Scottish Papabili Open to Allowing Catholic Priests to Marry; 5 Popes Who Were Married

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Is Vatican City jumping six centuries from the 15th to the 21st Century? At least one cardinal or papabili appears to bring modern ideas to the post about to be vacated by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb 28.

Keith Cardinal O'Brien, the shepherd of Roman Catholics in Scotland, is open to lifting the centuries-old ban on priests receiving another sacrament other than Holy Order - the sacrament of Matrimony.

The cardinal explained that the Catholic Church prohibition on marriage for clergy causes many priests to struggle in coping up in their ministry without a marital partner. He pointed out that requiring priests to remain single is not a teaching of Christ.

"For example the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry - Jesus didn't say that . . . There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church - in some branches of the Catholic church - priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again," The Guardian quoted the cardinal.

Pope Benedict, known for his conservatism, would rather stick to the Church tradition that priests should not marry. However, in 2011, he accepted married former Anglican priests.

The Scot cardinal also said he is open to ordination of women as priests.

He stressed that while he personally never considered marriage because he was too busy with his ministry, "I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married."

"It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own," he added.

However, the bad news for Catholics looking toward a more modern-thinking pope is that voting in the March conclave is one of the cardinal's last official duties as he is due also to retire as archbishop of St Andrew's and Edinburgh and head of the Catholic Church in Scotland since he will turn 75 on March 13.

His views on another controversial matter, gay marriage, however is very much Catholic. He criticised in 2012 the concept of same-sex marriage over BBC Radio 4, and for that was given the Bigot of the Year award by Stonewall, a gay lobby group.

He is also not a favourite papabili, according to bookies, who pointed to Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson as the leading candidates insofar as bettors are concerned.

Whoever gets elected, however, cannot refute the fact that at least five popes were once married men. Some of them even had children who eventually followed the footsteps of their holy dads. The five were:

1.     Simon Peter, the first pope and also known as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and Mark mentioned he had a mother-in-law who was sick, while one of his children is Saint Petronilla, the virgin martyr.

2.     Pope St. Hormisdas was married and widowed when he took the sacrament of Holy Orders. He fathered another pope, Pope St Silverius.

3.     Pope Adrian II was married to a woman named Stephania and they had a daughter. In fact, his family resided with him at the Lateran Palace.

4.     Pope John XVII was married before he became pope and had three sons who all became priests.

5.     Pope Clement IV was also married before he took the Holy Orders and had two daughters who entered the convent.

This is proof that married priests could become not only good clergymen but also role model as parents.

Besides these five popes, there were four other popes who were sexually active before they became priests based on their having children out of wedlock, another two could have become sexually active after becoming priests based on having illegitimate children, five were accused of being sexually active during their reign as pope and three rumoured to have male lovers during their term in Vatican.

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