Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The Vatican could be opening the door to life as a priest without the vow of celibacy.
The change in tone appears to have been prompted by a shift in leadership at the Vatican, after Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin as the Vatican's Secretary of State.
“Efforts the church made to keep ecclesiastical celibacy, to impose ecclesiastical celibacy, have to be taken into consideration,” Parolin told a Venezuelan newspaper, El Universal.
It's a comment that some believe signals a significant change in tone under the fresh leadership of Pope Francis.
"These are people who don't just speak casually, especially on something this momentous," explained Margaret Susan Thompson, Professor of History & Religion at Syracuse University.
Father Donald Maldari chose a life of celibacy, but does not believe the lifestyle should be required for priests.
"I don't know any theologian who supports the imposition of celibacy," said Father Maldari, Assistant Professor of Theology at LeMoyne College.
But, the idea remains controversial with priests throughout the world.
Many oppose any consideration of altering tradition. Supporters argue celibacy is a discipline which can be changed, versus dogma - rules that cannot be altered.
A shortage of priests may have encouraged a new attitude in Rome.
It's a problem Father Maldari has seen first - hand in Central New York.
"Priests who are in charge of two or three parishes, well that is exhausting. It's not fair to the parishioners who would like somebody there full time and there are people who can do it full time. They just want to be married. Why not?" Father Maldari said.
The idea is not new to the Catholic religion as Catholicism included many married priests in its early stages.
In today’s world, men who are already married are considered for ordination in the Eastern Catholic Church.
Some experts suggest the reaction to Parolin's comments is more hype than reality.
Thompson believes the words were chosen carefully, leaving enough room for the Vatican to close the discussion as quickly as it was opened.
"It's open to discussion he said, but that doesn't mean that priests should go out and buy engagement rings next week," Thompson said.
A word of caution in a culture of careful changes.