Wimmera priests call for debate over married men as priests

Horsham parish priest Father Peter Hudson
Horsham parish priest Father Peter Hudson

WIMMERA priests have supported a move to end a long-standing Catholic Church tradition. 

It comes after Pope Francis said the church should consider allowing married men to be ordained as priests in rural communities facing clergy shortages.

But Pope Francis said that men who were already priests would not be allowed to marry and would have to stay celibate.

Stawell parish priest Father Eric Bryant said it was an idea had been discussed for many years.

“There is a shortage of priests and a change would allow people, who are well-established in the community, to be ordained,” he said. “Whether that is the local butcher, baker or candlestick maker.

“It’s something that needs to be looked at.”

Fr Bryant said most Wimmera people would be accepting of the change.

“I think people would be more than happy to have a married priest, if the right person was chosen and they were respected in the community,” he said. “There would be some people who would think the Pope is off his rocker.

“In Rome, every step you take you run into a priest.

“But you would have to take a lot of steps in this part of the world.” Fr Bryant said he hoped Pope Francis’ idea was acted on in the future.

Horsham parish priest Father Peter Hudson said Pope Francis had been wonderful in his responses to the church in the current time. 

“He is recognising the need for change, and this is one of those changes,” he said.

Fr Hudson said there would be some people in the Wimmera who would have an issue with married men becoming priests.

“But majority of people would be accepting of the fact that such people involved in various ministries of the church come from all facets of life,” he said.

While there are no priests being trained for the Ballarat diocese at the moment, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne said there were currently about 60 men studying in the seminary to be priests.