Looking for input on this argument against Celibate Priesthood

I totally agree with you!

And I read the book by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah "From the Depths of Our Hearts!..excellent book!

Marriage and family is quite a vocation all by itself…without having a parish with all its many needs.

When the Lord gives the grace of celibacy and the priest avails himself of all the graces of the sacraments, it works wonderfully!


Celibacy is a practice, not a doctrine. The Pope could literally change this tomorrow. I’d not argue over it. We have more than 100 Latin Rite priests in the US who are married (converts).

The two married Catholic priests I personally know (converts) both have adult children. Neither of them has a child who had a vocation to priesthood or religious life. Anecdotal.

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There are two controversies with Richard Sipe’s claim.

The first is his findings are based on anecdotal evidence and do not follow the guidelines for statistical research. Given the nature of the book he wrote there was likely a high amount of self selection bias in the people he and his wife, based their estimate on.

The second issue is his 50% claim was based on his experiences over a 25 year period during the height of the sexual revolution and its immediate aftermath (1960-1985 if I remember correctly). There are questions, assuming his number was even close to accurate, if those numbers would be the same 35 years later.

I haven’t seen any recent research either way that would support or refute the numbers, but I’ll admit that a sensational number like that seem a little suspect coming from a former priest and former nun who married after foresaking their vows. If the two of them couldn’t keep their vow then it certainly has the potential to color their view of everyone else that took those same vows.


While NCR is pure garbage, I’ll try and refute some of their main points:

“That was my first major finding. Only 50% of the [Catholic] clergy are celibate.

I remember this line from when I saw Spotlight. I’m not sure where that psychologist got his numbers, but it’s way over the top. I have never seen anything to back that number up. It’s one guy with an agenda making a claim. While there are certainly priests who have fallen (because we’re all human), to suggest that every other priest is carrying on sexual liaisons is just bonkers. Remember, this is a married ex-priest making the claim, so I tend to doubt the objectivity of the study.

But the fact remains that this creates a culture of secrecy that tolerates and even protects pedophiles."

This is definitely a stretch. And most abuse occurs in the family anyway, often by married men.

Again, the cases of McCarrick and Bransfield illustrate this “celibacy wound” compensation. Both men decorated lavishly and traveled luxuriously. Both allegedly carried on secret sexual liaisons, evidently trying to heal their “celibacy” wound.

Correlation does not equal causation. How does living decadently necessarily prove anything about celibacy? Referencing two bishops who happened to live less than holy lives doesn’t prove anything. Many married men live lavishly and carry on affairs. Is that due to the “celibacy wound“ as well?

Celibacy is not essential to holiness. Many saints were married and had children. The Second Vatican Council said there is a universal call to holiness. If celibacy were essential to holiness, then most of the church could not be holy.

Nobody is saying celibacy is essential to holiness. Therefore, the point is moot.

Celibacy is not essential to Catholic priesthood.

This is correct. As it stands, celibacy is a changeable practice. But the Church does value celibacy and sees merit in it.

But, most important of all, Jesus did not mandate celibacy.

The only time Jesus talked about celibacy was in the context of marriage and divorce.

And? Jesus doesn’t provide a list of every little thing we believe and practice as Catholics. He also doesn’t talk about every single moral issue. Jesus doesn’t specifically discuss abortion, does that mean abortion is okay? He also doesn’t talk about the death penalty. Is the death penalty okay too? (I suspect most NCR readers would say no).

As lay Catholics, we are allowed to have our own opinion on the issue of priestly celibacy, as it’s not an issue of divine law. Still, even if we disagree, we have to respect the Church’s current practice. I don’t see the arguments listed above as good reasons to get rid of priestly celibacy. Furthermore, celibacy indeed has its merits, as been demonstrated by St. Paul as well as centuries of saints in the Church; so, we should not attack the idea of celibacy in principle.


The only good thing (or rather, person) about NCR was the reporter John Allen Jr. as he reported straight. All of which qualifies under the category “even a blind pig can find an acorn”.

Historically, the Church has had both a celibate clergy and a married clergy; for 2,000 years the Eastern Rite Churches in union with Rome have had both married and celibate clergy.

Neither celibacy nor marriage is going to guarantee that clergy in either circumstance is going to be chaste, or that making a promise of celibacy is going to keep the priest continent (as well as chaste).

