Married priests, celibacy not the focus for next synod of bishops
The 2018 synod of Catholic bishops will focus on “Youth, faith and vocational discernment” rather than priestly celibacy.The Vatican announced the theme of the 2018 synod Thursday, saying that Pope Francis agreed to the theme in consultation with bishops’ conferences, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and “having listened to the suggestions of the Fathers of the last synodal assembly.”
The Vatican’s official statement on the 2018 synod said the theme will focus on the “expression of the Church’s pastoral concern for the young” in continuity with the “findings from the recent synodal assemblies on the family and with the contents of the Post-Synodal Amoris Laetitia.”
The 2018 synod “aims to accompany young people on their way of life towards the maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life project and realize it with joy, opening the encounter with God and with men, and actively participating in building up the Church and society,” according to the Vatican.
There was much speculation that the 2018 synod would focus on priestly celibacy and the question of married priests. Pope Francis has indicated he is open to the question, and in the months following Amoris Laetitia’s release, there was media speculation that priestly celibacy was to be the next Catholic tradition up for debate.
However, the majority of members on the XIV Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops reportedly voted against it. The proposal to discuss priestly celibacy and the possibility of married priests, “something Pope Francis is known to be keen to examine” is “understood to have been voted down by the majority of members on the XIV Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops,” according to Vatican observer Edward Pentin.
The 2014 and 2015 synods on the family leading up to the publication of Amoris Laetitia were contentious and heated. Some prelates defended Catholic teaching on marriage and human sexuality. Others denounced it and called for those actively engaging in adultery to be admitted to Holy Communion.
Bishops’ and cardinal’s interpretations of Amoris Laetitia have been varied. Some have lauded it as a “game-changer” that allows for the dramatic liberalization of sacramental discipline. Others have said the Church’s teachings on marriage and Holy Communion remain in place.
“All I can say is, ‘Whew!’” conservative priest and blogger Father John Zuhlsdorf wrote of the 2018 synod topic.
Notable members of the XIV Ordinary Council are Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who has said Amoris Laetitia opens the door for Communion for the divorced and remarried and that the Church should embrace the “positive” elements of sexual sin; Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was recently appointed to head a new Vatican dicastery for justice, peace, and “care of creation;” Australian Cardinal George Pell; and Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who has a history of making statements contradictory to Catholic teaching and whose archdiocese permits LGBT liturgies not sanctioned by the Church. The Vatican’s chief liturgist, Cardinal Robert Sarah, and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who both have a history of defending Catholic orthodoxy, are also members.