US Catholic Faith in Real Life

NYC Archbishop OK with married clergy

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The headline may overstate the case a bit, but Archbishop Edward Egan's acknowledgment in a talk radio interview that the Catholic Church ought to consider married clergy is kind of a big deal: "I think [the celibacy rule] has to be looked at. And I am not so sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to decide on the basis of geography and culture not to make an across-the-board determination."

Of course, bishops in Latin America and Africa, where the priest shortage is most severe, have been saying this for decades, and progressives in the U.S. and Europe have as well. The fact that Egan, a solid conservative, is saying so is worth notice.

Sister Christine Schenk of FutureChurch, a liberal advocacy group, hits the nail on the head in her comments in the New York Times article on Egan: "Coming from Egan, I think it is a sign that the conversation is ripening. He’s not the poster child for progressivism. I think it shows we are much closer to having this issue addressed by the Vatican than most people realize."

The contents of any Vatican "address" is still anyone's guess, but the Catholic Churches in both Africa and Latin America are under pressure from the much younger, spirited evangelists of the Pentecostal movements. The priest shortage, and the relative higher age of the Catholic priests available, are making that challenge greater. I, for one, hope that Egan's comments are a sign that even bishops on the right are warming to the necessity of married priests.