By a Newsnet reporter
The UK’s top Roman Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has said that priests should be allowed to marry and raise families.
In a startling statement that goes against the current convention, the Cardinal said that many priests struggled with the restrictions placed on them by having to remain celibate.
Cardinal O’Brien’s comments came in an interview with the BBC. In the interview he said: “For example the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry – Jesus didn’t say that.
“There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church – in some branches of the Catholic church – priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine of origin and it could get discussed again.”
He added: “In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it.
“I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.
“It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own.”
As the UK’s leading Roman Catholic, Cardinal O’Brien will take part in the process that will lead to a new Pope being chosen. The current pontiff Pope Benedict XVI recently announced his intention to retire, citing failing health.
Cardinal O’Brien also indicated his preference for a younger man to replace the outgoing Pope.
His comments will be seen by some as an indication that there are those within the Catholic Church who feel that it needs to evolve in order to maintain its relevance in a modern society.