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Call to priesthood not the same as call to celibacy, says dean

24 July 2015 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

The dean-elect of Salzburg University’s Catholic theological faculty has called for married priests and women deacons in the Church.

“Married priests and women deacons should be reintroduced as soon as possible. That would bring new dynamism to the Church”, the future dean of Salzburg University’s Catholic theological faculty, Professor Dietmar Winkler, told the Austrian daily Salzburger Nachrichten.

The interview was published during the Salzburg Festival and immediately hit the headlines. Professor Winkler said he could not see why men who felt called to the priesthood should be forced to remain celibate. Asceticism, which Religious felt called to, was a charism that could not be forced on people, while compulsory celibacy was not introduced for several hundred years and then for diverse reasons - one of which was to prevent imperial dynasties from inheriting church possessions.

Asked what would happen if priests who had married were to get divorced, Professor Winkler replied that there were many priests who failed to remain celibate. “Jesus came to the broken and not to the perfect”, he recalled. The Orthodox Church had found a good solution, he recalled, allowing married priests and under certain conditions remarriage in church after divorce.

According to present Catholic teaching, partners of a second marriage lived in permanent sin. “I think that is really wrong and this question will be a crunch point at the Synod in October. Discussion of marriage theology is a must”. The issue of women priests was “theologically complicated” but women deacons “which is well documented up to the Middle Ages” should be reintroduced as soon as possible, he said. Professor Winkler, 52, was appointed adviser to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity by Pope Benedict XVI and confirmed in this office by Pope Francis. He is also adviser to Congregation for the Oriental Churches.



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