The issues in Africa and South (and probably Central) America are known; as to how extensive is not really known because most priests who have a “wife” are not going to trot her out for all; and if a celibate priest has SSA, he is not likely to trot out any “adult lover”.

To answer your question, “doing away with celibacy” is no answer (as well as, it ain’t gonna happen). The Church has never done that and it ain’t going to start now. Additionally, part of what has driven the issue among some has been the abuse of children. Recent changes (at least in the US) have put everyone on notice that a child is not alone with an adult.

Richard Sipe came out of the priesthood with some axes to grind; while I do not question some of his findings (i.e. sexual activity among priests) I question his estimations of the extent. I lost one pastor to AIDS, and I will leave that issue at that; nor is it unknown for a priest to end up in an affair with a woman.

Net result: I wouldn’t use NCR to wrap a dead fish, as I have too much respect for the fish.

However, the matter of whether or not the Church might relax the discipline of celibacy only for priests farther than it has is one that would cause me no surprise or consternation; we already have married priests in the Roman rite as the article mentions. It also was brought up during the Brazilian Synod for a limited increase, and likely will come up in the future.

Celibacy is not a danger to the priesthood or the Church. Sin is. The Church still has not come to terms with the issue of Cardinal McCarrick, and that will likely take a good bit of time. That issue does not mean that we should not have Cardinals, nor that they should be made up of laity. It means that when people know of something wrong, they need to confront it - be they laity, priests, or bishops.


Now that’s funny!


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Every priest ordained in the Roman rite, with the exception of pastor converts from Protestant denominations, is celibate. And celibacy is not a guarantee that those with SSA will not engage in sexual contact; nor is it a guarantee that a man ordained with no SSA will not engage in sexual contact.

You may be confusing continence with celibacy.


I have been watching, carefully, the various investigations into the sexual abuse of children by children. For people wanting a reasoned argument linking celibacy to this I recommend the report of the Australian Royal Commission into institutional abuse. They recommended an approach by the Australian Bishops to Rome seeking an end to compulsory celibacy.

My own view (not one based on the Royal Commission) is that there is such widespread anecdotal and some research evidence of the difficulty priests have in remaining sexually inactive that in any group of priests there will inevitably those who are aware they have broken their vows. Child sexual abuse is still classified as a breach of the sixth and ninth commandments, as is masturbation and consensual adult sex. In my view it is a breach of the fifth commandant and a crime of violence. When child sexual abuse is classified in the mind alongside consensual or even private sex it is much easier to forgive, excuse, or ignore other’s abuse of children, especially if you yourself have broken your vows, albeit not with a child.

So to my mind, if celibacy as it is now practiced does ad to the risk of child abuse cover-ups or excusing. This risk could be mitigated while retaining celibacy by stressing in the catechism and canon law that sex with a child is qualitatively different from sex with an adult, or by yourself.

Can you explain then that according to the DSM-IV the highest incidence of pedophilia (to include pubescent and post pubescent adolescents) was from married males?

Seems to me that if the majority of pedophiles are married men, that disposing of the celibacy requirement would, if anything, up the rate of (married) priests committing pedophilia.

I do not believe that priests who engage in sexual abuse of children (male or female) do so because they ‘can’t get women” (which seems to be the rather muddled belief of many). So allowing them to ‘have women/get married’ is not going to have an impact on pedophilia in that the whole idea that the priests are ONLY engaging in abusing children because, “they can’t get married, therefore they somehow think that since they aren’t having sex with WOMEN it’s OK”. I mean, come on. How convoluted can you get? And what’s the excuse for all the married men who are pedophiles? Obviously, they are not engaging in sex with children because THEY can’t get married. So why are all the rules turned around for the much smaller cadre of ‘celibate men’ who abuse? What’s the ‘excuse’ for why married men abuse children then, and why, if the ‘reason’ is that the married man wants a ‘wife’ but is sexually ‘aroused’ by children outside of all that ‘normal sexual outlet’, and would be there if he were unmarried too, isn’t THAT considered for ‘celibate priests’ either?

Nope this whole new narrative of the “priest who abuses children because he’s denied his normal outlet’ but if he were MARRIED would NEVER do so, is just IMO another attempt to paint the Catholic Church and its people as unnatural abusers while ignoring the behavior when it exists among people (to a far greater extent too!) when THOSE people have all the supposed ‘sexual outlet’ that these priests don’t.


