VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A prominent Italian priest is claiming that married deacons are — with Pope Francis' blessing — celebrating "Mass" in the Amazon.
On Tuesday, Vatican expert Sandro Magister reported on a newly released video in which "esteemed" Bologna archdiocesan priest Fr. Giovanni Nicolini calls for the repeal of the clerical celibacy rule. The clip, published Aug. 29 on YouTube, was recorded as part of a "lesson" Fr. Nicolini gave last month to followers of La Rosa Bianca, a Catholic "political-cultural" association.
Described by Magister as "among those closest" to Pope Francis, Nicolini pointed to the Oct. 6–27 Amazon Synod as a revolutionary opportunity to dispense with the discipline of priestly celibacy.
The "Church of priests is coming to an end," the leftist priest declared. "We are now reaching the height of folly, every priest is taking care of six parishes, but this is how it ends."
"This crisis of the priesthood in any case will increase relentlessly, until serious consideration is finally given to the suitability of abolishing the celibacy of priests," he said.
Nicolini dismissed celibacy as "purely an arrangement of the disciplinary order ... not a vow, not a gift of God, not supported by the life of the community."
Recounting his experience in the confessional, Nicolini suggested that chastity is practically unattainable: "When I find out that a thirty-year-old priest who comes to me for confession, now they are putting him in a big rural area by himself, in six months he has a mistress."
"As long as this celibacy of priests remains, the decline is unstoppable," he added.
Buttressing his position, Nicolini made reference to the priest shortage in the South American interior. It was then he made his startling claim:
We found out that in the Amazon one evening, from an isolated mission parish in the Amazon they made a phone call, it was an old deacon, in his sixties, married, who said to his bishop: "I have to tell you that tomorrow there won't be any Mass, because there is no priest." And the bishop told him: "You go there and say Mass." A married deacon, children already raised, the "elders" are called, and the bishops there have given him authorization to preside over the liturgy. They told the pope about this and the pope said: "For now we cannot write anything, you go ahead!" I wondered, when I found out that he was convening the worldwide meeting of bishops for the Amazon, who knows if perhaps he can or wants to say something. But the Church, in its concrete juridical structure, as it exists now, is at an end.
If accurate, Nicolini's account has grave implications for the Church. Any "Mass" celebrated by a married deacon is, as canon lawyer Ed Peters noted Tuesday, not only invalid but sacrilegious.
Dear Amazon Church. Reports say that your deacons are 'offering Mass'. If true, please know, such acts are invalid, sacrilegious, and really, really stupid. Yours truly, the Catholic Church in the rest of the world. https://t.co/KkKuuMJBNC— Edward Peters (@canonlaw) September 10, 2019
More troubling, observers say, is the claim that this sacrilege was given the green light by one or more Amazonian bishops — and worst of all, by Pope Francis himself.
Nicolini did not identify the deacon, nor did he name the bishop(s) who allegedly approved of the sacrilegious "Mass." But if true, his account provides a glimpse of what may emerge from the upcoming Amazon Synod.
In May, synod insider Bp. Franz-Josef Overbeck of Germany hinted that the October gathering will spark sweeping changes to the hierarchical structure of the Church. The synod, he declared, will mark a point of no return for the Church, after which "nothing will be the same as it was."
In the face of ominous indicators, faithful prelates are warning Catholics to brace for whatever the synod may bring.
In an Aug. 28 letter to the College of Cardinals, Cdl. Walter Brandmüller rallied his brother bishops to counter "any heretical statements or decisions" that may result from the meeting in Rome, warning of "a situation never before seen in the Church's history, not even during the Arian crisis of the fourth and fifth century."
The same day, Cdl. Raymond Burke echoed Brandmüller in his own letter to fellow cardinals, voicing alarm over the "disturbing propositions" of the synod's working document, which he said "portend an apostasy from the Catholic faith."
In a July 17 essay, Bp. Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, warned that to abolish clerical celibacy would be to destroy "the apostolic inheritance of a priesthood living in a priestly manner, according to the explicit model of the life of Jesus Christ and His apostles throughout the Church."
In a July 11 interview with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Cdl. Gerhard Müller warned that the synod "is a pretext to change the Church" springing from "an ideological vision that has nothing to do with Catholicism."
In a June 28 statement to LifeSiteNews, Bp. Marian Eleganti of Chur, Switzerland, observed that if the ideas outlined in its working document are adopted, the synod "will contaminate the whole Mystical Body of the Church — and gravely damage it."