Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the new Secretary of State of the Vatican, said priest celibacy is "not a church dogma" and is therefore open to discussion as the church embraces a "more democratic spirit" under Pope Francis.
When asked by the interviewer whether there are two different types of dogmas – those created by men and those created by Jesus – Parolin responded "certainly."
"There are dogmas that are defined and untouchable," he said in a Spanish-language video interview with Venezuelan newspaper El Universal on Sunday.
The interviewer asked, "Celibacy is not?"
"Celibacy is not an institution but, look, it is also true that you can discuss it because as you say this is not a dogma, a dogma of the church, it is a church tradition," Parolin said.
The issue of priestly celibacy became the focus of intense debate because some critics said it played a role in the scandals involving clergy sexual abuse.
Parolin acknowledged that the pope has made it one of his objectives to create a more democratic atmosphere in the church.
"It has always been said that the church is not a democracy," he said. "But it would be good during these times that there could be a more democratic spirit, in the sense of listening carefully...A collegial movement of the church, where all the issues can be brought up, and afterward he can make a decision."
Renowned reporter John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter said Parolin's comments are raising eyebrows and could signal significant changes in church teaching and practice.
"What the interview confirms is not so much a spirit of revolution on Francis's watch,” Allen wrote. “But rather the generally pragmatic and moderate stamp of his papacy."
But Alberto Cutie, a former Miami priest who famously left the Catholic Church after photos showed him embracing his then girlfriend, now-wife, on a Miami beach, said he doubts the comments from the Pope’s No. 2 man signal a discussion on celibacy anytime soon.
'I''m much happier now as a priest,” Cutie, now an Episcopal priest and father of two, told NBC 6 Miami. “Because I think I can serve God as a married man and I see all my colleagues do it. We have celibate priests and married priests in the Episcopal church."
He also said more Catholic priests would stay with the church if allowed for priests to marry.
"I can tell you everyday since I became an Anglican, the day I joined the Episcopal church," Cutie said. "I've received an email, a phone call, or letter from a Roman Catholic brother who's thinking of making this transition that I have made."