updated 11/9/2008 3:20:28 PM ET 2008-11-09T20:20:28

A senior Catholic bishop in England was quoted as saying Sunday that married men should be allowed to become Catholic priests.

"It is a question of justice for those men who want to be priests and to have a wife," Bishop of Nottingham Malcolm McMahon said in an interview published in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "Marriage should not bar them from their vocation, but they must be married before they are ordained."

His words are at odds with the leadership of the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI made it clear at a Vatican summit in 2006 that he believes in mandatory celibacy for priests as a nonnegotiable job requirement for showing devotion to God and the people they serve.

The Vatican requires celibacy of priests ordained under the Latin rite, but married men can become priests in the Eastern Orthodox rite.

The Vatican has accepted some married Anglican priests who joined the Catholic fold.

McMahon was quoted as praising married clergy who had left the Anglican church to protest its ordination of female priests and joined the Roman Catholic Church.

"They bring a great experience of family life. I find that they are excellent at administering to women," he said.

A telephone call seeking comment from the press office of the Catholic Church in England and Wales on Sunday night was not immediately returned.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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