News & Views from 465 California Street

Challenging Celibacy

Clint Reilly

Two Fridays back, I attended the 13th annual Catholic Charities Loaves and Fishes Dinner, which my wife and I started and ran for its first 10 years. I quickly discovered that the priest pedophilia scandal has reignited the debate about celibacy within the Catholic Church.

Although many contend that there is no direct correlation between pedophilia and celibacy, Catholics in the pews are beginning to discuss the Church’s ban against a married priesthood.

Former United States Federal Attorney Kevin Ryan and his wife Ann sat at our table. As the retired U.S. Attorney in the Region, Ryan was deeply troubled by the revelations of molestation by priests against innocent children.

I recently wrote that the celibacy topic was above my pay grade but Ryan challenged me to focus a column on this important issue.

So, last week I asked my mother – a devout Catholic – whether she favored lifting the ban on a married priesthood. She was baptized as a convert at St. Felicitas Church in San Leandro nearly sixty years ago.

Her closest girlhood friend, Loretta Crinnion, became a Sister of the Holy Family of San Jose and just recently passed away in her 80s.

My mother is a liberal Democrat and progressive populist who mistrusts power – temporal or ecclesiastical. When I asked her, she did not support lifting the celibacy rule.

“What about sex, children and divorce?” she countered. She immediately wanted to protect her priests from the real life soap operas that come with dating, broken families and the responsibilities of parenthood.

Like the head of a corporate HR Department, my mom also worried that higher salaries for married priests would further burden vital charitable works and already stretched budgets at parishes and schools.

My mother’s view is shared by many Catholics but countless others are willing to trade these problems for a married priesthood.
A dramatic decline in the number of men entering the priesthood coupled with priests leaving for married life has resulted in a severe shortage of priests.

The same is true for the number of nuns and young women entering the convent.
The question is, “Why?”

“Compulsory celibacy is the principal reason for today’s catastrophic shortage of priests,” writes Hans Küng, one of the world’s elite Catholic theologians.

Küng – a veteran of Vatican II – has jousted with Pope Benedict since their days together as young academics at Tübingen University in Germany. He has repeatedly called for a reexamination of the celibacy law for priests in spite of reaffirmations by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict.

He is not alone in his stance. A 2004 survey of priests in 53 dioceses across the country found that 67% favored an open discussion of mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests.

Many may not know it, but the Catholic Church did not institute celibacy until 1079 AD, under Pope Gregory VII. Celibacy is therefore a man-made law of the Church, which could also be rescinded.

But Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have both dismissed calls to alter the rule. “The value of celibacy as a complete gift of self to the Lord and his church must be carefully safeguarded,” said John Paul.

But Küng cites the New Testament, where Jesus and St. Paul were celibate but St. Peter and the apostles were all married.

Küng goes further. He is one of the few who cite a possible connection between celibacy and pedophilia among certain priests. “Why is pedophilia so prevalent in the Catholic Church under celibate leadership?” Küng asks.

“The celibacy law obliges the priest to abstain from all forms of sexual activity, though their sexual impulses remain virulent, and thus the danger exists that these impulses might be shifted to a taboo zone and compensated for in abnormal ways.”

Do I agree with Küng?

I think we should lift the marriage ban for priests and nuns in the Catholic Church but also permit celibacy for those who choose it – two classes of priests and nuns. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, bishops are required to be celibate but priests may marry.

That sounds good to me. Since so many bishops seem to cherish the vow, why take it away from them?

Comments (33)

  • I have been meaning to email you to let you know how much I enjoy your articles in the San Jose Mercury News. Keep up the good work…..
    Diane S.

    Posted by: Diane S. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:29 am

  • Rather, ONE CLASS of priests and nuns that professes and teaches and lives the Gospel. THAT is the only criterion that applies to those who wish to follow Jesus in any form of ministry, whether that be ordained ministry or any other kind of public ministry. “Membership” in any institutional “club” does not intrinsically change who a person is or how they behave. Celibate or not, ministry and the desire to serve are exactly the same. As you point out, Jesus and Paul made a celibate choice while the apostles made another choice. Jesus did NOT chose celibate men. Um, should be a clear message there.

