Pope Francis has said that he may be open to married men serving as priests in order to combat the clergy shortage. That said, the possible change would not eradicate the call to celibacy entirely, and may be based off of previously existing loopholes in the Church’s doctrine.

The change would likely only be temporary, reflecting the dwindling numbers of the clergy

The Pontiff hosted an interview with the German newspaper "Die Zeit," in which he explained that the dwindling number of Catholic priests had become an "enormous problem" for the modern Church, and may consider possibly changing Church doctrine to allow what is called "viri probati," which means married men of notable faith.

While unclear, it is likely there will be specific prerequisites for married men in order for them to become priests.

In a sense, the move would impose a grandfather clause that would allow men who are already married to become priests, but not permit currently ordained priests or single men who are set to become priests to give up their Vows Of Celibacy.

It is likely that if the Church permits such action, it would likely only be a temporary change. The Pope had previously wrote in his book, “On Heaven and Earth,” that celibacy had reportedly brought about “ten centuries of good experiences more often than failure.” Traditionally, Catholic priests are obliged to remain unmarried in imitation of Christ, and from Catholic interpretation of certain Biblical passages.

Popes such as St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had also defended the celibacy vows.

The modern Catholic Church already permits married men to take on holy orders in certain situations

Despite popular belief, the Catholic Church does already permit married men to become priests through one loophole. Certain Protestant priests who convert to Roman Catholicism are allowed to become priests, even if they are married.

However, these priests are usually obliged to take on vows of celibacy upon the death of their spouse, and it is expected that a similar obligation will be imposed on married priests if such changes are applied to Church doctrine.

Married men are also currently permitted to become deacons within the Church, although with the obligation not to remarry if they become widowed. Even so, widowed deacons can obtain permission to remarry under certain circumstances, such as having underage children who could benefit from the care of a stepmother.