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Pope Francis talks about being ‘dazzled’ by girl, possible celibacy rule change

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 20, 2013

(CNN) — For centuries, the Vatican has required celibacy from its priests. It is a vow the Catholic Church says not only underscores the commitment of seminarians to their vocation but also is a model of Christ’s own celibacy.

But with the election of a new pope, many church watchers are wondering whether church teachings could change to allow all priests to marry.

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Currently, the Vatican allows married Anglican priests who join the Catholic Church to become ordained as priests. Young Catholic seminarians, meanwhile, must remain celibate, and church leadership seems unlikely to move on the issue.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that while changes to church law on celibacy might be discussed, it is unlikely to change soon.

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“It startles me sometimes (when people) say why doesn’t the church talk about married priests,” he said. “I think we talk about it; I can’t get my hair cut without my barber asking me about it. (But) I don’t think there would be that kind of change.

“For a pope, the mission statement is to conserve in the best sense of the word … preserve the spiritual patrimony of the church, the timeless teaching that’s taught to us from Jesus to his apostles through 2,000 years of the Church.

“Now that doesn’t mean he might not change the way it’s presented.”

For the Vatican, the debate on celibacy is nothing new; it has been going on in various forms since the Reformation of the 16th century — but the past 50 years has put new pressures on the priesthood.

The Vatican reaffirmed its commitment to continuing the practice at the height of the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s.

In 1967, Pope Paul VI, who charted the Catholic Church through the difficult shoals of the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, published an encyclical, or open letter to the church, entitled Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Latin for “Of the celibate priesthood”).

In it, he outlined the reasons for keeping the tradition of celibacy a part of church teaching: it was a superior way of achieving grace, it freed priests from familial obligations in order to devote themselves to God, it mirrored heaven as a place without marriage.

“In any case, the church of the West cannot weaken her faithful observance of her own tradition,” Pope Paul VI wrote at the time.