    My view: let the issue be left to one’s own choice, period. In “real” life (the one most of us live day in and day out), that’s the way it is with all of us…and the world seems to continue turning, regardless.


    Posted by: Paul | April 27th, 2010 at 8:30 am

  • As I understand it, the main reason for the Roman Catholic Church starting priest celibacy in 1079 A.D., was to prevent financial loses of the Church by the children of priests inheriting their estates, rather than a wonderful “gift to God” Vaughan J

    Posted by: Vaughan J. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:30 am

  • Hi Clint,
    Excellent article today and I, as a non-Catholic, admire Catholics
    who side with moral conviction instead of a arbitrary rule made so
    many years ago.

    As I see it; if God truly made us all equal, young men and women
    who take the vow of celibacy have the same sex drive and hormones
    as the rest of us. I do not remember the Bible saying that there would
    be exceptions to the urge to procreate when it admonished the inhabitants of Eden to go forth and populate the earth.

    Dealing with the Catholic Church problem needs to be addressed once and for all time. As history and present court cases show us, it is not a matter of whether priests and others who choose celibacy will have sex or not; it is obvious that many are having sex. It is a question of whether they will have sex in a morally and lawfully correct manner.

    Again, great article and Thank You for taking a public stand in this

    Regards, Byron C

    Posted by: Byron C. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:31 am

  • I’ve read your recent writings on the church. I don’t belong to an organized religion, I’m an Episcopalian.

    I couldn’t belong the the Catholic Church after what has happened. You are clearly right about celibacy. But they are in some other and medieval world.

    Posted by: Harry L. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:50 am

  • creating two classes of priests is a terrible idea

    if i’m a cop, i can chose to be celibate, but we don’t need a separate class of cop

    tell your mom that the money she would save by keeping woman out of the priesthood has already been spent, many times over paying for abuser priests–a fact that she certainly knows already.

    Posted by: Martin G. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:50 am

  • I generally enjoy your columns in the Tuesday San Jose Merc, and your column this morning prompted me to write.

    I had read some years back what you mentioned in today’s column – that Catholic priests were not always required to be celibate. I do believe that there is some connection between the few pedophiliac priests and celibacy, and think that allowing marriage for priests might reduce the incidence of pedophilia. But what bothers me at least as much is the inaction taken by the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with the problem, taking many, many years in some cases to remove the offender from the priesthood. I read that the Pope will now take action, but I’ve yet to read what that action might be. Certainly notifying the authorities would would be one proper step.

    Just for the record, I am Jewish.

    Don M

    Posted by: Don M. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:51 am

  • Thank you for the clear, informative articles. I hope the Pope and Bishops are reading the ones about celibacy. Keep the articles coming.

    Posted by: Mary M. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:51 am

  • I enjoy reading your weekly columns. I find it strange, however that you refer to celibacy as a man-made law of the church. In fact all laws and all religions are man-made.
    Thank you for your columns.
    M J H

    Posted by: MJH | April 27th, 2010 at 8:52 am

  • First of all, I commend you for bringing this issue out in the open.

    Mr. Kung’s theory regarding celibacy and shifting to a “taboo zone” is an insult to every man and woman who chooses or is forced into celibacy and don’t break the law.

    I have another theory. Gay men are becoming priests. It’s that simple. Priesthood is the perfect profession for gay men. They don’t have to get married and they work around other men. They hide under the veil of priesthood.

    Lets stop calling these priests “pedophiles”. They are not pedophiles. Even the Vatican agrees. A few years ago, the Vatican held a meeting to address the scandal and one the conclusions they found was that since most of the victims were in the pubescent age, the priests were not pedophiles. This finding was reprehensible in that the Vatican was minimizing the conduct of the priests. However the vatican was correct. Therefore, the problem was swept under the rug.

    I recommend the church do two things; Allow marriage and have a zero tolerance policy.

    I am not homophobic. I do not believe gays are pedophiles. Pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescent children. Most the the sexual misconduct by priests involved teenage boys which would constitute unlawful sexual activities with a “minor” in most states. In California, pedophilia is defined as age 14 or under. Age 15 to 17 is considered statutory rape which carries lesser punishments. Therefore, I believe the priests in question are gay.

    If they were not gay, they would be preying on teenage girls.

