Archbishop urges end to celibacy rules

The prominent German cardinal said some priests would be less lonely if the 12th-century rules were loosened

In comments published on Wednesday by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich, said that discussion was needed as to whether celibacy was still in the best interests of priests and the Catholic Church.

“For some priests, it would be better if they were married – not just for sexual reasons, but because it would be better for their life and they wouldn’t be lonely,” Marx told the newspaper in an interview. “We must hold this discussion.”

The German cardinal didn’t suggest that celibacy should be scrapped altogether but claimed there was a “question mark” over “whether it should be taken as a basic precondition for every priest.” 

He stated that, while celibacy has been a part of the priesthood for centuries, he can imagine a time when priests are married.

Marx’s diocese was recently shaken by a report into the handling of sexual abuse cases by clerics. Marx and his predecessors, including retired Pope Benedict XVI, were criticized for failing to act appropriately in response to allegations brought against members of the priesthood.

The cardinal is an ally of Pope Francis and has frequently urged reform of the Catholic Church. Last week, he stated that deep reforms were needed to overcome the “disaster” of sexual abuse.

Celibacy in the priesthood was only formally introduced in 1123 and again in 1139. However, the 12th-century move reflected historic traditions in the church.

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