HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are enough priests to oversee Hawaii's 66 Roman Catholic parishes, but about half of them are here on loan.
If they were all suddenly called home, Hawaii would have a severe shortage of homegrown priests. There are only about a dozen waiting to be ordained.
"It's not something that you just turn the faucet and it happens. It's a long journey for them," said John Coughlin, co-director of the Diocese of Honolulu's Deacon Formation Program.
A shortage of priests globally, especially in remote areas of Latin America, is what's behind new comments from Pope Francis that are causing a stir. The pontiff said this week he wants the church to explore ordaining married men as priests.
That would take the church a step away from the discipline of celibacy for all Roman Catholic clergy.
"It seems to me this is a stopgap measure to deal with the needs of the people until we can see a restored priesthood," Coughlin said.
Parishioners attending Friday mass at Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace had mixed reactions to the pope's idea.
"Priests generally should be focusing on their job, which is the mass and then ministering to the people. So being married might throw that off a little bit," Glen Arcalas said.
"It's just been the tradition so long that I don't know if I could get used to it right away," April Bearcomesout said.
Coughlin said if the church allows married priests they'd likely come from the ranks of deacons, the married men who already serve their parishes and perform many priestly duties.
"It would be huge commitment," he said. "Having not really entertained the thought myself, it would be starting at square one."
Transitioning from deacon to priest would require years of training.
Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva on Friday stressed the value of the Roman Catholic Church's requirement that priests be unmarried men, but he agrees that ordaining married men should be examined.