    Sincerely, Austin T.

    Posted by: Austin T. | April 27th, 2010 at 8:53 am

  • I too agree we should lift the ban for priests and nuns to marry being that it’s a man made law of the church. What I do think is that celibacy creates an opening for pedophilia type men to come into the priesthood and do what they do with out to much oversight. Most other religions allow married religious persons without to much trouble. We should give it a try for we sure need to increase the number of priests as we are “running low”.

    Posted by: James B. | April 27th, 2010 at 9:42 am

  • Hi Clint,

    I read your item about priest celibacy and totally agree with you. As a converted Catholic I don’t carry a lot of assumptions, except to see that the current system is broken.

    Keep up the good work Clint!

    Robert C

    Posted by: Robert C. | April 27th, 2010 at 10:17 am

  • Married priests, celibacy, predators, homosexuality, pre-marrital sex, contraception, abortions, etc. are all part of the same discussion, when it comes to The Church.

    Posted by: George F. | April 27th, 2010 at 10:20 am

  • So what is your position on the criminality involved with priest pedophiles? When is the law going to do its job and imprison these criminals? As Christopher Hitchens says, “The ancient Christian sign of the fish is rotting, from the head down.”

    Posted by: Bud W. | April 27th, 2010 at 10:20 am

  • Dear Sir:

    Pedophilia is not only a problem in the Catholic Church.

    Pedophilia exists throughout our society.

    Pedophilia exixts in our Public Schools.

    The schools don’t have money, and the Church does.

    Pedophilia is not only committed by single men including the clergy, but also by married men.

    Don;t be so sure that pedophilia would end by rescinding celibacy in the Catholic Church.

    Antonia L

    Posted by: Antonia L. | April 27th, 2010 at 10:21 am

  • I see celibacy and the current furor around sexual abuse in the Catholic church to be 2 entirely separate issues. The Church has provided institutional havens for pedophiles. We know pedophiles gravitate to arenas where they have unquestioned access. The Catholic church has offered that access and more to the issue at hand, with impunity.

    As for celibacy? I agree with your Mother regarding the financial strain. However, a financial concern should not be the basis for this decision. Protecting priests from real life concerns seems counter intuitive for the role of a priest. Emphathy and understanding would come from real life concerns and certainly it would seem to benefit the role of a priest in counseling. The lifting of celibacy along with allowing women to become priests would certainly address the lack of priests and serve to benefit the community at large.

    Pedophilia issue is a moral crisis. The celibacy issue and allowing women to become priests is a practical issue for debate.

    Posted by: melinda maginn | April 27th, 2010 at 11:25 am

  • Celibacy – obviously – gets nothing done, except to put a priest through undue punishment and restrict the education. After all, how in hell can a priest tell me about raising my kids when the priest have absolutely ZERO experience. Well, the correct answer is that a priest can’t.

    Sexuality is part of human nature. To deny is plain silly. Using it wisely however isn’t exactly easy.

    That said, the many many many priests who have molested boys and girls are probably not even human. Most likely they are psychopaths, which are apparently subspecies that have no conscience and thus no ability for empathy. They are, for all intents and purposes, wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Posted by: M | April 27th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

  • I am 61 and a lifelong Catholic. My wife and I were very proud to be in attendance as the bishop confirmed our 8th child last week at good shepherd in Pittsburg. I was told that at the gates of heaven all you have to do is show 8 confirmed children and St Peter takes you right in. I hope i got that right.

    Ok the reason I stopped to send you this. For the last 30 years I have been watching the graying and diminishing of the priesthood. Where will the priests come from who will confirm my grandchildren? My friend ken said there are plenty of new priests you just can’t understand them. He is right. The Irish used to be a good source and they had a lyrical voice that was a pleasure to listen to.

    My wife and I went through marriage encounter. We were team for a couple of beautiful years. Maybe that is why I believe that priest should marry. That couples can be priests. We need an American church. I believe god is winnowing the priests to the point where we will realize there must be change. It would not surprise me to find out that there are more parishes than priests in Oakland now.

