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September 13th, 2011
09:44 AM ET

Top Irish Catholic cleric calls for church to end celibacy for priests

By Peter Taggart, CNN

Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) - A respected former Catholic bishop in Ireland is calling for an end to clerical celibacy in the wake of the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the church worldwide, and says he finds it "heartbreaking" that some prospective priests turn away from the calling because of the celibacy rule.

In his recently published book, "A Troubled See, Memoirs of a Derry Bishop," Dr. Edward Daly said that allowing clergymen to marry would ease many of the church's problems.

There needs to be a place in the modern Catholic church for a married priesthood, said Daly, a prominent figure in the Catholic church in Ireland and the most senior Irish cleric to question the Vatican's celibacy rule.

Daly, 77, reiterated his views in local radio interviews in Northern Ireland Tuesday.

"There will always be a place in the church for a celibate priesthood, but there should also be a place for a married priesthood in the church. I think priests should have the freedom to marry if they wish," the former bishop said.

"It may create a whole new set of problems but I think it's something that should be considered.

The retired bishop said he was worried about the decreasing number of priests and the number of older priests. The issue "needs to be addressed and addressed urgently," Daly said, adding that he finds it "heartbreaking" that priests were forced to resign or prospective priests were unable to join the priesthood because of the celibacy rule.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN Tuesday: "The position on celibacy is clear."

Daly said he accepted he might be out of step with current Vatican thinking, but he was "not engaged in a popularity contest."

His comments are expected to ignite fresh debate within the church as the number of priests continues to fall amid the international controversy over child sex abuse and a number of damning reports on pedophile priests in Ireland.

The retired bishop also addresses the issue of abuse in his book, saying he is "heartbroken and appalled that fellow clergy could engage in such horrible criminal acts against the most vulnerable." He said he was deeply ashamed and profoundly shocked there were so many instances of child sex abuse by clergy in Ireland and throughout the world.

Daly was Bishop of Derry from 1974 until 1993, during the height of the Northern Ireland conflict. As a priest, he was photographed waving a white handkerchief as he led a group carrying a dying victim of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972.

The picture became an iconic image of "the Troubles" - a term used to describe the 30 years of violence between pro-British and pro-Irish forces in Northern Ireland. Much of his memoir is devoted to that violence, but he called the issue of celibacy "the other conflict."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Ireland • Sex

soundoff (784 Responses)
  1. sotovoce

    Yes, the Catholic Church got it wrong all those many years ago. Corruption, illicit consorts, patronage, all of it rampant in the Vatican and even the Pope. There was even a female Pope. Look it up. Look at St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, all of these heros tried to change the church and its wayward ways. Some more overtly than others. Celibacy is canon law. There is no direct instruction from Jesus or other scripture to keep priests unmarried. It's a pope-fashioned tradition designed to keep the rectories and monasteries private from the prying eyes of women, who might not agree with the goings on there. I wonder why?

    September 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  2. Sean

    My heart goes out to the devout that wear a soiled uniform in the eyes of the world. Far remove from the faithful is the trust, respect and recognition so rightfully deserved for serving the calling.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  3. ROBERT

    BEEN,A PRIST IS NOT EASY, THEY HAD TO PREY HARD AVERY DAY, OTHER WISE THEY FAIL LIKE EVERYBODY ALSE: ALSO THEY HAD TO BE ALWAYS IN COMMUNION WITH THE WITH BISHOP OF WHERE THEY BELONG THE WAY IF THEY HAD A PROBLEM THEY CAN TALK ABOUT BEFORE ANYTHING HAPPEN

    September 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • LinCA

      @ROBERT

      Your Caps Lock appears to be stuck.

