There is a fresh call for the Catholic Church to reconsider celibacy as a condition of priesthood as the number of priests in England and Wales plummets. The call comes from a national commission known as the Movement for Married Clergy (MMaC) which fears a celibacy requirement is deterring men from pursuing ordination.
According to a Catholic Church report, 25 men entered training for the diocesan priesthood in 2016 for England and Wales compared with more than 150 in 1985, although the pace of decline has slowed in recent years. But it is assumed that celibacy could be the major cause.
A recent editorial in the Catholic Times endorsed the call. “What has the church got to lose by establishing such a commission? Or perhaps, more importantly, the focus should concentrate on what the church has to gain from such a move,” according to the editorial.
There is an advancing age profile of serving priests, at the moment, which could have been mitigated if younger people were motivated to serve.
Other Christian denominations are currently witnessing an increase in the number of priests. Especially in the Pentecostal movement, where there is a record number of pastors in England and Wales. But those church denominations do not impose restrictions, such as celibacy on their pastors.
The call for a review of celibacy as a condition of priesthood comes after Pope Francis had hinted last month that he was open to the possibility of ordaining married men, under specific conditions. The issue is expected to be raised at the next synod.