Is it though? I think (or at least hope) that even priests who have fallen in chastity/had an affair can understand the difference between a consensual relationship with an adult woman and the abuse of a child.

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The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the U.S. has married priests (my pastor is a UGCC married priest) and we still have a shortage of priests! His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that we should not look for simple solutions to complex problems, and he’s right. My poor pastor has 2 parishes, visits the sick all the time in the nursing homes & hospitals in addition to being on call as a hospital chaplain and somehow finds time for gardening.


What do you mean here? That there should be no new marriages?

This sounds like it echoes St Paul, but if people quit getting married (and everyone behaved themselves sexually), the human race would die out within a generation. Surely you didn’t mean that.

No, I don’t mean that no one should ever get married.

My bad. Meant that anyone who isn’t married should not be engaging in sexual activity. Should have used Chaste.

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I would have no problems if the Church were to abolish the discipline of celibacy tomorrow - of course it wouldn’t affect me, I made my decision and like to think that it was a considered and responsible choice. I can’t claim I knew at the time exactly what it would mean for the rest of my life but then what married couple could make that claim? I find it frustrating when people make celibacy out to be some sort of untouchable dogma - certainly it’s an important discipline and one whcih has been a part of the Church’s life for centuries and so shouldn’t be cast aside lightly.

More frustrating however, is the idea which the article is based on that I’m somehow lonely and sexually frustrated and spend my days doing everything I can to avoid admitting it, compensating in every way possible! I find this frustrating because it’s not true - not just of me but of other priests I know. Yes, there are priests who, for a range of reasons, don’t live up to the promise some who even live secret double lives. Of course the same could be said for more than a few husbands and wives who have clandestine partners and, in some cases children as well! I’m guessing from the tone of the column that the author, Fr Peter Daly, now regrets making the promise of celibacy. He may well have good reasons for that (and for remaining a prest despite it); but he does not speak for me.


Ah, yes, the National cAtholic Reporter, otherwise known as the National Schismatic Reporter.

In reading the article there seems to be a lot of things the author is conflating.

In the end, however, celibacy is not the problem. Sin is the problem. If celibacy causes child abuse, what causes child abuse when married people do it? If celibacy causes “mendacity” what caused “mendacity” when Penn State covered for Jerry Sandusky? What caused “mendacity” when the Boy Scouts covered up abuse? What caused “mendacity” when the Baptists and Lutherans covered up abuse?

People who write articles like that forget that the Catholic Church is not the only organization where 1) children were abused, and 2) covered up the abuse. There are a lot of organizations with the same problem–that is only now coming to light. Now, this is not to justify what the bishops did in covering up abuse or make excuses for them. Nor is it to say “well, everyone else did it too!” All I am trying to do here is show why celibacy is not the problem.


No, but keep in mind that the secular world “has it in for us” in a way that it does not “have it in for” athletic programs, the Boy Scouts, or Protestant churches.

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There are non celibate priests, I have met several of them. About 200 of them in the US. The problem isn’t celibacy, the problem is abuse. In fact, there was a case of a married priest (former Anglican) accused of abusing his wife IN a church a couple of years ago. The problem isn’t celibacy, the problem is abuse.

What about this objection? (Mind you, I disagree)

“If the slots get filled by married priests you reduce the number of gay priest slots available. . . ."

While it is correct that the greatest amount of sexual abuse of children is by parents and family members, the subset which the Church has been dealing with is males abusing male children. there has been a good amount of chin chatter trying to say that this is “because of access” and ignores a non-Catholic group which has been around for a long time - NAMBLA. The “because of access” objection has been an attempt to say that the abusers were not primarily men with SSA.

Actually, there was a significant number of priests who, after Vatican 2, left the priesthood and married. That shifted the ratio of priests without SSA and those with SSA. How that impacted matters over the last 40 +/- years is for researchers; Pope Benedict put in a rule that men with serious SSA could not be ordained. How effective that rule is in changing the ratio is also something for researchers to define. Certainly not all priests with SSA have abused children; it appears to be a small subset.

I think you are conflating different issues. About 80% of the abuse was priest/teenage boy; the remainder was priest/pedophile (often pre-teen boys; although pedophiles are generally “equal opportunity abusers”) and a minority of priests/teenage girls.

As to bringing up married men abusers, do you have any studies showing within the Protestant world who married pastors accused of abuse, and any statistics indicating out of all pastors, how many abuse?

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