    You touched on a subject close to my heart. I have faith that the church will survive. How I can not say. Keep up the good work. Gil

    Posted by: Gil | April 27th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

  • I am a 35-year-old practicing Catholic woman and I whole-heartedly disagree with your position in today’s Tri-Valley Herald. I would point you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1579. The current Catechism reaffirms what was set into motion in 1079 A.D. It is irrelevant to ponder the hows and whys of then. What is relevant is what our Magesterium says about it now. I accept the teachings of the Bishops, as should any true Catholic. Christ himself established their authority.

    And just some words of adivice, before you proclaim your belief in Kung’s assertions correlating celibacy and pedophilia, how about supplying your readers with the numbers and percentages of pedophilic married non-Catholic ministers and rabbis, coaches, teachers and volunteers? I have read several published studies that point to a higher percentage of offenders in those professions than the Catholic clergy, which blows that theory out of the water.

    Come on Clint, why don’t you actually comment on actual news and back it up with actual facts than falling into the rank and file of the liberal news media? You can’t honestly believe that the motivation for the rehashing of old news, and the reporting of half-truths, and uncorroborated, one-sided stories is altruistic, can you? It is clear to anyone who reads anything with any sort of critical eye that the agenda is to take down institutions that differ from the morally relativistic secular society in which we live. You all just had to wait until John Paul II was gone before launching another assault. To attack him directly was to commit professional suicide. Just ask Sinead O’Connor…

    Posted by: Melinda Miron | April 27th, 2010 at 1:13 pm

  • Great article, thanks Clint.

    It is unnatural to live alone, we are meant to be with some one, to share our lives. Married clergy a big yes.

    Posted by: Nick | April 27th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

  • Thank you for writing about a subject that I have been pondering for some time (but could find no one who would discuss it). Lifelong forced celibacy is an unnatural state of being. Hans Kung was right when he said “these [sexual] impulses might be shifted to a taboo zone and compensated for in abnormal ways.” I don’t agree with your readers who suggest that the priesthood is a haven for either pedophiles or gays. Being a priest or nun is not an easy life, especially when an essential part of being human must be denied, so I can’t believe that someone would choose that life just to satisfy some carnal urges. While removing the celibacy requirement might not totally end sexual misconduct by priests, it would prevent a large portion of it, as well as improve the lives of the clergy. I agree with you that the Catholic Church should allow marriage for priests and nuns but permit celibacy for those who choose it.

    Posted by: Joan F. | April 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

  • I enjoy your columns very much. As
    per today’s I think that there is a distinction between chastity and
    celibacy. And I don’t think is is just about priests being able to
    marry. It is about the role of women in the church. We always focus
    on the priest, and not the woman. All of this is about the role of
    women in the Church.

    As the wife of a priest the woman is involved. I believe that the
    Holy Spirit is at work here. One reason that the present crisis does
    not exist in the Anglican, Lutheran, and other Protestant
    denominations is not that priests can marry but that the wives would
    call the police if any other priest was sodomizing a child. We must
    allow women to be more involved in our (their) church. The Church is not above the law. Even Thomas More believed that. He said that the
    State could not set itself up as an equal to G-d’s law, but also that
    the Church did not trump Parliament, eg. Magna Carta. And also I think
    that is it not about celibacy as much as women having rights to church
    property – there could be alot of legal mess. That is what drives this
    policy. And of course it all goes back to St. Augustine’s issues with
    sexuality… Has the Church ever gotten over that? :)

    Posted by: Matthew | April 27th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

  • well done, and provocative as the issue is, we must confront our challenges directly.



    Posted by: KVR | April 27th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

  • Dear Mr.Clint Reilly:

    I love your column, and I agree with your point of view.
    Now days,being a catholic is very difficult task,specially to accept the behavior of some of our priests.
    I would love to see a change in this matter during my life time, and also about divorce in the Catholic Church, in many cases, I believe is valid the divorce, it is a pity, that many catholics abandon the church due to lack of flexibility and understanding from the church’s laws, with the human circumstances of his members .
    Thanks for your column.


