The second-in-charge at the Vatican, the secretary of state, said the requirement for priests to be celibate is not a dogma that hails from the Catholic Church and is therefore open to discussion.
It's too soon to say whether those discussions could lead to change in policy so that priests one day may be allowed to marry. But the secretary of state's statements are significant in they mark a big step in a topic that's been taboo for decades.
"Celibacy is not an institution, but look — it is also true that you can discuss [it] because as you say this is not a dogma, a dogma of the church," said the new secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, NBC reported. His role is as head of government, and he's generally seen as the second most powerful official at the Vatican, behind the pope.
The view he espoused is a significant turnaround for the church, which typically has remained mum on the topic, even as celibacy has become a deeply entrenched tradition for those of the cloth.
"The efforts that the church made to keep ecclesiastical celibacy, to impose ecclesiastical celibacy, have to be taken into consideration," Archbishop Parolin said in the NBC report. "One cannot say simply that this belongs in the past."
The pope's predecessors mostly have decreed the topic to be off-limits.
"There has been a lot of resistance to discussing the issue of celibacy," one Vatican watcher said. "[Archbishop Parolin's remarks] open up a fascinating argument."
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