The subject was raised in relation to the large shortage of priests in the Amazon region of South America.
According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the ratio of Catholics to priests in the Amazon region is 10,000 to one, roughly three times the world wide ratio of Catholics to priests. According to CNA, the discussion so far has focused solely and specifically on the possibility of whether “viri probati” or “proven men” in the Amazon could one day be ordained as priests. CNA states there is no reason to think the Pope’s comments suggest he is open to a married priesthood in a broader context.
The discussion, however, has generated significant interest in Australia where there is already a handful of former Anglican priests who have converted to Catholicism and serve now as Catholic priests, while remaining married.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, told the Courier Mail that the Plenary Council, to be held in Adelaide in 2020, may elect to debate the idea of allowing Catholic priests to marry.
“I would not exclude that. A celibacy debate is certainly possible – the ordination of tried and true married men, for instance.”
The Catholic Leader reports that Pope Francis has said that while he favoured a celibate priesthood, celibacy technically could be up for discussion since it was a discipline of the Church, not a dogma. Such comments and a shortage of priests around the world seem certain to keep the topic of married clergy on the agenda for the conceivable future.