Pope dodges call for married priests
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis refused Wednesday to approve the ordination of married men to address a shortage of priests in the Amazon, sidestepping a fraught issue that has dominated debate in the Catholic Church and even involved retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis, in an eagerly awaited document, did not refer to the recommendations by Amazonian bishops to consider the ordination of married men as priests or women as deacons. Rather, the pope urged bishops to pray for more priestly vocations and to send missionaries to a region where faithful Catholics in remote areas can go months or even years without Mass.
The papal dodge disappointed progressives, who had hoped he would at the very least put both questions to further study. It outraged liberal Catholic women’s groups. And it relieved conservatives who used the debate over priestly celibacy to heighten opposition to the pope, and saw his ducking of the issue as a victory.
Francis’ document, “Beloved Amazon,” is instead a love letter to the Amazonian rain forest and its indigenous peoples, penned by history’s first Latin American pope. Francis has long been concerned about the violent exploitation of the Amazon’s land, its crucial importance to the global ecosystem and the injustices committed against its peoples.
Groups that advocate for women’s ordination and giving women greater roles in the church blasted the document. Francis justified his refusal to consider ordained ministry for women as sparing them the risk of being “clericalized,” or placed on a pedestal.