to some extent. When everyone is doing something that's admittedly challenging, there's solidarity in doing it together. Again, however, doesn't morale suffer from the influx of married clergy from elsewhere? Why them and not us?

Sort of funny reading about*morale*....let's see, one of the latest EWTN/Big Bill surveys stated that catholic priests have the highest morale of any profession (and I have a bridge to sell).Morale - guess reputable studies that indicate at any one time, more than 50% of celibates are not living their vow doesn't impact morale. And what about the hypocrisy of gay priests in a church that deems them as *intrinsically disordered* - and again reputable studies approximate that 40-50% of all US clergy are gay. And this doesn't impact morale.Sorry, that is just another excuse to avoid and deny. If you truly have the charism of celibacy, would it matter if others made a decision to be married?

These are good points to raise, Bill deH. The realities are not the same as what appears on paper. And "winking" at those who cheat on celibacy is not good for anybody. Please note that I was recounting the arguments I have heard presented, not saying that I agree with them!

Bill deH, then do you agree there should be an amnesty?

Rita - IMO, that is a complex question that is hard to answer. My approach would be to allow episcopal conferences to ascertain the actual need (thus, allow the mission to dictate the practice especially in terms of access to the eucharist and sacraments).If episcopal conferences had this authority, then would start with *viri probati* and, yes, would include laicised priests in this category. Agree with your wise counsel that *viri probati* would need to meet some type of formation criteria (on-going education; stable family/spouse; if a former priest - his history, contributions, situation/reasons for leaving active ministry,etc.). Who determines and approves a man as meeting these criteria and then ordination?Amnesty - there are serious issues around a *blanket amnesty*....what about those who did not seek laicization? not all left to get married? what about those who the church sought laicization for (could be financial irregularities, scandal of some sort, etc.). And have concerns about the small percentage who left and have never made a life for themselves - unsuccessful in jobs, maintaining a home/lifestyle/marriage, etc. We also have the question about orientation - many gay priests left for various reasons.If we go the way of *viri probati*; would current deacons be candidates? What about religious order priests who left - could they be chosen to serve in local or diocesan parishes?As you can see, it gets complicated quickly. (and didn't mean to imply that you agreed with the statements, sorry)

"Avoiding scandal number one!! The people, who expect their priests to be celibate as a guarantee of their spiritual dedication, depend upon the hierarchy to uphold this norm without fail."Lowering morale among those celibate clergy who remain number two!! If some are married, the others will question their own commitment to celibacy and feel aggrieved at the sacrifice it entails."Rita - even if these are the only two reasons, neither of them strikes me as a throw-away. They're both deserving of further exploration. It doesn't seem far-fetched to me that either or both could be a real problem for any sort of amnesty.Bill makes some great points about a blanket amnesty. At any rate, it seems to me that the place to start with a married priesthood, if we're going to go down this path, is to admit already-married men to the seminary and to presbyteral ordination. There is ample tradition in both East and West for this.

"Celibate as a guarantee of their spiritual dedication."Really? What do the non-celibate have ... chopped liver?

Jim P. ==I read somewhere that *by law* laicization does not permit a return to priestly ministry. In other words, once you're out, you're out. Of course, the papacy being an absolute monarchy, the law could be changed if he chose to change it.Even if the returning priests did not become pastors or even full assistant pastors, they could say Mass and hear Confessions, for which there is an enormous need. I might also mention that Canon Law also says somewhere that bishops are *required* to supply priests for the faithful whether they want to or not. Seems like there are some awfully contradictory laws in the Catholic Church.