German Archbishop supports making celibacy more flexible in the Church

A prominent German archbishop defended the relaxation of the celibacy obligation for Catholic priests in remarks published Thursday before a meeting of a German reform assembly.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that “it would be better for everyone to create the possibility of celibate and married priests.” His words come after his diocese was rocked by an independent report on the handling of sexual abuse cases in recent decades, which blamed Marx and his predecessors, including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. .

Marx, a leading reformist ally of Pope Francis, said last week that the Church needs profound reform to overcome the “disaster” of sexual abuse.

“For some priests, it would be better if they were married, not only for sexual reasons, but because it would be better for their lives and they would not be alone,” he said in the interview with the newspaper. “We must have this debate.”

He insisted that celibacy would not be totally eliminated, but noted that he sees a “question mark” about “whether it should be taken as a basic precondition for all priests.”

In 2019, Marx expressed support for a call by Amazonian bishops for the ordination of married men as priests due to the scarcity of priests in the region, but stopped short of calling for global recognition of married religious.

Thursday will see the start of the final session of a German reform process that began in response to the abuse crisis. The “synodal path”, which brings together representatives of the Catholic Church and laity, has generated strong resistance within the institution, mainly among conservatives who oppose opening any debate on issues such as celibacy of priests, the role of women in the Church or homosexuality.

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