      You said, "BEEN,A PRIST IS NOT EASY, THEY HAD TO PREY HARD AVERY DAY"
      It's the preying that they do, that's the problem. Maybe if they were allowed to marry, they wouldn't have to prey on little boys.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • fred

      LinCA
      Marriage never stopped ho mo $exual predation. The gay community tried to kill off the boy scouts because the boy scouts would not allow gay scout masters. Should a married gay scout master be left alone with boys?
      I can tell you from personal experience when a mother asked me watch her 13 year old daughter for the weekend I recommend someone else. Even though the mom trusted me it was not a good decision at any level.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • LinCA

      @fred

      You said, "Marriage never stopped ho mo $exual predation. The gay community tried to kill off the boy scouts because the boy scouts would not allow gay scout masters. Should a married gay scout master be left alone with boys?"
      Pedophilia and homosexuality are distinctly separate sexual preferences. Preying isn't acceptable under any circumstance.

      The BSA is a private organization. They are free to be as bigoted as they want. The can discriminate against anyone. But just because they can, that doesn't make them any less despicable for it. Congress has no business bestowing a Congressional Charter upon them.

      You said, "I can tell you from personal experience when a mother asked me watch her 13 year old daughter for the weekend I recommend someone else. Even though the mom trusted me it was not a good decision at any level."
      I guess you are the best judge of what problems could arise if you are left alone with an underage girl. I would have no issue watching over a 13 year old (male or female) for a weekend.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • fred

      LinCA
      So tell me, the Greeks and their pederasty was very much looked up too and those bigoted Christians put an end to it. You are suggesting it is a good thing for us begin the full swing back into the old Roman Greek lovefest?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • LinCA

      @fred

      You said, "So tell me, the Greeks and their pederasty was very much looked up too and those bigoted Christians put an end to it."
      Pederast customs died out toward the end of the Hellenic period, well before christianity reared it's ugly head. So, those bigoted christians couldn't have had anything to do with it.

      You said, "You are suggesting it is a good thing for us begin the full swing back into the old Roman Greek lovefest?"
      You appear to have a reading comprehension issue. I said that preying isn't acceptable under any circumstance. That would preclude going back to pederasty.

      Note that in ancient Greece, pederasty was a legal practice. Advances in science and changing morals will, over time, change what is considered acceptable. Just as in most countries today, child abuse in the form of religious indoctrination is still acceptable, legal and even encouraged, in time that will change.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • fred

      I clearly do not see how raising a child as Jesus suggested is child abuse. Stalin went to great lengths to raise kids up by the state which put itself in place of God. Tell me do you think some wonderful loving atheist based committee is not subject to the madness power creates? How is it a godless society could possible raise above what Jesus taught.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Matt

      BSA just had some of it's leaders arrested for sexual abuse of children. 😉

      September 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • fred

      Matt
      Yep, these kinds of people will sneek in where ever innocent boys or girls are found. BSA policy prohibits a scoutmaster from being left alone with a child.
      LinCA take note

      September 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Matt

      "Yep, these kinds of people will sneek in where ever innocent boys or girls are found. BSA policy prohibits a scoutmaster from being left alone with a child."

      Fred, that might be their policy but it failed miserably, the proof is in the molestations, unless you are implying they did in front of everyone. It might help if you actually think before you write, otherwise you come off sounding like an idiot.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • LinCA

      @fred

      You said, "I clearly do not see how raising a child as Jesus suggested is child abuse."
      That is obvious. You appear to be fully indoctrinated into the delusion of religion. You seem totally convinced that the nonsense you believe has a basis in reality. My guess is that you were raised this way. My guess is that you follow pretty much the same delusional religion as your parents do, or did.

      You said, "Stalin went to great lengths to raise kids up by the state which put itself in place of God. Tell me do you think some wonderful loving atheist based committee is not subject to the madness power creates? How is it a godless society could possible raise above what Jesus taught."
      What Stalin did was to exert and increase his power. He didn't do any of it to spread atheism, other than to remove the power that the churches had. Equating communism with atheism shows that you either have a poor understanding of the subjects, or are intentionally trying to muddy the waters. Not every crime committed by an atheist is because he/she is an atheist, just like not every crime committed by a christian is because of his/her beliefs.