    Posted by: Rosario | April 27th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

  • “…Hans Kueng, one of the world’s elite Catholic theologians” WRONG! Pope John Paul II officially removed him from being a Catholic theologian back in the ’80s after 20 years of preaching open heresy.
    “… the Catholic Church did not institute celibacy until 1079 AD” WRONG! Kueng is notoriously guilty of sloppy history to promote his own opinion and agenda. The facts are quite otherwise. It is true that Jesus and St. Paul, along with the Apostle St. John, were celibate, and that St. Peter and the other Apostles were married WHEN JESUS CALLED THEM TO FOLLOW HIM. As we know, the Church was under persecution for nearly 300 years. When it ended, all the Apostolic Churches continued the received Tradition of ordaining men to the priesthood who were older (presbyteroi = priest) and who had raised their children well, which were the requirements enumerated by St. Paul. BUT, they were required, from ordination on, to abstain from sexual relations with their wives, though not required to leave them (living as brother and sister), and not to remarry if their wife died. We know this because the Church defrocked any priest or deacon who fathered a child by their wife after ordination (cf, the magisterial work by Christian Cochini, S.J., The Apostolic Origins of the Priestlly Celibacy, in which, from Spain, Africa, Gaul, Italy, Armenia, Persia, and the Greek Fathers we have documents proving this.)
    It is a pity you do not see the need to consult solid sources to obtain the facts and the meaning of the facts. In the Church of Christ, it is by Divine Authority and not by polls and opinions of those who do not even know their religion or the history of it well or by any democratic approach, that one discovers the Divine/Apostolic Teaching.
    It is a SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE coming from Jesus Himself that the Ordained give their whole self to God and to the People of God by remaining celibate or continant after ordination. This discipline is, therefore, NOT made by man though it can be made more strict because of historical circumstances. This is what obliged Gregory VII in his great reform of the Church from worldliness, to legislate, in 1079, that the priests were to observe the core value of commitment to Christ in His Church to overcome negligence in pastoral care. caused by materialism among the clergy.
    As for ephobophilia, (sex with youth under pubescence) and priests, 80% of the offenders were, in fact, oriented with same-sex attraction as the statistics prove, which you can find in Catholic on-line sources like, Zenit-Rome, and many others.
    The priest/sex abuse scandal arose and peaked between 1965 and 1985 as statistics prove, which corresponded with the sexual revolution within society. It has now been stopped in the Church. The present scandal regards old cases coming to light in other parts of the world, while the HUGE numbers of cases in society (80% are from family members, neighbors, school personell, etc.) have not even begun to be addressed.
    Concerning nuns and celibacy, it is a CALL to give up family life and be spouses of Christ in order to witness to the Kingdon of Heaven where ALL “are neither married or given in marriage,” cf, Matt. 22:30, Mk 12:25. There can BE no nun (consecrated person) without celibacy!
    The priest shortage hit the Church as a result of loosening of discipline, generally, following Vatican II, especially under Paul VI. Leaving the ministry occurred in all other denominations in the same percentage and from the same causes (seclularism and lack of faith).
    I hope this gives you pause to research the facts more deeply before broadcasting your superficial opinion which influences so many people to a biased view of the issue.

    Posted by: pete | April 27th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  • I read with interest your article. I am astonished at the willingness of apologists, for a behavior that should never have happened, to justified perversity based on celibacy, paranoia of homosexuality and other causative factors. Would society in general and Catholics in particular be so introspective if the abuse scandal landed on the Scientologists for example? I suspect any other institution hit with such an obscene scandal would precipitate riots, church burnings and public lynching. More outrage is being displayed over the new Arizona law on immigration. We can only thank an educated public for such restraint.

    It is not hard to understand why pedophilia and child abuse has hit the Catholic Church so hard. Lets not forget instances of child abuse with spanking, beatings, public humiliation and the fear of death imposed on the hearts and minds of innocent children when concentrating on the worst and most unacceptable of behavior. The last Magdalena Laundry was not closed until 1996.

    The pedophile needs a number of conditions to commit his crime. First and foremost is access. We ban pedophile sex offenders from playgrounds and other areas where children congregate for the simple reason that access is too tempting. Yet the priest with confession and the entire alter boy system is given complete access. Confession makes it easy for the predator to screen potential victims.

    The second condition is a position of power. The molestation of children is about power. The priest is vested with the power of god reinforced by church teachings. A child’s word is never listened to over the authority of the priest and any one coming forward is immediately condemned as a sinner in god’s eyes.

