But the pope’s proposal may not have much reach in St. Louis, as an assistant theology professor at Saint Louis University cautions against reading too much into this.
“In a sense, we’ve never had enough priests since the days of Jesus,” said Fr. Chris Collins, SJ/SLU assistant theology professor. “Jesus himself just kind of looked out and said, ‘The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.’”
“The comment of continuing to study or discern is really nothing new, actually. In fact, there are married priests now within the Catholic Church.”
St. Louis has even put married priests to work, but those few married Catholic priests are former married Protestant ministers who’ve converted to Catholicism.
When it comes to needing priests, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is near the bottom of the list in the United States, with the highest number of priests per Catholic in 2015, and the sixth largest average number of ordinations of priests from 2011 to 2015.
The pope’s comments are about men who are already married becoming priests; single men seeking priesthood would still be single and celibate, though that priestly discipline is not written in stone.
“The discipline of a celibate clergy, which is primarily what the Catholic Church has, it’s just that; it’s a discipline or a practice that can be adjusted over time, as opposed to a doctrine or a dogma,” Fr. Collins said.
According to Fr. Collins, the church’s practice of having an almost entirely single, celibate, priesthood goes back about a thousand years. The pope also made no mention of allowing already ordained priests to get married.