      When crimes are committed because of irrational beliefs (think terrorist attacks, crusades, abortion clinic bombing, gay bashing, etc.) is when you can blame those beliefs. Children indoctrinated into these irrational beliefs are more likely to commit crimes based on those beliefs.

      There isn't a shred of evidence even suggesting there are any gods. The sooner we stop pretending there are, the sooner we can start solving our problems rationally.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • fred

      LinCA
      >” You appear to be fully indoctrinated into the delusion of religion”
      Sorry, but I personally had Jesus work in my life just as He said He would. I also witnessed this personally with others seeking the Lord
      > “Equating communism with atheism shows that you either have a poor understanding of the subjects”
      Correct me but I did think communism had no God.
      >” Children indoctrinated into these irrational beliefs are more likely to commit crimes”
      80% of those in prison in the united states had one thing in common – a broken home

      September 13, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Stalin indoctrinated children by putting communism in place of god????

      Wow! I guess I will never understand this NEED for some external force or being to exist in people's lives! Don't you have enough to do, just living life without taking on all of the imaginary existential baggage? Y'all make no sense!

      September 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • LinCA

      @fred

      You said, ">” You appear to be fully indoctrinated into the delusion of religion”
      Sorry, but I personally had Jesus work in my life just as He said He would. I also witnessed this personally with others seeking the Lord
      "
      How do you explain the fact that the religion that the vast majority profess to have is virtually identical to that of their parents? For christianity alone, there are some 34,000 different cults, sects and denominations. All claim to know the wants and needs of their god. They can't all be right.

      It is far more likely that voices in your head are a manifestation of a mental illness, than any supreme being communicating with you.

      You said, "> “Equating communism with atheism shows that you either have a poor understanding of the subjects”
      Correct me but I did think communism had no God.
      "
      Communism is a sociopolitical system. Atheism is a disbelief in gods. Neither requires the other. There are christian communists.

      You said, ">” Children indoctrinated into these irrational beliefs are more likely to commit crimes”
      80% of those in prison in the united states had one thing in common – a broken home
      "
      They are also disproportionally christian. What's your point?

      September 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  4. Ken

    It is unbelievably naive to think that a priest can counsel with families when they have not had a wife or children themselves. Anyone that is currently a parent has trouble understanding children, what about those without children trying to counsel you? This is not God's rule this is another man-made rule that is obviously causing a lot of hardship. The Catholic church really needs to take a hard look at what the Lord wants versus what is tradition.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Barbie

      I wholehearteldy agree with your thoughts, Ken. Lets not leave out, when a catholic couple gets engaged and has to take 'Marriage Prep" classes–taught by priests!! (otherwise you can't get married in a catholic church)could never figure that one out..too many hipocracies afloat, that need to change.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  5. Wayde

    There are already married priests. An ordained Christian minister who is already married and converts to Catholicism can function as a priest in the Church. If his wife predeceases him, he must remain celebate. There's always a loophole.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Barbie

      No, those are called, 'Deacons"

      September 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Barbie, in 20 years, that's ALL there will be.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  6. vmprophet

    can someone explain to me why it is a rule? I guess I dont understand why it is a taboo or a bad thing or what have you for a man of God to marry. Im sure the Church believes marriage is a great thing seeing as how getting a divorce is a really bad thing in Catholicism. And while your married, you actually practice what you preach on a daily basis as a husband. You show compassion, love, patience, i could go on. So, serious question, why are they not allowed to marry?