    The final condition is protection. Not only does the position of a priest add credibility pitting an accuser’s word against the more powerful church, but when abuse was exposed it was covered up at the highest levels going all the way to the current pope Ratzinger. The church created the preconditions most favorable to pedophile and perverse behavior and then is surprised when so many which such proclivities are attracted to the church. Even Pope Paul was never without his favorite flogging stick.

    Lets stop making apologies and lets demand the church fix the problem. The current pope, because of his complicity, should resign and be confined in isolation to a monastery where he can contemplate his sins for the rest of his life. The church has to open all its records globally disclaiming statutory limitations turning out abusive priests for secular prosecution. The crimes are not limited to the US or Ireland or Germany or as the current disinformation campaign suggests the over zealousness of one attorney. There are many more offenders and the church knows who they are. Those priests who have died in sin and are buried on consecrated ground should be exhumed and their bones burnt destroying their DNA.

    After the purge the church has to develop better rules for the treatment and protection of children. A good start would be the elimination of confession, never allowing a priest to be alone with a child and a ban on corporal punishment and public humiliation. If this means abolishing celibacy bringing people into the church that have empathy for stress and stains marriage and child rearing then so be it. It is the oddest of behavior for someone with no family life experience to offer others advice on marital relationships. Let those that have never experienced the fear, panic and grief of a sick child just keep their mouths shut and their hands off.

    E. V. B.

    Posted by: E.V.B. | April 28th, 2010 at 9:29 am

  • I have enjoyed (if that’s the right word) your thoughtful columns regarding the Catholic Church.

    I endorse the views you express, particularly as regards pedophile priests.

    On that subject, I listened to Cardinal Levada’s interview on NPR today and for the first minute or two thought I might hear something encouraging. No dice. He began dissembling and at one point suggested that the whole thing was blown out of proportion by the media (who are always pursuing “a good story.”)

    What a laugh. If it wasn’t for the media, the Church would be continuing the “priest shuffle” all the while minimizing the problem.

    By coincidence, right after listening to Cardinal Levada, I read Hendrik Hertzberg’s comment entitled “Indulgence” in the April 19, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Hertzberg is right on.

    Posted by: Don | April 28th, 2010 at 9:29 am

  • You were most correct in stating that celibacy is a man-made “law” of the Catholic church, as is so much of their practices . When we humans cannot decide what is right why not go to the word of God and see what His will is on the matter? Plus, as my husband just opined, the practice of celibacy has back-fired on them. It is a horror story.
    Please check out Paul’s first letter to Timothy in 3:1-7.Qualifications for bishops and elders . A Bishop is commanded to be married.
    When Christ died on the cross the veil in the temple rent in two from the top down. No more sacrifices for sin. It was taken care of on the cross to them that believe. Christ is our high priest and advocates to the Father on our behalf. Check out Hebrew Ch.5. Pre-eminence and finality of the Priesthood of Christ.
    thanks. enjoy you column

    Posted by: Pat | April 28th, 2010 at 9:30 am

  • Clint!!!

    I understand you were in the Seminary. So can I assume that up to say the age of 19 -21 you lived a
    fairly if not completely chaste life? Think back how many times did you have the urge to violate
    a young child younger than 12. Or a boy or girl over 12? All that time with out the urge and yet no
    celibate ordination vows!

    I think you know where I am going with this, celibacy has nothing to do with sexual disorders.
    There isn’t a major secular or Catholic study on the issue that doesn’t agree on this. Recent reports defending against the
    most recent onslaught of the press tell us that over 10% of the sexual offenses on youth happen in our
    public school systems, greater than 45% happen in our homes by relatives and live in boy friends, 2% in protestant
    denominations with I assume have married clergy and 2% in Jewish clerical settings. In the Catholic church fewer than
    1% of our priests are involved in abuse cases. Not statistics that I am making up, anyone with a will to get to the
    bottom of the issues can find this data.

    By the way you of all people should know that there is a difference between celibacy and chastity. The vows of celibacy
    in addition to the spiritual relationship with God afford men and women who take the vow the opportunity to focus and
    dedicate the whole of there lives to us the people of God. No other commitments.

