In 1965, there were 58,000 priests in the U.S. and in 2016 there were only 37,000. Catholic priests are in high demand and less men are wanting to become priests each year. Pope Francis has suggested that he would be open to thinking about allowing married men to become priests, especially in remote areas of the world. For example, the Amazon has only 1 priest for every 10,000 Catholics, so allowing married men to become priests would be extremely beneficial to these Catholic communities. It is unclear if this idea would extend to the United States if approved or if it would just extend to communities around the world that need it the most. Stephen Rossetti, a Catholic University of America Professor, says that Pope Francis would most likely not extend this to the West, but make an exception and allow it in remote countries as a merciful gesture.
The idea might anger some members of the Catholic Church because of the issue of celibacy. Celibacy is what separates Catholic priests from Protestant ones and Catholics view this as something special that their priests have. Pope Francis has said in the past that priests should be celibate, but he also said that it is not technically dogma so it is open to change. Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian at Villanova University, states that the idea of celibate priests is more institutional, financial, and cultural than it is theological.
This potential shift away from traditional rules in the Catholic Church may lead the Church to greater acceptance by secular culture and may make the Church more appealing to outsiders. It would allow more members of society to become leaders in the Church. Having married priests would also make them more relatable, which is likely to attract new members.