Pope Francis expressed his concern on Monday about the "hemorrhaging" of nuns and priests in Europe.
"How many seminaries, churches, monasteries and convents will be closed in the next few years? God only knows," Francis exclaimed before a conference of Italian bishops.
The global number of Catholic priests declined by 136 between 2014 and 2015, the latest year with data available, but trends by continent are much different. In Africa and Asia, the church is experiencing growth, but in Europe the numbers are dwindling.
The pope blamed the shortage of priests on demographic changes, the scandals that have been making headlines, and cultural trends that are making young people favor the "dictatorship of money" over pledging themselves to the church.
Pope Francis has previously spoken favorably about viri probati, which is the Catholic Church's canonical law allowing married men to become priests. Viri probati is not currently active, but it could be enacted as a way to try and boost clergy membership.
Fun fact: the church got its inspiration for viri probati from the First Epistle of Clement, but Clement's use of the phrase was in a completely different context than what the church uses it for now. That sure sounds like the Catholic Church I know, coming up with loopholes and "reinterpreting" doctrine whenever it becomes inconvenient.
Viri probati has been debated within the church for decades, but, as mentioned before, it is not currently in effect. It will likely come up in discussion next year, though, when the world's bishops meet and discuss topics like the Amazon region, where there is only one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.
So if you are a married man and want to become a priest (why are you reading an atheist blog?) then stay tuned because you might be allowed in soon.