Cardinal Urges Rethink on Marriage Ban

An influential Brazilian cardinal says the Roman Catholic Church should reconsider its ban on allowing priests to marry.
( [email protected] ) Dec 04, 2006 01:40 PM EST

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - An influential Brazilian cardinal says the Roman Catholic Church should reconsider its ban on allowing priests to marry.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who was recently named to head the Vatican's office in charge of priests around the world, made the comment about two weeks after the Holy See reaffirmed the requirement of celibacy for priests.

"Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the church," Hummes was quoted as saying by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. "Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things, it has to advance with history."

A Vatican spokesman could not be reached for comment Sunday. But the Vatican has strongly resisted calls for relaxing its celibacy rule.

Former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia is among those campaigning to change the policy.

Milingo was excommunicated in September when he ordained four married American men as bishops in defiance of the Vatican. He already had angered the Vatican in 2001 when he wed a South Korean woman in a group ceremony of the Unification ''Church'' of Sun Myung Moon.

Last year, one of France's most respected Catholic figures, Abbe Pierre, wrote that he favored allowing priests to marry. In 2003, more than 160 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese in Wisconsin signed a letter supporting married clergy.

Early Christianity had no formal ban on marriage for clergy. The Bible mentions St. Peter's mother-in-law and many scholars suggest other apostles had wives — as well as at least some popes, such as the 9th century Hadrian II.

In the early Middle Ages, however, movements for celibacy gained momentum and it became a requirement by the 12th century.

Most groups estimate the Roman Catholic Church has lost 100,000 to 150,000 clergy around the world who left the active priesthood to marry. The church considers them outcasts.

Hummes, who heads the diocese of Sao Paulo, was expected to leave for the Vatican late Sunday to attend a ceremony naming him as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy — the office in charge of priests.

The 72-year-old cardinal was seen as a potential Third World candidate for the papacy in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI last year.

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