Pope says favors celibacy for priests but door open to change

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  • MarianCatholic

While there are some people that claim celibacy is a cause it is worthwhile to consider the following:

Does Celibacy Contribute to Clerical Sex Abuse?

In May 2009, a little-publicized report was issued by the Australian Anglican Church, entitled Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church, by Parkinson, Oates & Jayakody. The report obtained information on abuse charges from 17 of the 23 Australian Anglican dioceses between 1990 and 2008. According to its authors, the report analyzed a survey of:

…all concluded cases of reported child sexual abuse since 1990 within the church by clergy and church workers. The study did not include reported cases from Anglican schools or Anglican children homes. Accused persons were categorised in the survey as either clergy, candidates for clergy, pastoral employees or volunteers… A complainant was defined as less than 18 years of age at the time of the alleged sexual abuse. [p. 13]

The Anglican report gives considerable attention to the question of patterns of abuse between Anglican and Catholic clergy:

A key finding of this study is the similarities in pattern of abuse found between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. Similarities were found in patterns of male victim characteristics, location and types of abuse, accused person characteristics, and delayed reporting and disclosure of abuse.

This similarity is despite significant differences in the nature of clergy vocations (the Anglican Church does not require singleness or celibacy). The similarity between the Anglican and Catholic churches is also despite significant differences in ministry involving children. [p. 39—parentheses in the original]

According to Philip Jenkins:

My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination—or indeed, than non-clergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just unsupported… My concern over the “pedophile priest” issue is not to defend evil clergy, or a sinful church (I cannot be called a Catholic apologist, since I am not even a Catholic).


Since the mid-1980s, insurance companies have offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance, and their own studies indicate that Catholic churches are not higher risk than other congregations. Insurance companies that cover all denominations, such as Guide One Center for Risk Management, which has more than 40,000 church clients, does not charge Catholic churches higher premiums. “We don’t see vast difference in the incidence rate between one denomination and another,” says Sarah Buckley, assistant vice president of corporate communications. “It’s pretty even across the denominations.”



And you can add that because they do not have family and kids, they can perform twice as much work in their parish than an orthodox priest.

What evidence is there that being married makes a person less likely to abuse children? Most cases of abuse are within families, after all. :frowning:

Perhaps there is a way to have a partially married priesthood without deep-sixing celibacy. Celibacy is a marvelous thing.

We already do.

There have been married priests in the Roman Church for decades.

And celibacy does not cause sexual misconduct.

Nothing has really changed.


OK, sure. But I don’t think many people will like the preliminaries:

(1) Become Protestant.
(2) Be a minister.
(3) Get married.
(4) Convert to Catholicism.
(5) Jump through 1000 hoops.
(6) Become a priest.

To say “there have been married priests for decades” is a sort of half-truth that comes off sounding like a lie.

The Eastern Catholic Churches traditionally have had both married and celibate priests, as have the Orthodox, although with the Orthodox, celibate priests are generally monastics, not parish priests.

You can’t leave the Catholic Church, become Protestant and get ordained as a Protestant minister, then come back to the Catholic Church and be ordained a priest.

Christ never married, therefore our priests who share ministerially in His Eternal High-Priesthood shouldn’t either.

Your right.I think it played a part in some certainly not all. Yes, but most abuse that happened in families didn’t come from a man who committed himself God and then took advantage of that role. I think some of the teaching of the Church hurt boys, such as those on masturbation. It is asking 10, 11, 12 year old boys to control those very natural urges or they must go an confess that they sinned. We should be grateful in this day and age if they are not having sex at that age or out drinking or stealing. Children today are stress beyond word and I don’t think the Catholic church is helping them in any way.

Men can be holy without being celibate If orthodox priest and rabbis are married I could see where the Pope might be open to the idea for Roman Catholic priests.

The incidence of abuse is higher in denominations with married clergy than it is in the Church

Yet the Church, in her wisdom, ordains married men, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically acknowledges the legitimacy and fruitfulness of the ministry of married priests among the Eastern Churches (including Eastern Catholic Churches).

The Viri Probati approach: Ordain proven deacons of an appropriate age. Something like simplex ordinations. Can say Mass. Anoint. Maybe confession but only in the circumstances of Sacrament of the Sick. Wouldn’t be pastors. Children grown and gone. No housing expense. Spouse already used to church priorities. Pastors would welcome these guys getting sick calls at 2 AM. Many if not most such men would do this without pay, maybe gas money. Thus little financial impact on a parish. Many also retired, thus little or no job conflict. Have long thought this was the answer.

