From the “Autonomous Church” to the “Amazon Priest”? Pope Francis and the Married Clergy
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Thursday, January 7, 2016
(Rome) From the 12th to the 20th of February, Pope Francis will visit Mexico. While numerous media have identified the focus of his pastoral visit as the migration issue, the Vatican expert Sandro Magister has referred to the visit to the southern Mexican diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas. There, from 1959-2000 the reigning diocesan Bishop Samuel Ruiz tried stealthily doing away with priestly celibacy. Instead of celibate priests, he only consecrated married deacons. It’s a form of the diaconate that was allowed by the Second Vatican Council to address the shortage of priests, but has also been criticized as a first step to lift the priest celibacy. At the end of Ruiz Garcia’s tenure, the priesthood of his diocese had overaged and with each priest there were four married deacons.
In addition to his practice, the bishop complained of a pressing shortage of priests and prepared the next step for the ordination of married deacons to the priesthood. Bishop Ruiz Garcia was also the showpiece of a church that had good contacts wth the extreme left, giving him international attention in certain circles. With the retirement of Ruiz Garcia the Vatican pulled emergency brake and forbade the consecration of other viri probati, the blessing of their women and the use of the term “indigenous deacons”.
Bishop Ruiz Garcia’s creeping abolition of priestly celibacy
Since the Pope will visit San Cristobal de Las Casas among the many Mexican dioceses, Magister sees this as one of several indications that Pope Francis could allow the end of priestly celibacy by the ordination of married deacons (see Pope Francis will invoke the subject of the abolition of celibacy and women priests for the next Synod? ). As a first step, the rehabilitation of priests who have abandoned their priesthood for a woman and were laisized would be conceivable. They are organized in different groups and they try, with the sympathizing parts of the clergy and the bishops, to put pressure on the Church. Media support is you safely. The abolition of celibacy and the sacramental priesthood was one of the main program points of the Protestant schism.
Msgr. Felipe Arizmendi, the now reigning Bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, spoke to Magister’s suggestion. He has reported how – that he has improved the situation in the diocese – since the retirement of Bishop Ruiz Garcia. Meanwhile, there are local priests which Ruiz Garcia had claimed to be impossible (see The Other Chiapas of the Celibate Indigenous Clergy ).
Magister’s thesis is now receiving new sustenance through the report of Rome correspondent Andres Beltramo from Notimex. Betramo is among other things an associate of Vatican Insider, which is the news site operated by Andrea Tornielli, the House news portal and correspondent of Pope Francis. On Epiphany Beltramo reported that Pope Francis is to visit the grave of the controversial Bishop Ruiz Garcia and he therefore wants to express his special appreciation. The visit of Bishop’s graves is a rarity which will donate a signal effect for Pope’s visit.
“Amazon Workshop” is working on a model of the married “Amazon priest”
On February 15, the Pope will visit the Cathedral of San Cristobal de las Casas, to pray at the grave of the bishop, deceased in 2011, who is criticized within the church because of his anti-celibacy course and outside, because of his closeness to the socialist guerrilla organization Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacio n (EZLN ). Pope John Paul II had initiated an investigation against Bishop Ruiz Garcia because he was suspected of wanting to build an “autonomous Church” separate from Rome. “The planned visit to the grave of Ruiz Garcia can be interpreted as supporting the idea of a married clergy,” said Secretum Meum Mihi.
The Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes and the Austrian Mission Bishop Erwin Kräutler are pushing with their “Amazon workshop”. Kräutler has in common with Ruiz Garcia not only good relations with the political left, but also calls for a “solution” for the shortage of priests, the abolition of priestly celibacy.