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Jan. 31, 2020 4:47 PM EST update: This report now includes comments from Professor Roberto de Mattei.

ROME, January 31, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei is claiming, based on documents he has received from “several bishops,” that Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation on the Amazon Synod will open the door to married clergy in the Latin church.  

According to documents obtained by Corrispondenza Romana, the apostolic exhortation, due for release in February, reproduces verbatim a paragraph dedicated to priestly celibacy in the synod’s final document.

De Mattei argues that the positive inclusion of this text in the apostolic exhortation would effectively “open the door” for the German Bishops, and others, to create a married clergy. “There is no reason to prohibit in other regions of the world what will be permitted in some parts of the Amazon,” he writes.

LifeSite spoke with Roberto de Mattei this evening in Rome. He confirmed that in recent days a group of bishops was sent a “part” of the draft apostolic exhortation, and that at least one bishop shared this text with him. De Mattei confirmed that paragraph 111 of the Amazon Synod’s final document is reproduced verbatim in the draft apostolic exhortation. 

He said it was unclear why the bishops were sent only part of the draft text but speculated the move may have been intended to gauge bishops’ reactions. De Mattei was also careful to note that the draft text which the bishops received may not be the final text promulgated by Pope Francis.

This is not “fake news,” the respected Italian historian said. 

Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah have co-authored a new book on priestly celibacy, taking a firm stand against the priestly ordination of married men in the Latin Church. 

In the work, Benedict XVI writes:

The ability to renounce marriage in order to place oneself totally at the Lord’s disposal is a criterion for the priestly ministry. As for the concrete form of celibacy in the ancient Church, it should also be pointed out that married men could only receive the sacrament of Holy Orders if they had committed themselves to sexual abstinence, that is to say, to a Josephite marriage. Such a situation seems to have been quite normal during the first centuries.

This statement echoes his reaffirmation of the sacred meaning and obligatory character of priestly celibacy, in his 2007 post-apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis:

“In union with the great ecclesial Tradition, with the Second Vatican Council and my Predecessors in the Petrine Ministry, I affirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as an expressive sign of total and exclusive dedication to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and consequently confirm its obligatory character for the Latin tradition” (n. 24).”

In a recent interview on their co-authored book, Cardinal Robert Sarah has also asserted:

Priestly celibacy is not a simple canonical discipline. If the law of celibacy is weakened, even for a single region, it will open a breach, a wound in the mystery of the Church. There is an ontological-sacramental link between the priesthood and celibacy. This link reminds us that the Church is a mystery, a gift from God that does not belong to us. We cannot create a priesthood for married men without damaging the priesthood of Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church. (Synod on the Amazon, final document, n. 111)

Here below is an English translation of Prof. Roberto de Mattei’s article, published this evening in Rome.


The news we are now reporting was in the air, but the confirmation has come to us confidentially from several bishops who have received a part (not all) of Pope Francis’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Amazon Synod. This part substantially reproduces paragraph 111 that was approved in the synod’s final document

Many of the Church communities in the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in attending the Eucharist. Sometimes it takes not just months but even several years before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the sacrament of reconciliation or anoint the sick in the community.

We appreciate celibacy as a gift of God to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity, and we pray that there will be many vocations living the celibate priesthood. We know that this discipline “is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood” (PO 16) although there are many practical reasons for it. In his encyclical on priestly celibacy, St. Paul VI maintained this law and set out theological, spiritual and pastoral motivations that support it. In 1992, the post-synodal exhortation of St. John Paul II on priestly formation confirmed this tradition in the Latin Church (cf. PDV 29).

Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but rather expresses and serves it (cf. LG13; OE 6), witness the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, we propose that criteria and dispositions be established by the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region.

Therefore, the door is open. There is no reason to prohibit in other regions of the world what will be permitted in some parts of the Amazon. The German bishops, and others, are ready to extend access to the presbyterate to married men deemed suitable by the competent authorities. What is being gotten rid of is not only a “ecclesiastical discipline” subject to change, but a law of the Church based on a precept of divine and Apostolic origin.

Fifty years ago, at the symposium of European bishops held in Chur in July 1969, Cardinal Leo-Joseph Suenens, during his concluding conference, read an appeal by Hans Küng to suppress priestly celibacy. This request was consistent with the role which progressive theology assigned to sexuality: an instinct that man should not repress through asceticism, but “liberate,” by finding in sex a form of “realization” of the human person. Since then, this demand has expanded and accompanied the process of the Church’s secularization and self-demolition.

In reality, the transgression of celibacy and simony were the great plagues that have always afflicted the Mystical Body of Christ in times of crisis. And the call to continence and evangelical poverty was the battle standard of the great reforming saints. In the coming days of February, the anti-Reformer will not be, as has happened so often, a bishop or a group of bishops, but the successor of Saint Peter himself.

Ecclesiastical celibacy is a glory of the Church and what he is demeaning is the very will of Christ, transmitted by the Apostles even to our day. How can we possibly imagine Catholics to remain silent in the face of this scandal? 

Translated from the Italian by Diane Montagna of LifeSiteNews.