The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has indicated that he would be open to changes in the rules surrounding eligibility for the priesthood by allowing married Catholic men to become priests.
The Vatican, however, accepts married priests in certain circumstances, such as those in the Eastern Rite sects of the church, and married members of the Anglican or Episcopal churches who convert to Catholicism.
Although the Pope only talked about the possibility of deacons, many theologians and some bishops have suggested these "tested married men", could also be considered for priestly service.
"For some Catholics, this is like yet another example of things they have taken for granted about Catholicism that are now being reexamined", Schmalz said.
The number of priests in USA church has been steadily on the decline since the 1960s. The Catholic Church believes priests should not marry because a priest acts "in persona Christi" (in the person of Christ) and should therefore be celibate, like Christ.
"Voluntary celibacy is not a solution", Francis said. Priests from other sects of Christianity, such as Lutheranism or Episcopalianism, where marriage has been allowed for clergy, have been accepted as Catholic priests with the permission of their wives.
Francis has shown particular openness to receiving concrete proposals for ordaining married men as well as his own pastoral concern for men who have left ministry to marry.
But the church actually already allows exceptions to the rule.
This comes amid concerns there are not enough priests to serve remote areas with large Catholic populations, like the Amazon. In the United States, the celibacy requirement is partly what sets priests apart from clergy in Protestant denominations.
However, single men who are already priests would not be allowed to marry.