    September 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      If you look up the history, ONE man wrote a thesis out of a remark by Peter. It arrived at a time when the inheritance if priests sons would be distributed. As the church did not want to lose church lands, the church embraced the celibacy notion, utterly ridding itself of the possibility of priests sons inheriting church property.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Phuukuu

      I think this is the best idea I have heard yet concerning this. The reason you have so many pedophiles in this priesthood is because this celibacy thing is a farce. These priests need an outlet just like any other man. They need to be married so
      they can get help. Thank God for women. Especially my wife. She is awesome.. LOL HEHEHEHAHAHAHAHA

      September 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Huwie

      It's all about the money. If a priest is married, all of his property (land) would be transferred to his wife and children upon his death. If he is not allowed to marry, all of his property would be transferred to the church. In short, the Catholic Church profits by allowing priests to marry. When you take a historical look, what was the most valuable asset 2000 years ago? Land, period.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Huwie

      sorry...the Catholic Church profits by NOT allowing priests to marry.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Vesstair

      That's simply un-possible wzrd: the Church could never something as morally reprehensible as forbid thousands of people from experiencing the fullness of life simply so they get to receive more material wealth. Greed and avarice are only vices of the godless heathens, not of the direct personification of the Lord on Earth.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • HellBent

      @Vesstair,

      You could believe it un-possible (or whatever) a nation could drop a nuclear weapon on another nation. But that wouldn't make it any less true.

      Also, avarice and greed are the same thing and the history of the church is rife with it. Try picking up a history book sometime.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Vesstair

      HellBent- You might want to check your sarcasm detector. It seems to be on the fritz.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • HellBent

      Well, lookie there. So it is. Apologies. Re-calibrating now...

      September 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • vmprophet

      didnt think about the inheritance aspect interesting. Ive never believed the premis that its so priests focus all their energy and time and what not to God "married to the church". Makes no sense especially if you consider that it is the beliefe of all the monotheistic religions that the woman was created as a companion to man.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      Its a very dark, sinister, and evil reason. Its not a money thing. Its a deeply spiritual (on the bad side ) reason. Well, then just say it. No. It wont be believed, understood, or accepted by virtually anyone posting as it is obvious there is virtually no spiritual understanding in the various comments...just an it seems to me or I think type of discussion. But thought I would alert and talk this way that some may put this persons (me) weird remarks on the back burner, but not off the table, because events are unfolding.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  7. pdqBach

    Perhaps if they would actually conform church policy and doctrine with the Bible there wouldn't be any controversy. The Apostle Paul distinctly says that it is wrong to forbid priests to marry, yet the Catholic church holds this tradition in obvious disobedience to the Word of God. It is no wonder there are big problems, and this isn't the only point of contention. Anybody who actually read the Bible could see that the Catholic church has missed the mark since Constantine, and has been out of order ever since.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Every other church has used what remained extant after Constantine destroyed every work he disagreed with. There were dozens of versions of each book of the bible, with added books here and there that Constantine and the Nicene council disapproved of and destroyed. Indeed, the Revelation (Apocalypse for Catholics) was included, over the objections of the entire Nicene council by direct order of Constantine, as it was an obscure, little known letter that was directly in reference to the Roman Emperor Nero (whose name adds to 666 in Hebrew numerology).
      The reason that the Roman Catholic church didn't want priests to marry was due to sons of priests potentially inheriting church property and lands. So, a thesis written by a rather poorly lived man, who lived a life of debauchery, then joined the church, developed the elaborate thesis, based entirely upon one remark by Peter recommending anyone ministering not be married.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  8. may

    Sorry folks, watching what a struggle it is for spouses to stay together, it is best if priests do not marry. Their vocation is the church, serving God's people at a moments notice. With a wife and family they would not be able to do all that they are required to do, when they are required to do it.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • HellBent

      Do you also think that military personnel, fire fighters, and police officers should not marry as well?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Disagree

      I believe your statement is incorrect. The early Christian church (prior Orthodoxy and Catholicism separating) allowed priests to marry. Today, the Orthodox church still allows it for priests, but not for bishops, monks, etc. One reasoning behind not allowing priests to marry is because back when there were less people (Biblical times, etc), they had to travel miles and miles to preach and reach the people, and that would be extremely difficult with a wife, who likely was not employed, and children. which is not the case today. The Orthodox priests do a great job serving their communities and God, plus what better way to provide marriage and family counseling because you have experience in it yourself!

