VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The first to raise the question of viri probati (married men becoming priests) in a 2014 meeting with Pope Francis, Bp. Erwin Kräutler spoke at the Amazon Synod on Wednesday.
Christopher Lamb of The Tablet asked Kräutler, an Austrian missionary in the Brazilian Amazon and a member of the pre-synodal council, at the Amazon synod: "From your experience in the Amazon, why do you think that ordaining married men is so important for the region?"
I am saying this with great sincerity. There is no other option.
Indigenous peoples do not understand celibacy. They say that very openly and I say that very openly as well. How often did I get to an indigenous village and the first thing they asked me is: "Where is your wife?" And I have had to explain that I am not married.
And they were almost feeling sorry for me. They said, "Oh, poor man."
And then the second time [they asked], I said, "She's far, far away, very far away." But I was thinking of my mother who is thousands of kilometers away from me ... They cannot understand that a man is not married, that he doesn't have a woman taking care of the house or the home.
At #SinodoAmazonico #AmazonSynod Presser, @ctrlamb asks +Erwin Kräutler, Austrian Missionary Bishop in Brazil, why does he think ordaining married men is important to the region; +Kräutler says "there is no other option, indigenous people do not understand celibacy" pic.twitter.com/xxN71U7mqF— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) October 9, 2019
As a member of the pre-synodal council, Kräutler met with the Pope on April 4, 2014, where he first proposed the notion of married priests.
Recalling the meeting to journalists, he said:
I presented three points to the Pope: the Amazon, the destruction [of the Amazon] and threats of [the Amazon] being razed to the ground; indigenous peoples; and the Eucharist.
There are thousands and thousands of communities in the Amazon that do not have the Eucharist, except for once or twice a year. But the Eucharist for us is the cornerstone of our faith, so these people are excluded from the context of the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II said that the Church does not exist if not near the altar. But these people do not have an altar! We speak of celibacy, "yes," celibacy, "no," but we want these brothers and sisters of ours not only to have the table of the word but also the Eucharist.
These communities can celebrate the Eucharist only if there is a celibate priest, so do we think celibacy is above the Eucharist? The Lord said at the time of his death: "Do this in memory of me." It is an obligation. The Lord did not say: "Do it once in a while, whenever you wish."
Kräutler continued to tell journalists that women organize and lead two-thirds of the Amazonian communities without priests, using that as a springboard to discuss female deacons: "There is much talk about the enhancement of women, but what does it mean? Yes, you are a person, you are good. ... But we need concrete things. I am thinking of the female diaconate, why not? This is also a topic of the Synod."
Kräutler then discussed hydroelectric power plants in Brazil and "aggressions on the ecosystem."
Catholic Twitter responded strongly against Kräutler's position on priestly celibacy.
"If they don't understand celibacy, they don't understand marriage, so you won't find any viri probati," read one tweet.
Others noted that celibacy is not understood in the United States either, but that such a lack of understanding has no bearing on the Faith.
"I'd say a LOT of men in the US don't 'understand celibacy' either but that doesn't mean we just ignore what our Faith teaches," read another.
"Celibacy is countercultural here in the US and good holy priests embrace it. The 'not understanding of the indigenous people' is a crutch to force through an agenda," read another tweet.
"'Indigenous people do not understand celibacy.' What a ridiculous argument. Can you imagine the Early Church not evangelising because the people with whom they came into contact would not have understood monotheism? Good shepherds will teach their flock," read another tweet.