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Gee, time to re-think this celibacy thing?

Brazilian priest allegedly taped having sex with teen March 18, 2010

Irish priest committed abuse, destroyed family March 17, 2010

Will these stories never end? What is really inexcusable is the catholic church trying to hide these problem priests. Imagine knowingly sending a pedophile from one church to another? This is disgraceful. One of many things wrong with organized religion.


5 thoughts on “Gee, time to re-think this celibacy thing?

  1. Nick says:

    Every case of sexual abuse or misconduct committed by a member of the Catholic Church is reprehensible, and the fact that the Church as an institution addressed this problem so inadequately for so many years is just horrible. No doubt about it. I just think it needs to be said that the problem clearly does not originate in priestly celibacy. Other religions and Christian denominations which allow priests to marry have similar rates of child abuse; and marriage does not deter most child abusers, whether clergy or not, from fulfilling their twisted desires. Normal, heterosexual men who are sexually frustrated do not choose child abuse, of all possible outlets!!!

    The Church’s problem with sexual abuse has nothing to do with celibacy, but stems instead from two situations: the institutional Church’s bureaucratic approach to a moral and psychological problem (the fault of some negligent bishops) AND the popular wisdom of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s that pedophilia was an aberration that could be solved with cutting-edge psychotherapy (the fault of secular psychologists no doubt influenced by the sexual revolution). Many bishops were just following the best available advice in sending priests to clinical treatment before reassigning them in parishes.

    You’d be right to say that this whole scandal has been a very real problem with the way the Catholic religion used to organize itself. Although the press won’t say so, in the last decade, the Church has revolutionized its way of doing business and become a far safer place to raise children. (Note, for instance, that in one of the articles you cited, the abuse took place half a century ago. In the other article, the priest was immediately dismissed upon being found out — and what else did you expect the Church to do?) Of course, anyone ever abused by a Catholic priest would be justified in saying that these reforms have taken place…if not too little, then certainly too late.


  2. Cindy says:

    I don’t get the whole celibacy thing, who made up that rule anyway? I do think that many gay men go into the priesthood as a way to escape. This may contribute to the unusually high abuse to young boys within the catholic church. But I see your point. I’m sure the church is doing all they can to prevent this sort of thing. It’s also much harder to cover things up these days.

  3. Nick says:

    Celibacy is a discipline that was developed over time (and not just in Catholicism), taking root in Christianity in the first few centuries AD and solidified as a clerical norm in the eleventh century. So married priests have existed and they continue to exist to this day — in some Orthodox churches which are in full communion with Rome and in former Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism after having been married and have been allowed by the Vatican to continue exercising priestly faculties.

    So there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with married priests, and the current discipline could change. But there’s a lot that’s good about the celibate priesthood.

    Here’s how the Pope put it once:

    “It arises from a saying of Christ. There are, Christ says, those who give up marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and bear testimony to the kingdom of heaven with their whole existence. Very early on the Church came to the conviction that to be a priest means to give this testimony to the kingdom of heaven. In this regard, it could fall back analogously to an Old Testament parallel of another nature. Israel marches into the land. Each of the eleven tribes gets its land, its territory. Only the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, doesn’t get an inheritance; its inheritance is God alone. This means in practical terms that its members live on the cult offerings and not, like the other tribes, from the cultivation of land. The essential point is that they have no property. In Psalm 16 we read, You are my assigned portion; I have drawn you as my lot; God is my land. This figure, that is, the fact that in the Old Testament the priestly tribe is landless and, as it were, lives on God and thereby also really bears witness to him – was later translated, on the basis of Jesus’ words, to this: The land where the priest lives is God.

    “We have such difficulty understanding this renunciation today because the relationship to marriage and children has clearly shifted. To have to die without children was once synonymous with a useless life: the echoes of my own life die away, and I am completely dead. If I have children, then I continue to live in them; it’s a sort of immortality through posterity. For this reason the ultimate condition of life is to have posterity and thereby to remain in the land of the living.

    The renunciation of marriage and family is thus to be understood in terms of this vision: I renounce what, humanly speaking, is not only the most normal but also the most important thing. I forego bringing forth further life on the tree of life, and I live in the faith that my land is really God and so I make it easier for others, also, to believe that there is a kingdom of heaven. I bear witness to Jesus Christ, to the gospel, not only with words, but also with this specific mode of existence, and I place my life in this form at his disposal.

    “In this sense, celibacy has a christological and an apostolic meaning at the same time. The point is not simply to save time so I then have a little bit more time at my disposal because I am not a father of a family. That would be too primitive and pragmatic a way to see things. The point is really an existence that stakes everything on God and leaves out precisely the one thing that normally makes a human existence fulfilled with a promising future.”

    That said, there are also very practical reasons. A married person’s first responsibility is to his family. For him, the priesthood cannot be a vocation; it can only be a job, which he may perform very well, but which at some point he needs to leave behind “at the office.” A true priest is a man for all; his congregation is his family and he has no responsibility over and above them. I’ve talked to married rabbis who have complained endlessly about the demands of their congregations which cut into their family life; I almost never hear anything like this from priests.

    Regarding homosexuality, it’s tricky. A few years ago, the Vatican issued a proclamation saying that those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not be allowed into seminaries. This doesn’t mean any and all gay people, but those who have demonstrated an inability to live their sexuality chastely. This was a major step taken, and my guess is that it’ll cut down at least somewhat the number of incidents of abuse, but it garnered Rome countless accusations of homophobia…especially from those who would rather throw the red herring of celibacy into the fray. It’s definitely a tough situation…!


  4. Cindy says:

    Nick, Thanks for the explanation on celibacy.

    FYI, new article today on CNN – U.S. Catholics urge Vatican reforms in wake of abuse scandal –

    Happy Easter! I’m sure this is a busy week for you.

    Love, Auntie Cindy


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