VATICAN CITY -- Exceptions to celibacy for priests in the Roman Catholic Church can be puzzling, including for young priests enthusiastic about their vocation.
The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, run by Opus Dei in Rome, held a theological conference on priestly celibacy March 4-5 and while no one challenged mandatory celibacy, there were repeated questions about the exceptions made in some of the Eastern Catholic churches and for clergy coming from the Anglican Communion.
"If celibacy is so tied theologically and spiritually to priestly identity, why the exceptions?" the questioners asked.
Speakers at the conference, attended mostly by priests and seminarians, acknowledged the confusion caused by the exceptions and by the frequent statement that celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, and so conceivably could change.
"In the eyes of many, the church hierarchy and especially the Apostolic See seem to hold contradictory positions on priestly celibacy," said Father Laurent Touze, a professor of spiritual theology and author of a book on the future of priestly celibacy.