To combat a shortage of priests, Pope Francis said the Roman Catholic Church must consider allowing married men to join the priesthood, and consider what role they could play.
The clause is known as "viri probati", as the Pope was quoted as saying: "We must consider if viri probati is a possibility". Back in November, he told reporters the ban on female priests was likely to remain forever. Celibacy is also an act of belief of Christ's chastity. Basically, once a single man becomes a priest, he would have to stay celibate and would not have the choice to marry. He sees that as a way to solve the problem of a priest shortage, especially in Latin and South America. The AP reported that Francis's longtime friend, Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, is promoting viri probati in a country that has just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics. The religion has a long tradition of not allowing married men to be priests. "But voluntary celibacy is not a solution", he said.
Priests in the eastern rite Catholic Church are allowed to be married, as are married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism. In the United States, the celibacy requirement is partly what sets priests apart from clergy in Protestant denominations.
The Pope stresses that getting rid of the celibacy rule entirely is not the answer for the priest shortage.
On the other hand, according to Anderson, people advocating for the rule say that priests should commit themselves fully to God and their faith, instead of sharing themselves with their wives or children. But CNN points out this isn't the Pope opening up the priesthood to marriage.
If the idea were studied and approved by the Catholic Church, it would be an extension of a provision the church already has to accommodate married priests in exceptional cases.
Mathew Schmalz, a professor of religion at College of the Holy Cross, said that if a married Catholic man like him could become a priest, he'd be interested.
Since the church does not recognize civil divorce, it holds that anyone who remarries is living in sin.