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Leader Of Largest US Catholic Church Advocates For Married Priests

The leader of the largest Catholic church in the U.S. said he would support allowing married men to become priests, among other church reforms.

Monsignor John McSweeney said in an interview with the Charlotte Observer Friday about his upcoming retirement that he would support a reversal of the church’s celibacy requirement for priests.

McSweeney is the pastor of St. Matthew, the largest Catholic parish in the U.S., which is located in Charlotte, NC. The Catholic church’s rule concerning celibacy for priests is a hindrance, according to McSweeney, given the shortage of diocesan priests.

“And many men I was in the (Catholic) seminary with would be great priests today except for one thing,” McSweeney said, explaining that the “one thing” was the desire for marriage.

Pope Francis has also pushed for reform within the church concerning marriage, most recently with a new policy allowing divorced and remarried people to receive communion. He allegedly also has plans to reform the policy on celibacy for priests, according to his longtime friend Oscar Crespo, a native of Buenos Aires, in an interview with Catholic Online from 2015.

“He said, these were his priorities as Pope. The first of all is to change the rules for divorced couples,” Crespo said. “The second was to eliminate the law of celibacy. He said it was not part of the doctrine of the church. It was started more than 1,000 years ago by a pope, and he (Francis) considers it archaic, an antiquity which needs to be reconsidered.”

Francis himself said in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit that he would consider ordaining virtuous married men, proven in faith, as a “possibility,” according to the National Catholic Register.

McSweeney said he would like the church to become more inclusive and welcoming of groups that have felt alienated by the church in the past, including the LGBT community, and those whose marriage status puts them at odds with church doctrine. McSweeney said he is concerned that members of the Catholic church may revolt against current church authority without such reforms.

Of the younger conservative priests, McSweeney said that they “are trying to reform the reform. … I don’t endorse what they’re doing to God’s people.”

McSweeney has served St. Matthew parish for 43 years and will deliver his farewell sermon Sunday.

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