Helmut Hoping, professor of dogmatic theology in Freiburg, and Fr. Philipp Müller, pastoral theology professor from Mainz, have called for loosening the requirement of celibacy for priests, in view of the priesthood shortage in Germany. In the March issue of Herder Korresponendenz, they advocate ordaining “viri probati,” well-proven candidates, from among married permanent deacons, katholisch.de reports.
The theologians emphasize that there is “no doubt that the Catholic Church has the freedom to do this, when it seems advisable for pastoral reasons.”
They cite a proposal to the German bishops’ conference advanced in 1970 to ordain married men alongside celibate men. Among those behind that proposal were now-cardinals Walter Kasper and Karl Lehmann, and theologian Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI).
Hoping and Müller call for the bishops’ conference to make concrete proposals to Pope Francis. They note that it would be possible for two or three bishops, with the permission of Rome, to move forward and ordain married deacons.
It is worth noting that Hoping is a supporter of the pre-Vatican II 1962 Missal, and has spoken (in NPM’s Pastoral Music, for example) for a literal translation of pro multis, “for you and for many.” Hoping is himself a married deacon.