    Interestingly enough I have very personal experience with the conflict between ordination vows and vows to love, protect, honor and put my wife first in my life. As a Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church for the last 32 years I can’t count the number of times I have had to disappoint my wife and family because I was scheduled to be some place else or a crisis happened and I was called. Saying yes to God and his children and no to your wife and kids very often feels selfish and self centered. Celibacy makes a lot of sense for those who are called to it.

    So being married doesn’t seem to stand out as the answer. One can only wonder if more than 45% of the abuse is found in married or live in setting why the speculation that heterosexual relationships are the fix.

    I submit to you that there are many other reasons why the Catholic Church is being targeted. Money and Politics being the two most significant reasons. Anyone who has taken a basic course in logic must have to wonder how a tort lawyer with and active case load against the Catholic Church can be sited as a expert for the New York Times articles.

    Read the April 26th Catholic Voice article by Bishop Cordileone on the Steve Keisle issue for some insight. I believe he is all for criminal punishment and removal from the priesthood for those who commit the sins we are discussing. I also believe that while we have made many mistakes in the handling of the sin and sinner; the Church is the single largest protective moral voice in the world against such evil.

    Oh by the way I wish a sponsor would come forward for the other side of the coins you often toss out so we could have the opportunity to share our perspective on your speculations. Sort of an ebony and ivory type of speculation and assertion.

    Ron H.

    Posted by: Ron H. | April 28th, 2010 at 9:32 am

  • I enjoy the pieces you write for the Mercury News, and most often agree, though not always. But even if I don’t agree, at least I can say that your pieces are usually thoughtful, and in these times thoughtfulness is rare.

    You probably had a point a couple of weeks ago when you talked about the lack of sex education in the Seminary–but the reason it might have been good is not because it would change pedophiles, but because it would have made others more aware of what is normal so that they could recognize abnormality when they see it. However, the biggest reason there is a scandal in the Church is not so much the pedophile priests as the way they were dealt with. Church authorities thought of these men as “sinners” who needed to repent, rather than as criminals who needed to be reported to authorities. (And if they are “sinners” their sins stay in the confessional, not on the evening news). There also was a culture within the priesthood of trying to appear “perfect”–priests were put on a pedestal by parishioners, and were reluctant to allow anyone to see their humanity (which also leads to trying to protect the “sinners” among them from embarassment). Some of that tendency to try to pretend perfection still persists, but today priests are a little more willing to show their humanity.

    I disagree with the idea that without celibacy there would not be pedophile priests. Pedophiles are seriously disturbed people, as we now know. This is why there are movements to keep them away from the public forever, to make sure they never get near children, etc. Some people (including some bishops) have also acted as though homosexuality were involved, and of course that’s not true, either.

    However, we are much more aware of pedophiles now than we used to be. Pedophiles have gotten away with crimes for years simply because no one would believe the children. Just a couple of years ago there was the case–heavily reported in the Mercury News–of the man who had a notebook with up to 11,000 names of children, who had been in prison and had been accused much more often than he was convicted; often charges had been dismissed. When he was caught in San Jose, he was in his 60′s and apparently had been getting away with molesting children all his life. He was finally convicted and sent to prison for life. And a couple of weeks ago there was the swim coach convicted after many years of molesting young girls. These people have gotten away with it because so few people believed the problem existed. This includes regular people like you and me, not just Bishops.

    Problems of improper sexual behavior are not limited to Catholic priests. For example, in a survey 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact in a study by the United Methodist Church , 41.8% of clergy women reported unwanted sexual behavior; 17% of laywomen have been sexually harassed.

    Meanwhile, 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia. 10% of the Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia. This is not just a Catholic problem. (And Kung is absolutely wrong about the prevalence of pedophelia among priests–in fact, it’s extremely rare. The scandals occur because of apparent attempts to hide it rather than because of the existence of pedophiles in the ranks of the priesthood). There are people in all walks of life that are caught molesting children. And we tend to think that a pedophile must look and act like a sleazebag in the way he conducts himself in normal life, but instead we find them in professions like teaching, coaching, youth pastors, scout leaders. Remember the famous line (I believe it was attributed to Willie Sutton)–when asked why he robs banks, he said, “Because that’s where the money is”. So if you ask why pedophiles are attracted to professions where they have access to children, the reason should be obvious. Luckily, in any of these professions, the molesters are few, just as they are a very tiny minority among priests. But we need to be aware and we need to be willing to report suspicions.

