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Let priests wed, says UK's senior Catholic in call to overturn centuries of tradition
01:38 GMT, 23 February 2013
11:08 GMT, 23 February 2013
Ideas: Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's top Roman Catholic and one of the men who will choose the next Pope, says the Church should overturn centuries of tradition and allow priests to marry
Britain’s top Roman Catholic, one of the men who will choose the next Pope, says the Church should overturn centuries of tradition and allow priests to marry.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of Scotland’s Catholics, said many clerics struggle with celibacy and a wife and family could offer comfort and support.
The Cardinal, who according to bookies has a mere 66:1 chance of being the next Pontiff, believes the new Pope could address the issue along with another taboo – women priests.
The 74-year-old said: ‘I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.
'I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy… and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.’
Married priests were common in the early Church. According to the Cardinal, it is not an issue of ‘basic dogmatic beliefs of divine origin’ such as abortion or euthanasia, and is ‘within the scope of the new Pope’ to alter.
It would require a change in Canon Law, relieving priests of their vow of celibacy.
He added: ‘For example, the issue of women priests – and the celibacy of the clergy and whether priests should marry – Jesus didn’t say [anything on] that.’
The Cardinal said he had never given much thought to marriage because he was ‘too busy’.
He added: ‘In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much.’
Hugh McLoughlin, a writer and
commentator on Roman Catholic Affairs, said: ‘The Cardinal has got
everyone very excited by saying this.
Decision: Cardinal Keith O'Brien is one of the men who will choose the next Pope. Pope Benedict XVI is pictured
Changing the rules on this issue would be a big thing in the Catholic church.
‘Celibacy is much more than just a tradition.
‘I would require a change in Canon Law to allow priests to marry because a vow of celibacy is taken when they are ordained.
However, changing such as rule It would not affect the “deposit of faith” or interfere with any of the beliefs of “divine origin”. It does not involve dogma.
‘The rule of celibacy was created by the church and it could be changed by the church.
‘But I think it might take a bit longer than the reign of the next Pope.
‘There is, however, something of a precedent because a number of married Anglican priests have in recent years been absorbed into the Church.
‘It is also the case that there are currently 22 Churches who follow the Eastern Rite which are in full communion with the Roman Catholic church.
‘Their parish priests are allowed to marry. It is only the bishops, who follow a monastic existence, who life a celibate life.
‘It will happen in the Roman Catholic Church eventually. I am certain of that.'