A group of retired Catholic priests in Germany are pushing for the church to end the celibacy vow for priests, on the grounds that every man should have the right to choose to take the vow or not.
The group of 11 high ranking senior priests wrote an open letter to the church as part of a review of their 50 years in the Catholic church.
The group opined that celibacy causes many modern priests to suffer from seclusion and believe the men have little to gain from church-imposed solitude.
Part of their letter argues; “We think, every Catholic should be allowed to choose if they would rather be celibate or not, regardless of whether they want to work as priests or not – just like in the Protestant Church or the Orthodox church, really, every church but the Catholic Church…
What moves us is the experience of loneliness – as elderly people who are unmarried because our office required this from us, we feel it vividly on some days after 50 years on the job… We agreed to this clerical life because of our jobs, but we didn’t choose it.”
Also, a member of the group, Franz Decker speaking to the media said they believe that requiring that every man who becomes a priest to remain celibate is not acceptable.
The letter also makes a number of suggestions as to how the Catholic Church could “modernise”, including allowing women to join the clergy.
Clerical celibacy has often been an issue of contention in the Catholic Church. The discipline, believed to have been introduced in the fourth century, requires men to be unmarried in order to be ordained, and to practice sexual abstinence.
In 304 AD, the first written requirement for those seeking ordination to remain celibate can be documented. Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira required all clergy to abstain “from their wives and not to have children.”
Some Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians give lesser credence to this council and the practice of ordaining married men to the order of deacon and priest has a long history in their ranks.
There are reports that there are present discussions that the Catholic Church may consider an additional exception to the rule of priestly celibacy. In those regions where there are too few priests and people suffer without adequate access to the Sacraments, the Church may consider inviting married men into the priesthood, provided they are devout, proven and mature.