It's just a proposal, but the Vatican on Monday opened debate on what would be a very narrow path to the priesthood for married men, specifically those living in remote parts of the Amazon. The AP reports the call for study on the proposal was included in a working document for an October summit of bishops who will be talking about serving indigenous populations in the Pan-Amazon Region, which includes countries like Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. Those communities are only infrequently able to receive the Eucharist due to a shortage of priests there; some estimates put the ratio at one priest per 10,000 Catholics. Per the paper, the options are to let that persist or to alter the "criteria of selection and preparation of the ministers authorized to celebrate it."
What that could look like, per the paper: ordaining "viri probati," married men of proven character, specifically "elderly men, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted members of their community, even if they already have an established and stable family." The Wall Street Journal reports that Pope Francis has previously said the "door is always open" to such an idea, though he was firm in his stance that the church's insistence on priests being unmarried must largely stand. There are two exceptions currently permitted: married men who convert from Protestant churches can be Catholic priests, and married men can be ordained in the Eastern rite Catholic Church. As for this potential exception, the New York Times notes the church "sees its future" in the Southern Hemisphere. The document also suggested allowing women to perform "official ministry" but didn't specify what that would look like. (Read more Catholic Church stories.)