      September 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Big C

      I'm a Greek Orthodox Christian and our Priests are allowed to marry. Our Church is the Original Christian Church founded by the Apostles over 1500 years. Some of our beliefs are similar to the Catholic Church many are not. What is the big deal here? If want to be a Monk, or a Bishop then I can have some understanding of not allowing marriage.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Funny, as every OTHER minister and even Rabbis do it. Are Roman Catholic priests mentally challenged that they cannot do what every OTHER member of the clergy can do?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "At a moment's notice"??? I was told by a friend whose elderly father was very near death. They called their parish priest who "couldn't leave [to go to the hospital] because he had a chicken in the oven".

      September 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  9. Floyd

    "Vatican spokesman..."The position on celibacy is clear."
    It's also wrong.

    The Pope and anyone else in Catholicism should be able to marry if he or she wishes.

    I remember a very good priest that left the Catholic Church because he fell in love with a woman. It was the right thing for him to do. Incidentally, he runs a muffler shop now.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • AGuest9

      My friend who left the priesthood to get married is now a lawyer.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  10. Observer

    It could go a long way to cutting down the problem.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  11. USA401

    As a Roman Catholic I completely agree. Priests should be able to marry. Maybe they should not marry nuns but they should be able to start a family of their own. This has nothing to do with devotion to God but more about politics at the Vatican.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  12. William Demuth

    To little to late, the cow is out of the barn.

    And how does one become an Ex Bishop? Perhaps buggery?

    September 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • John

      It's called retirement.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Father Wat A'Waste

    Does this mean that priests can marry each other? Or the kids they molest? Or a goat?

    tell me, what does this 'celibacy' thing with them really mean! Enquiring minds need to know!

    September 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • O'Really

      Inquiring minds needs to grow. "Enquiring" minds need to stop reading the Enquirer.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Alan Kmiecik

    "respected former Catholic bishop" ... now there is a contradiction in terms

    September 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • HellBent

      Esp. in Ireland

      September 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  15. O'Really

    Perfect. It's about time. It's only natural and it will allow priests to be balanced and do their jobs more effectively.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  16. Steve

    The Catholic Church is filthy obscenity. People who take it seriously are fools who deserve ridicule. I especially like the ones who quote the nonsense bible as if it means anything. Same goes for all other "holy" books.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • rufud

      your objective and unbiased viewpoint is extremely persuasive

      September 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Gerry

      Hi Gay boy, you are either an athiest which is nothing or brainless, a freemason or orange lodge protestant which means you are a bleeding heart loser!! How is the boyfriend...bugging anyone lately!

      September 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Mike V

      I suppose he could have instead simply said: "Prove to me that all of these claims have a shred of evidence supporting them", if you prefer a less abrasive approach.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • O'Really

      Dear Steve,

      That's like saying that all men are filthy obscenities become some are pedophiles. Your argument is weak but your anger is very strong. Sorry. No one deserves ridicule. Not even you.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  17. bluemax77

    Don’t tell us, tell your leader in the frock...!!

    September 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  18. Terry

    Being a pedophile has nothing to do with celibacy!!!! What an ignorant statement for that bishop to make. Seriously, get a clue.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Alan Kmiecik

      that would be EX-bishop.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • John

      Right but being a pedophile, with private access to young children, under the guise of celibacy is the problem. Many more young people would be interested in the priesthood if given the opportunity to marry.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Ally

      It seems to me that the bishop is advocating a change to the policy in order to allow men who would be good priests but don't want to be celibate become priests. He's concerned with the aging priest population and dwindling numbers. I think the writer of the article added in the mention of the pedophilia. Not the bishop.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  19. jweller2

    I agree.

    Wisdom: The difference between knowledge and experience

    September 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  20. Kevin

    I think Father Daly raises a very interesting point and I respect him for saying what others won't or can't. Ultimately, the Vatican needs to decide whether it wants to change and remain relevant or stay the same and see its numbers decrease. I suspect it won't change, and se individuals who want to marry and serve the Lord will have to decide if they want to remain Catholic or choose another more accepting denomination.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.