Bishops Simard (right) said discussion among the bishops was prompted by Pope Francis’ decision last November to open the debate whether viri probati, married men of proven faith, could be ordained under special circumstances. Pope Francis was acting on a request from Cardinal Claudio Hummes (right), president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon in Brazil. Register file photos

Quebec bishops have ‘open discussion’ on married priests

By 
  • April 19, 2018

OTTAWA – The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec have discussed the ordination of married men to the priesthood, but have reached no conclusions, said the Assembly’s president.

“I don’t want people to have the impression a decision was made,” said Bishop Noel Simard of Valleyfield, referring to the bishops’ meeting in March where the subject was raised. “It was the beginning of a reflection. There was no statement.”

Simard said the private but “free, open discussion” among the bishops was prompted by Pope Francis’ decision last November to open the debate whether viri probati, married men of proven faith, could be ordained under special circumstances to meet priest shortages. Pope Francis was acting on a request from Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon in Brazil, where some parts of the country have only one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.

The matter will be discussed at the 2019 Synod of Bishops focusing on the pan-Amazon region. 

“We decided to have among ourselves a reflection,” Simard said. “It’s a question that we need to ask, especially, what the Spirit is telling us concerning the lack and the shortage of priests, and also, do we really want new priests?”

So the question of cultivating priestly vocations in general also came up, he said.

The discussion also looked at some downsides. If the viri probati are deacons, Simard asked, should there be “super deacons?” And if deacons are ordained to the priesthood to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments, what will happen to their service to the poor and to charity?

“We must consider the impact on deacons,” he said. 

The other aspect was the potential of creating a two-tier priesthood, a “high priest and a low priest,” such as can be found in jurisdictions that allow married priests but require bishops to be chosen from among the celibate priesthood.

The bishops also discussed the types of formation required for “having two types of clergy,” he said.

“If we speak of viri probati, what about the role of women in the Church and the possibility of ministers?” Simard said.

The reflection will likely continue, as there was no consensus regarding married priests. 

“The responses will be different,” the bishop said. “What we need to reflect upon is the need of the community to have leaders, and to have insight and direction and leadership.

“I think our communities need desperately men to accompany them, support them and bring them the Word of God, the Good News and also the sacraments, and also that they be guided in the exercise and the practice of charity,” the bishop said.

“Faith has to be celebrated. We need to be committed to faith,” he said. “We need these viri probati, very mature men who are capable not only of speaking but also of giving an example and guiding the community on a Christian’s role.”

Some bishops said perhaps ordaining married viri probati would be “only for exceptional circumstances, but “we need to think not only of exceptional situations but also for the need of present communities to have leaders,” Simard said.

“What is the Spirit telling us about the shortage?” he asked. “Do we want priests? How can we answer the needs of today and the need for priests for our communities? How do we promote vocations?

“The initiative of Pope Francis corresponds to a real need in the Church that we have to take into great consideration, and I think the Pope worries about also, what task should be given to these viri probati, this ministry responsible of Christian community, how it should be considered.

“What should be remembered, it cannot be as a super deacon or as a low priest,” Simard said.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Comment

McCarrick 02

Editorial: Another betrayal

The soul-crushing case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is yet another example of one of God’s shepherds doing the devil’s work...

Faith

Pope's homily

Pope migrants homily
Read the latest homily given by Pope Francis.

Features