    The Catholic Church may be more willing to accept married priests than you think. In fact, hundreds of Anglican priests who have left the Anglican church have been welcomed into the Catholic church, and have had their ordination validated–with their wives included in the deal. And of course you have the Eastern Church model, where a man who is married when he seeks ordination is allowed to stay married while one who is not married accepts the state of celibacy. But there is a very practical reason for celibacy. Most people don’t really understand how fully dedicated a husband is supposed to be to his wife–no one, not even their children, is to be allowed to come between them. (Verses speak of a husband and wife being one flesh; and of the husband being willing to completely give up his life for his wife, with the wife being expected to react to his gift by giving her life completely to him as well). But priests are called to give their lives to the people. Protestant ministers have not dealt well with this conundrum. Either they dedicate themselves to the parishioners and the wife is resentful, or they dedicate themselves to their wife and the parishioners do not have access to their pastor. (In that case, he’s available during working hours, and home with his family at all other times). To be fair, though, many priests do not understand the full meaning of being dedicated to the people; it means being available at all hours. And many Protestant congregations “hire” their pastor based as much on his wife’s demonstration of dedication to prior parishes as on the pastor’s prior assignments–they look for a “two fer one” deal.

    Theresa R

    Posted by: Teresa R. | April 28th, 2010 at 9:33 am

  • Mr. Reilly, pay grade aside, my K thru college experience in Catholic schools (Franciscan Fathers in college), coupled with my heavy local parish involvement for many years have put me in the company of those who have known a large number of Catholic priests. My uncle was a monsignor in Massachusetts. I personally know no priests who have been involved with the scandal, which leads me to believe that the vast majority of Catholic priests are out there doing god’s work as prescribed.
    As has been stated by many who know the sex business better than I, pedophilia is carried out by married men as well as gay men. Percentage wide, I have read, married protestant ministers have a higher rate of child abuse than Catholic priests. Therefore linking priestly pedophiles to celibacy comes up short and simplistic for this complicated social problem. The vast majority of priests deal with it.
    The immediate answer to this crime is to treat it as the serious crime that it is. There should be immediate response from the hierarchy, removing the suspect from contact of any kind with children, while an effective legal investigation is carried out. This will drive the bad guys out of the temple, while at the same time it will restore the hope of the faithful, reignite the image of the priesthood, but, above all, it will protect the children.
    For many the compelling reason to support the notion of married priests is the dwindling number of men coming out of the seminaries. But this idea is flawed. As your mother pointed out the financial drain on parishes would be enormous. So many parishes today are struggling financially even while paying priests minimum wage. The cost of supporting large families would overwhelm most parishes. Then there is the social problem, the specter of divorce and the troublesome teen age thing, a nightmare in the making.
    Far less complicated would be celibate women as priests. Why not? Women run fortune 500 companies; they sure could run a parish, even become bishop. Protestant denominations are doing it. Qualified Catholic women would respond in droves.
    Thanks for creating some dialog on this subject.
    Paul T. G.
    P.S. The apostles were married before they met Jesus. Who knows what happened to their wives, their children and their conjugal beds.

    Posted by: Paul T.G. | April 28th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

  • Padre Alberto Cutie: Please watch video as Padre Cutie discusses falling in love.

    Posted by: Frank Lostaunau | April 30th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

  • There’s a funny old Priest in my east bay parish who is celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ordination this month. A couple of weeks ago he gave a very long homily (they are all very long) detailing his early life as a young teen being groomed for the and interaction with girls strictly forbidden…his time at the Seminary…dating and interaction with girls strictly forbidden…and his ordination with 28 other young men by Cardinal Spellman in St. Patricks Cathederal, New York.

    Then they were all cut loose into a world full of women and told to get on with it.

    A dozen years later only a handful of them remained in the Priesthood, most having left to get married.

    He ended with an impassioned plea to end the Church’s position on celibacy and got a standing ovation from the whole church. The church brass are about 50 years behing their flock on this one.

    Posted by: Matt Regan | May 27th, 2010 at 8:27 am

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