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)
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    April 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  4. NoGr8rH8r

    If priests can marry, I'll become one. What a life. You work a couple hours per week, drink wine on weekend mornings while wearing a colorful robe and tell stories. Where do I sign?

    October 9, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  5. Jon

    Priestly celibacy is more a gift than a burden. The problem comes from the world and not the Church.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  6. David Minnich

    Can't expect too much from the Catholic oligarchy, since about 75% of their teachings are pagan in origin. Good luck with that. There's good reason we had a reformation – without it, Christianity would have died.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Mario

      You must be talking about the site you linked that has many errors.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  7. vince

    I'm not sure why you can't have different categories of priests just like you have different religious orders. You can have an order for celebate and non-celibate priests. They currently make excpetions for Anglicans that are already married that want to join the RC church. I would also like to see order of gay priests (instead of hiding it). A simple color code combinatin on the collar would suffice to distinguish each group so if some parishoner felt more comfortable talking to one or the other, that woudl be easy to do.

    September 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  8. Four Courts Press


    September 15, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  9. Four Courts Press

    The celibacy issue in this book is only a tiny segment in what is a brilliantly written memoir....see http://www.fourcourtspress.ie

    September 15, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  10. Michael

    I'm glad to read that people such as Daly are working to address this problem that is plaguing the Catholic church with a reasonable solution and it's not without precedent either. Married priests were not uncommon prior to the reformation. There's no justification or excuse for pedophilia. Period. And the church has to adjust at some point and I think this is one long overdue.

    September 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • geraldh

      If celibacy is the problem then why is there as much of a problem in protestant churches. Check out reformation.com or do a search for stop baptist pedophiles. You might also want to search for Phil Jenkins who is a protestant who has researched the issue in protestant churches. It doesn't get as much attention because protestant church structure does not allow for as lucrative lawsuits. And by the way no there weren't many married priests before the refomration. There was prior to about 1100. I might add there are married priests in the CC today, i.e. eastern rite preists can be married.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Michael

      As to married clerics, from what I've read, celibacy became a requirement of the priesthood earlier than the Reformation but was often unenforced until the counter-reformation.

      September 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  11. Mattphyllis

    Priests should be allowed to marry. Where in the bible does it say they cannot marry. All the Apostles were married. The Catholic Church only brought this ban in in about the 1300's. Did you notice that none of the Protestant religions have the pedophile problem the Catholic Church has.

    September 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • geraldh


      The only problem protestant churches don't have that the Catholic Church does is they don't get sued for it because their Church structure does not allow such lucrative lawsuits. Read my post above and check out the resources I pointed to. In fact there is quite a large problem in protestant Churches. Also protestant Churches cheat on their wives. Around 13% of Baptist pastors for instance in an 1995 study admitted they did. Your living in a glass house.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • geraldh

      As for what the Bible says about marriage, you might look at Matt 19 where Peter says "then it is better not to marry.". Jesus says "to some this has been given for the sake of the kingdom". Also in 1 Cor 7 Paul says quite clearly that it is better not to marry.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  12. Reality

    From p. 10:

    Ending celibacy for priests will not solve the problem since 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

    Then there is the high divorce rate. Will parishioners have to pay for the pastor's alimony?

    Mas-turbation might be the easier solution? A pill to temporarily control the se-x urge?

    But then there is this:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • geraldh

      Atheists are peds to reality or should I say lack of reality. Atheism is no solution at all.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Reality

      As noted many times:

      Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?

      Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

      Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

      Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

      Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have se-x with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy"

      Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods

      Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life

      If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

      September 15, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  13. Carole Clarke

    It's a good idea – celibacy should be voluntary. A man should be able to either join an order that requires celibacy or one that does not. They can create a new category of priest to accommodate married men. But what they need to do is get minor children off the altar and away from possible pedophiles. A pedophile will join the priesthood to have access to an unending supply of children. Remove the supply and the predators will slither back into the wilderness. No priest or nun should have access to children without witnesses. And the children should be encouraged to tell, to shout if someone touches them inappropriately. Church doctrine has let this fester for centuries and it needs to scour out this pestilence.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • geraldh

      Celibacy is voluntary. No priest is forced to take the vow. As far as pedophillia, the priesthood is no more prone to it than men in the general society. In fact less so. Less than 2% of priests have committed this crime where about 7% in the general population have. You make it sound like the priesthood is a haven for peds. In reality its not.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  14. EnergyBeing3

    AMAZING that we in this modern age of science and technology still have people believing in this ancient myth and outrageous stories and legends. It's beyond embarrassing and laughable. Christians are all hypocrites. No one can live by all the suppressing and oppressing rules of the Bible. Even the grammar in the Bible is outdated. Plus the Bible has been updated like over 20 times and it STILL is outdated rubbish that doesn't reflect the original Hebrew version. You don't need religious rituals to have basic compassion, kindness and respect for humans. These concepts aren't so EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to grasp anymore. Maybe for the barbaric heathens of primitive man, but not now. If you follow organized religion, then the dead authors control the living. YOU'RE BEING BRAINWASHED AND SCAMMED!!! Find your spirituality without the controlling oppression of a religion or from priests with hidden agendas. YOU HAVE THAT FREEDOM

    September 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ EB-3,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Is it safe to say that all people need to have a "moral compass"? What manifesto is there to give light to someone's moral compass"? Atheism gives rise to even older teachings of paganism and hedonism and barbarism in light of stimulative s-e-x-u-al-isms. What's of importance here is giving the clergy the option to marry a soul-meet thusly and hopefully de-energizing a priest’s "drive" upon the young and still innocent ones. The so-called New-Age indulging in more ancient forms of se.x.isms is a path that humanity has long ago departed from. Why bring it back now?

      September 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • geraldh

      Energy, do you realize what you are saying in responding to this article in this manner. No more rules against pedophillia. People can't live them anyway.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Regal

      Please don't mistaken Christianity with Catholicism since they don't really teach what Jesus Christ taught on how to be Christian

      September 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • gerald

      Oh regal don't be so hard on the protestant churches. They are missing some of the truth but are Christian. 😉

      God bless ya man with your man made protestant traditions that didn't start until the 16th century. So tell me which of the 30,000 protestant denominations with conflicting doctines has it right. 🙂

      September 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Richard S Kaiser..i am not sure what you mean that atheism is pagan, hedonistic stuff. that is simply a lie to make you feel that belief in a god is more moral. fact is, you cannot have any proof of such an assertion. You are willing to lie to support your god?. There is no moral high ground and religious folks are as capable of bad behavior as anyone. We just do not believe in your god, or any other others that inhabit the minds of men.

      September 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • David Minnich

      @gerald said "God bless ya man with your man made protestant traditions that didn't start until the 16th century"

      Oh that's rich coming from a Catholic, which piled on a bunch of heresy (praying to Mary, priestly celibacy, and the such. Check out this link for a partial lisitng. http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/catholic_heresies-a_list.htm

      September 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Mario

      @David. Very interesting link, too bad that many of those so called examples are false. You are just your typical hating-Catholic person. Shame on that site for saying it's not a hate site.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  15. Colin

    The Pedophiles' Pope has painted himself into a corner on this one. He has already declared that his view on priests not marrying is "infallible". Part of the Catholic superst.ition is that the Pope has magic powers and when he declares he is infallible on an issue, it cannot be questioned, becuase God himself gave the Pope the answer.

    This will look funny in about 10 years' time, when they finally give in, but then again, blatant hypocrisy has never been regarded as an impediment to position changes by the Catholic Church.

