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German cardinal questions priest celibacy rule

February 2, 2022

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx has called the Catholic Church practice of celibacy for priests "precarious," and has said "sexuality is part of being human."

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx has repeatedly called for reforms within the Catholic ChurchImage: Tobias Hase/dpa/picture alliance

The archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has called for the Catholic Church to consider ending celibacy for priests, saying they should be allowed to marry if they wish.

"It would be better for everyone to create the possibility of having both celibate and married priests," Marx said in comments to be published in Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Thursday.

"For some priests, it would be better if they were married. Not just for sexual reasons, but because it would be better for their lives and they wouldn't be so lonely," Marx told the paper.

"I think that things as they are cannot continue like this," he said.

Sexual abuse scandal

His Archdiocese of Munich and Freising was the focus of a damning report in January that highlighted decades of sexual abuse by priests.

The report accused Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a former archbishop of Munich, of failing to take action against four suspected perpetrators. Marx himself was also accused of not taking action.

In 2021, Marx offered to resign over the church's "institutional and systemic failure" in its handling of child sex abuse scandals. But Pope Francis rejected his offer, saying the cardinal should stay in his post and help push for reforms.

Celibacy, women priests up for discussion

Marx told the German newspaper that the practice of celibacy was "precarious," but refused to draw a link between celibacy and cases of abuse that have shaken the Catholic Church around the world.

"This way of life and this grouping of men draws in people who are unsuited and who might not be mature," he said. "But sexuality is part of being human."

Marx was tight-lipped on the question of whether women should be priests, saying only that it was a topic that was being discussed inside the church.

"I'm not just a person who has an opinion," he said. "I have to help hold the organization together."

A new assembly aimed at reforming the German Catholic Church is set to begin in Frankfurt on Thursday. It is expected to address a number of topics, including the position of women in the church, Catholic sexual morality and celibacy.

nm/sms (dpa, epd)