BOSTON (CBS) – Pope Francis is opening the door for married men to become priests. He sees that as a way to solve the problem of a priest shortage, especially in Latin and South America.

The Pope floated the idea in an interview, and you can bet it’s a big topic in the Vatican. You can never discount the possibility that Pope Francis is going to surprise.

In Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper he said the Catholic Church should study whether already married men of proven faith could become priests. “What the Pope is saying is maybe we ought to look at this a little more in depth,” says Father James Bretzke, a Boston College theologian and Vatican expert.

Father James Bretzke (WBZ-TV)

Fr. Bretzke says the Pope wants to address a serious problem. “Especially since there are many places in the world that really don’t have access to the Eucharist because we don’t have enough priests,” he says.

The idea is not new, but has never been enacted, and it wouldn’t be a blanket approval for priests to marry. “We’re not talking about ordaining men who are currently unmarried and allowing them the possibility of being married, but the other way around,” says Fr. Bretzke.

And it would mark a big change. “I think the usual suspects will say the usual things. I think the people in the center of the church or more left of center, will say this is where we need to go. Those on the right or extreme right are saying, here’s another example of Pope Francis playing fast and loose with established traditions and where is he going to go next,” Fr. Bretzke adds.

There are a small number of married Catholic priests right now. The church allows married men who were ordained as Anglican or Lutheran priests, and who convert, to take the Catholic vows.

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