BRUSSELS — Two Belgian bishops have openly questioned mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests, rekindling a debate Monday within the church.
The bishop of Hasselt, Patrick Hoogmartens, and his counterpart in Bruges, Jozef De Kesel, said in separate comments that married men should not automatically be excluded from priesthood.
The comments come amid the scandal over sex abuse among the clergy that has shaken the Belgian church to its core. Some have questioned whether celibacy is partly to blame and have called for the rule to be rethought. The Vatican insists that celibacy isn't responsible. In Belgium and other countries, celibacy has been linked to the shortage of new priests in Europe's parishes and to the sex abuse scandal.
Pope Benedict XVI has staunchly defended celibacy, saying in June that it is a "great sign of faith."