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2 Belgian bishops question celibacy discipline

September 21, 2010

Two Belgian bishops are questioning the value of the discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite.

“I think the Church must ask itself the question of whether it is appropriate to keep the mandatory character of celibacy,” said Bishop Josef De Kesel, who was installed as bishop of Bruges in July. “We could say that there are celibate priests, but that people for whom celibacy is humanly impossible should also have the chance of becoming priests.”

Bishop Kesel’s predecessor, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in disgrace in April after admitting he repeatedly abused a minor in the 1980s. It was later revealed that the minor was his nephew.

“I don’t think it would be stupid for married men to also become priests,” added Bishop Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt, who called the discipline “useless,” according to Agence France-Presse. “I can imagine two sorts of priesthood,” he said. “Those who live celibately and those who have a relationship-- are married.”

In its wire story on the bishops’ comments, the Associated Press inaccurately reported that “the number of priests around the world continues to decline.” The number of priests worldwide in fact rose from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008. In addition, the number of major seminarians worldwide rose from 63,882 in 1978, when Venerable John Paul II was elected pontiff, to 117,024 in 2008-- an increase of 83%, far outstripping world and Catholic population growth.

The Second Vatican Council offered high praise for the discipline of clerical celibacy in its Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests.


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  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Sep. 22, 2010 12:32 AM ET USA

    Jesus said "there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let everyone accept this who can." The Church speaks of celibacy as God's gift to the priesthood embraced freely not for oneself but for others to help them along the way of this life leading to the kingdom of heaven. It is embraced in imitation of Christ who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. It is a witness to the transcendent and is not "useless."

  • Posted by: - Sep. 21, 2010 8:54 PM ET USA

    Honestly, I think many of our difficulties could be resolved if our recognized episcopate insisted on loving and living passionate passionate fidelity to the teachings and disciplines of our faith. How many motivated people have they pushed away by their insistent desire to abandon the Church's traditions? Do they understand that they place us, the orthodoxy-seeking faithful, between a rock and a hard place? We can turn neither to quasi-schismatic traditionalists, nor to "modern" bishops. Ouch!!

  • Posted by: opraem - Sep. 21, 2010 8:15 PM ET USA

    don't blame you, don't blame me, blame the fellow behind the tree.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 21, 2010 2:11 PM ET USA

    There's none so blind . . .

  • Posted by: - Sep. 21, 2010 1:50 PM ET USA

    "people for whom celibacy is HUMANLY impossible"- actually, celibacy is humanly impossible for EVERYONE!! "For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." If you aren't making use of God's grace, then no wonder you aren't succeeding! And calling the discipline "useless" - that's really scary. That's like saying, "I'm not even going to try!" or like saying fasting is useless!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 21, 2010 9:22 AM ET USA

    Amazing! Here are two bishops from a country mired in moral confusion and rampant secularism where few even attend mass proposing to possibly even further undermine the Church. By their fruits we shall know them.