Photo Credits: npr.org
A storm in a teacup happened once again in the Vatican. In October 2019, bishops in in Latin America's Amazon region gathered and voted 128-41 in favor of allowing married priests to be ordained in that part of Latin America to compensate for a shortage of priests there. There was also an option to ordain women as deacons. They were waiting only for Pope Francis to say the final word on the matter.
In a document called Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), pope Francis turned down the opportunity to recommend married priests as the solution to a shortage of priests in the Amazon region – despite the wishes of Amazon bishops. He said that the Roman Catholic Church should find other ways to address a dire shortage of clergy in South America's Amazon region.
No one is much surprised by pope Francis' decision to preserve the traditional stance on this matter. The bishops’ plan was widely seen as another potential rift between Francis and his conservative critics within the church — some of whom have already accused the pope of heresy because of his stances on issues such as homosexuality and divorce. Nothing important has changed, so conservatives can sleep well. It’s not important if those unmarried priests who respect celibacy have a sex life in private, as long as no one knows.
"Priests are necessary, but this does not mean that permanent deacons (of whom there should be many more in the Amazon region), religious women and lay persons cannot regularly assume important responsibilities for the growth of communities," Francis wrote in the document, "and perform those functions ever more effectively with the aid of a suitable accompaniment."
Laying out what he calls his four "dreams" for the region, Francis called for "an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor; preserves its distinctive cultural riches; that jealously preserves its overwhelming natural beauty and lastly, that the Christian communities might be capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region," as the official Vatican News reports.
The church will, however, allow a shortage of priests in the area, rather than changing anything in its rules. Rigid rules in this case they can backfire and Catholic Church may lose its influence in Latin America's Amazon region.