I think that is a great idea.


That is a myth. Please get yourself better informed on the (non) link between priestly celibacy and pedophilia before you repeat the misconception.

Myth #1 - Catholic priests are more likely to be pedophiles than other groups of men.

This is just plain false. There’s absolutely no evidence that priests are more likely to abuse children than are other groups of men. The use and abuse of children as objects for the sexual gratification of adults is epidemic in all classes, professions, religions, and ethnic communities across the globe, as figures on child pornography, incest, and child prostitution make abundantly clear. Pedophilia (the sexual abuse of a prepubescent child) among priests is extremely rare, affecting only 0.3% of the entire population of clergy. This figure, cited in the book Pedophiles and Priests by non-Catholic scholar, Philip Jenkins, is from the most comprehensive study to date, which found that only one out of 2,252 priests considered over a thirty-year period was afflicted with pedophilia. In the recent Boston scandal, only four of the more than eighty priests labeled by the media as “pedophiles” are actually guilty of molesting young children.

Pedophilia is a particular type of compulsive sexual disorder in which an adult (man or woman) abuses prepubescent children. The vast majority of the clerical sex-abuse scandals now coming to light do not involve pedophilia. Rather, they involve ephebophilia – homosexual attraction to adolescent boys. While the total number of sexual abusers in the priesthood is much higher than those guilty of pedophilia, it still amounts to less than 2 percent – comparable to the rate among married men (Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests).

In the wake of the current crisis in the Church, other religious denominations and non-religious institutions have admitted to having similar problems with both pedophilia and ephebophilia among the ranks of their clergy. There’s no evidence that Catholic prelates are more likely to be pedophiles than Protestant ministers, Jewish leaders, physicians, or any other institution in which adults are in a position of authority and power over children.

Myth #2 - The celibate state of priests leads to pedophilia.

Celibacy bears no causal relation to any type of deviant sexual addiction including pedophilia. In fact, married men are just as likely as celibate priests to sexually abuse children (Jenkins, Priests and Pedophilia). In the general population, the majority of abusers are regressed heterosexual men who sexually abuse girls. Women are also found to be among those sexual abusers. While it’s difficult to obtain accurate statistics on childhood sexual abuse, the characteristic patterns of repeat child sex offenders have been well described. The profiles of child molesters never include normal adults who become erotically attracted to children as a result of abstinence (Fred Berlin, “Compulsive Sexual Behaviors” in Addiction and Compulsion Behaviors [Boston: NCBC, 1998]; Patrick J. Carnes, “Sexual Compulsion: Challenge for Church Leaders” in Addiction and Compulsion; Dale O’Leary, “Homosexuality and Abuse”).

Myth #3 - Married clergy would make pedophilia and other forms of sexual misconduct go away.

**Some people – including a few vocal dissenting Catholics – are exploiting this crisis to draw attention to their own agendas. Some are demanding a married Catholic clergy in response to the scandal, as if marriage would make men stop hurting children. This flies in the face of the aforementioned statistic that married men are just as likely to abuse children as celibate priests (Jenkins, Pedophilia and Priests). **

Since neither being Catholic nor being celibate predisposes a person to develop pedophilia, a married clergy wouldn’t solve the problem (“Doctors call for pedophilia research,” The Hartford Currant, March 23). One has only to look at similar crises in other denominations and professions to see this.

The plain fact is, healthy heterosexual men have never been known to develop erotic attractions to children as a result of abstinence.

Read the rest here.

It is somewhat plausible, however, that gay/SSA men who repress their attractions (=don’t admit they have them, experience excessive shame about them) are more likely to act out compulsively on these attractions. And it is plausible that such men were, in the past, drawn to the priesthood. Given that combination, and the not-unrealistic assumption that homosexuality and ephebophilia are related (post-pubescent boys look much like men), the etiology of *some *cases of priestly abuse becomes clear.

This information could support three possible positions:

(1) We should not ordain homosexuals.
(2) We should not require homosexual priests to be chaste/celibate.
(3) We should create avenues for all homosexual Catholics to accept their sexual attractions and submit them to the service of the Church. We should find a way to move beyond homosexuality-as-taboo and move toward homosexuality-as-ordinary-temptation.

I support the third position, though I am most definitely in the minority. :blush:


The discipline of the western Church is that men who become priests must remain celibate. Yes, there are cases in which a man who is already married could be ordained a priest - but this certainly is not the norm. There are good reasons why celibacy has remained in place in the West - I was simply pointing out a theological justification for priestly celibacy.

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