    That’s the problem with declaring you have a monopoly on the truth during the Dark Ages – you kind of look silly as science and society evolve.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • EnergyBeing3

      AGREE... FULLY. I think those ridiculous robes and hats they wear also do the trick of making them look silly. It's all a show and a big elaborate SCAM to control people using 'Suspension of Disbelief' and 'Blind Allegiance' to manipulate the masses. But it's falling apart. It's no better than Scientology or Mormonism as a CULT.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • gerald


      No the matter of married priests is not a matter of infallibility. If it were there would be no married priests in the CC. The fact is that Eastern Rite priests, in full communion with the Pope are often married. Even some latin rite priests are married. You have only proven that you cannot tell the difference between a doctrine and a discipline. Between freedom of speech and driving 50 miles per hour on the freeway. Between infalllibility and authority. In other words you don't really have a clue about Catholicism.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Colin

      Gerald – not so. From AAP –

      "In Australia, the church was shaken in May when Pope Benedict XVI removed Bishop William Morris from the Diocese of Toowoomba, where he had served since 1992 (for supporting priests' marrying). The pope wrote the bishop that the teaching barring women’s ordination was “infallible.”

      This is well know.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • gerald


      Either it is very sad that you do not know that women's ordination and clerical celibacy are two different issues or your reading and comprehension is atrocious. Perhaps a little ADD medication would help you read more carefully your very own post. "Diocese of Toowoomba, where he had served since 1992 (for supporting PRIESTS MARRYING. The pope wrote the bishop that the teaching barring WOMEN'S ORDINATION was “infallible.”

      Not sure why the two different issues are in the same article.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • gerald

      You still out there Colin????

      September 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  16. A Prayer

    "We beseech Thee, Almighty Father, invest these Thy servants with the dignity of the priesthood. Do Thou renew in their hearts the spirit of holiness. Help them to be steadfast in the office of second priestly rank received from Thee, O Lord, and to inspire others to strive for perfection by their example. May they become zealous fellow workers in our ministry. May they shine in all the Christian virtues, so that they will be able to give a good account of the stewardship entrusted to them, and finally attain the reward of everlasting life. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen."

    Fulton J Sheen

    September 14, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • EnergyBeing3

      What a brainwashed load of total outdated rubbish. The Catholic religion is CORRUPT beyond comprehension but the light of reason, logic and truth is shining on the CON and SCAMS they've tried to hide for hundreds of years.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  17. Christiannx

    They're tired of not having young boys to make sweeeeet love to.
    Typical Christians.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • XtianNation

      @Christiannx- Watch your mouth boy!!! You are to be respectful and obedient to God and his people or else he's going to send you straight to hell!!!

      September 14, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • JohnR

      TYPICAL Christians???? It's true there are child abuse issues in all sects, but the behavior is not TYPICAL of Christians. And there are abusers galore outside of Christianity.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Familliarwuf



      September 14, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • EnergyBeing3

      ALL CHRISTIANS ARE HYPOCRITES ... nobody, not even the lame Pope can live by all the outdated rules. It's a bogus scam of spiritual hierarchy with fancy robes and outdated rituals. IT'S CRUMBLING APART

      September 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • gerald

      So energy,

      What you are saying is that the CC should do away with the rules against molesting children since they are outdated and the priests can't live by them.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You are forgetting that throwing out the biblical rules still leaves a full set of modern rational rules that the Pope still seems to be having trouble coming to grips with. The biblical rules ARE outdated, redundant and/or unnecessary. The bible was replaced a couple of hundred years ago by the intelligent design of new social order. The bible is WAY past its expiration date, and smells like it too.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • gerald

      Thanks for your opinion Mark. So I guess stealing, lying, cheating on your wife, and murder are okay now. Or at least they can be done away with if some nation feels like it. Not quite sure what the rules are that you are talking about and I don't think you know either.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Gerald.. so you assume it is only biblical rules that have ever influenced the inhabitants of planet earth? We would never have evolved society if we did not cooperate as a species. Long before we invented the god we think control us today, Society has changed and can be very violent, maybe due to the fact there are more of us living closer together than we did eon ago, and co operation is not as important as it was. Religion is trying to claim our evolutionary successes as their own ? No murder is not ok, nor cheating on your wife.... lying is rampant as we are told that truths exist with out evidence..

      September 18, 2011 at 8:47 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.