Catholic priests, who've left the priesthood for married life may possibly be permitted to return to their calling. Pope Benedict will meet tomorrow with top Vatican officials to discuss lifting the celibacy requirement for priests seeking to marry, or who have already married.
Volunteer TV's Gary Loe spoke with East Tennessee clergy members, and what impact this could have. The practice of celibacy by Catholic priests is ancient, deeply rooted in Biblical history and written in scripture.
"It is a radical choice to make to give up something so precious," Father Vann Johnston said.
Father Vann Johnston, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, says priestly celibacy reflects the way Jesus lived. Pope Benedict XVI called a meeting to examine the implications of the disobedience of archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Zambian excommunicated in September for installing 4 married American men as bishops.
The Vatican stresses the pope's meeting would not open a general discussion of the celibacy requirement for priests. It would instead only examine requests for dispensation made by priests wishing to marry and requests for readmission made by clergy who had married recently.
"I don't ever foresee a point where priestly celibacy would ever be totally done away with," Johnston said.
Sevier Heights Baptist Church officials on Alcoa Highway focus much of their work on strengthening marriages. Brother David Harkins says having married clergy members in any religion may be helpful, in that respect.
"I would guess that they're probably a lot of people who would consider the priesthood if they knew that they would not be excluded from it by being married," Harkins said.
Father Johnston says several former priests, now married, live here in East Tennessee and if permitted, might consider a return to the priesthood. Those men were not available for this news story because the church asks former priests to remain low key and not draw attention to themselves in this regard.
Father Johnston points out the Catholic church has ordained married men in good standing. Most recently, an increased number of Protestant ministers have become Catholic priests.