Ecclesial Law (under construction)
Canonical pathways for the return of older, married men, to be ordained to the priesthood (if local bishop requests dispensations)
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, J.C.D., of India (appointed cardinal by Benedict XVI) on married priests: "It's open." "Following present canon law, there's a possibility" that Holy See can grant a "dispensation" to a married man to be ordained priest. Bishops need to petition Vatican.
Sandro Magister (2020): "But how will the ordination of married men be authorized? De Almeida says that 'for now the solution is in the code of canon law,' which in canons 1042 and 1047 admits that in special cases the Holy See can exempt candidates for the priesthood from the 'impediment' of marriage, taking into account ‘the good of the faithful,’ the presence of a ‘just and reasonable cause’ and ‘the circumstances of the case’ ...."
Can. 1047 §1: "Dispensation from all irregularities is reserved to the Apostolic See alone if the fact on which they are based has been brought to the judicial forum."
Can. 1042: "The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:
1/ a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate"
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (created cardinal by John Paul II and palpable until 2025) of Austria:
"The question of married priests, I myself said, 'Well, first, do you have married deacons? Vatican II has opened the possibility of married deacons.'"
"And I said, 'This is a kind of laboratory where you can see how it works...married deacons with family having their professional life and working as volunteers for the Church, for their parish, baptizing, blessing marriages, and making funerals and all these possibilities of permanent deacons.'"
"And perhaps, perhaps if the Church decides it is possible that, one or the other, some of them one day may become ordained priest, it’s not to be excluded. But before asking these questions, we have to ask these other questions which have perhaps not been sufficiently treated in the Synod."
While maintaining celibacy in the Latin rite as a norm, the Holy See would grant dispensations under Canon 1047.2 with petition of the local bishop (or bishops regional conference) to ordain some married deacons to the priesthood after a fruitful diaconate and suitable formation that is on a case-by-case basis.
A married deacon is already dispensed from celibacy and thereby continence and so would again be dispensed by the Apostolic See when ordained to the priesthood in the Latin rite as a viri probati priest. Celibacy would thus remain the general canonical norm, along with these exceptions granted by the Holy See:
1) Pastoral Provision (1981)
2) Ordinariate (2009)
3) Viri Probati Dispensation (proposed): Married deacons with a fruitful ministry ordained to the priesthood where the local bishop determines a need (diaconate would thus be a real, testing stepping stone to the priesthood) [viri probati are not young seminarians in their 20s].
Ordaining Viri Probati married men in the diaconate to the presbyterate is the best way forward without abolishing celibacy as the general norm.
The Church has the authority to change what is not essential to the priesthood. The Church taketh away, but the Church also giveth.