ROME (AFP) – Advocates of abolishing the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests exaggerate the numbers of those who leave the Roman Catholic Church in order to marry, an influential Jesuit magazine said Thursday.
Groups such as the US-based Married Priests Now claim that between 80,000 and 100,000 men have done so.
But the magazine Civilta Cattolica said that while "no precise statistics" are available on the number of priests who have married after leaving their ministries, "on the basis of information from the dioceses" 69,063 priests left overall from 1964 to 2004.
Of those, more than 11,000 returned between 1970 and 2004, "which means that married priests cannot number more than 57,000 today" given that a certain number have no doubt died over the 40-year period, the magazine argued.
Also, each year some priests are allowed back into the fold after they are widowed or their children grow up, according to the magazine, which is tightly controlled by the Vatican.
Civilta Cattolica noted that rejection of the celibacy vow was not the only reason for leaving. Some priests suffer crises of faith, have conflicts with their superiors or disagree with Church teaching, for example, it said.
Severe depression can be another cause, it added.
In the past 40 years, 438 married priests have asked to return to the Church, of whom 220 have been accepted. Another 114 applications are still under consideration.
The last line seems a little off to me. Priests that leave to get married without seeking laicization can not get validly married in the first place because of the canonical impediment and as far as I know the large majority of those who left especially in the seventies never received permission.
As a teenager I would attend Mass with my mother at a Church in Portland, Or with two touchy-feely liberal priests whose view of the supernatural seemed to exactly match my views as an atheist at the time. Plenty of "vibrant" Masses with pop songs, holding hands and swaying, etc. Both left the priesthood to get married.