A Scottish bishop has called for a public debate on the issue of allowing married men to become priests. In an interview in Scotland on Sunday, the Bishop of Galloway, Maurice Taylor, 76, said he believed existing priests should remain celibate, but the church should consider ordaining married men. Bishop Taylor said: "To me we are being faced with a question: what is more important, to allow people a better chance of getting to Mass on Sunday or to keep priests celibate? "If the current rules are helping prevent Catholics from getting to go to Mass, or will do so in future, then I would be willing to see the rules relaxed to allow married men to become priests. "I would say there is considerable value in the obligation of celibacy, so I don't consider it is an unreasonable obligation to ask of single men. But I want to see a public debate on these questions so the church can talk things through now rather than later on." The Scottish Catholic Church currently has 900 priests, serving 800,000 Catholics. This is down from 1,195 in 1981, with many priests due to retire in the next decade. Referring to the married ex-Anglican clergy who have become Catholic priests in England, Bishop Taylor said their presence was a sign that the Catholic Church could tolerate married clergy. "There quite possibly could be this kind of change further down the line," he said. Describing Bishop Taylor's comments as a "thoughtful contribution," Archbishop Keith O'Brien, president of the Scottish Bishops Conference, said: "Ultimately, each bishop is entitled to his own views on this subject which is a matter of discipline not doctrine ." The Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, said he did not want to comment. Ronnie MacDonald, a spokesman for the traditionalist group Catholic Truth, pointed out that the Pope had recently re-stated the value of a celibate single priesthood. MacDonald said: "We have profound and pragmatic objections to the idea of married priests. On the spiritual side, the love of God in a priest should be all-embracing and all-consuming, so the priest can be a beacon for Catholic people." "Married men have obligations to their wives and families that must detract from the duties expected of a priest. He must devote all his energy to the service of God."
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