Last year, the National Catholic Register reported that Pope Francis wanted a 2018 synod on married priests – only for the proposal to be voted out by the synod council.
But according to a bishop who knows Pope Francis better than most, it appears that a different meeting of bishops may now focus on the proposal: October 2019’s synod for the Pan-Amazon region, which the Pope announced earlier this month.
Bishop Erwin Kräutler, who led the Diocese of Xingu, in Brazil, from 1981 to 2015, is likely to have a good grasp of Francis’s intentions for the synod. In 2014, the bishop spoke to Francis about ordaining married men. In 2015, they revisited the subject, and the Pope invited “bold, daring proposals”.
In a new interview with kath.net, Bishop Kräutler said that he thinks the synod might look at “the proposal of the emeritus bishop Fritz Lobinger”. Bishop Lobinger has suggested that local “elders”, or viri probati – married men of good reputation – might be ordained to celebrate Mass and the sacraments. In this vision, there would be “two different forms of priesthood”: the viri probati would not receive seminary education, could marry, and would be “as distinct as possible” from priests. The Pope made reference to the notion of viri probati earlier this year, inviting the Church to “reflect” on the matter.
Bishop Lobinger goes further: he has written that “Because the majority of proven local leaders are women, it is unavoidable that the question of their inclusion among ordained elders will arise, though present Church law does not permit it.”
Bishop Kräutler is himself a supporter of women priests. He told Die Presse in 2014 that, while Pope Francis has said that the door to women’s ordination is closed, that means the door could be opened – and that he, Bishop Kräutler, believes it ought to be.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection