Cardinal O’Brien sees marriage as an option for priests
The UK’s most senior Catholic cleric has said he believes priests should have the choice to consider marriage, and that the next Pope might not be European.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien made the comments in an interview ahead to travelling to Rome to participate in the conclave to elect the next Pope. During the interview the cardinal also said he would be open to electing a Pope from outside of Europe.
Cardinal O’Brien, who now expects to be in Rome on his 75th birthday on March 17, said he knew of many priests who had struggled with the vow of celibacy.
“I would like us to have a choice because in my time there was no choice,” the cardinal, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said. “We didn’t really consider it too much. It was part of being a priest when I was a young boy—the priests didn’t get married and that was it. It was part of the package. You didn’t get married and you didn’t really consider it all that much. You made your vows of celibacy as naturally as somebody else makes their vows of marriage.”
“I would be happy if others (priests) had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should be married,” he added. “I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to keep with celibacy as they lived in the priesthood. Some felt the need for a companion of a woman, to get married, and raise a family of their own.”
The subject of married priests has increased in prominence since Pope Benedict XVI established the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on January 15 2011, allowing former lay Anglicans and Anglican clergy—married and single—to come into full Communion with the Catholic Church. Some priests returning to Scotland from the Missions see a celibate priesthood as a barrier to vocations in countries where couples traditionally marry very young.
The cardinal also said there was a wide range of excellent candidates to succeed Pope Benedict.
“Well I would be open to a Pope from anywhere if I thought it was the right man, whether it was Europe or Asia or Africa or wherever,” he said. “It is something which the cardinals have to think about seriously, having had Popes from Europe for such a long time now, hundreds of years, whether it isn’t time to think of the developing world as being a source of excellent men.”
Pope Benedict retires from his role as leader of the universal Catholic Church on February 28.
Cardinal O’Brien will turn 75 on St Patrick’s Day—and must submit his resignation to the Pope under Canon Law—but His Eminence remains a cardinal elector until he is 80.
—More on the interview with Cardinal O’Brien in next week’s SCO on March 1.