News outlets are proclaiming that Pope Francis is about to relax the rules on married priests, possibly opening the door to allowing priests to wed. The only problem with these reports is they are fake news.
Pope Francis gave an interview to Die Zeit in which the topic of married priests was discussed. Unfortunately, the media has seized upon his comments and construed them to suit their own agenda without paying much attention to his actual words.
Pope Francis spoke about a class of men known as the viri probati. The Latin term refers to men who are “proven.” Such a class exists within the deacons of the Church, some of whom are faithfully married, and others widowed who maintain a celibate life. It is these men Pope Francis mentioned the Church could someday explore what work they could do if admitted to priestly service.
Pope Francis said, “Then we have to consider what tasks they could perform, for instance in isolated communities.”
This is far from a resounding yes. Instead, Pope Francis is indicating he is willing to discuss the possibility of admitting some of these men to priestly service under particular circumstances and to fulfill specific duties, where a priest is otherwise unavailable.
To agree to discuss a topic is not the same as to accept a conclusion. However, the press has already twisted his words to suggest that priests will soon be permitted to marry.
The problem is so bad that the media previously suggested the Pope endorsed atheism as a legitimate path to salvation!
In some places, the Church has a problem with priestly vocations. Certainly, God is calling many men to the priesthood, but in our time it is difficult for men to hear the voice of God amid the clamor of pop culture.
To admit the viri probati to priestly service is a band-aid solution to an underlying problem. We must teach young Catholic men how to turn down the volume of pop culture and how to listen more closely for God. For once these men hear the power of God speaking directly to their heart, all the distraction in the world will not affect them. There is no sweeter sound than the voice of God.
Perhaps this is the question the media should ask the Pope. How can young people better discern what is real and important from what is false and vain?
But that doesn’t sell as many papers.