Priests should be able to marry

By Chris Graeme

chrisgraeme@sapo.pt

THE VAST majority of people living in Portugal believe that the Catholic Church should allow priests to marry.

According to a survey carried out by Aximage for the daily newspaper Correio da Manhã over the weekend, 80.3 per cent of Portuguese were in favour of putting an end to obligatory celibacy, only 15 per cent thought the situation should stay as it is.

Sociologist Jorge Sá said that the results of the survey showed that there wasn’t much agreement between what the Catholic Church practises in Portugal and what the vast majority of the population thinks.

“There are lots of people in the church, such as the Archbishop of Braga, Father Bartolomeu dos Mártires, who in the 16th century, proposed and end to enforced celibacy in the church,” said Jorge Sá.

One curious piece of data that the survey threw up is that 74.6 per cent of those canvassed thought there was a clear gulf between the structure of the church and its own followers.

“I don’t know if we can talk about a schism, but there seems to be a link between what the vast majority of the population think and the vast majority of the church’s own believers,” said the sociologist.

Armed Forces Bishop Januário Ferreira said: “It is quite normal that people have difficulty in understanding celibacy, the vow of poverty and the other strict rules that exist in the Catholic Church and the church has to pay attention to signals (given by the public) such as these.

“The church cannot simply ignore what people think and should pay attention to the opinions and signals in the world, but at the same time people should realise that becoming a priest is a voluntary calling that no-one is forced into”, he added.

Bishop Ferreira believed that changes “would come sooner than people thought” and that sooner or later the church would condone the ordination of married Catholic priests.

“This will be, I am sure, the first step. Choosing people with a stable family life,” he added.