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. Dennis Finnigan

    The Bishop is correct. The sooner the Roman Catholic Church allows for a married priesthood the better the church (community) will be. I have know many priests who long for a healthy relationship with a female life partner and many older priests who painfully regret that they never had children or grandchildren. Allowing men and women who are called by God to the priesthood to participate in the sacrament of matrimony would be healthy for them as individuals and for the communities they serve.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  2. Catholic4Ever

    I was born a Catholic and will die a Catholic. Where in the sacred scriptures does it say if you don't like this church "go and build your own church"??? A priest is married to the Church. It is his choice – There are other roles in church for Married men such as Deacons. What is the big deal?? Was Jesus married? If you want to serve God, there are many ways of doing so without being a priest. The Catholic church will prevail no matter what! It has been standing since Jesus made Peter our first Pope.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • aubrie

      Yes. Jesus was married. Do your research.... and NOT in a Catholic library.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Ally

      Well, the big deal is that there are very few men who decide they want to become priests anymore specifically because of the celibacy requirement. The bishop is worried about the dwindling priesthood. Opening priesthood up to men who would like to also marry would be an avenue to address the problem.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Christian4Ever

      Where does it say in the Bible that a priest is "married" to the Church?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Truth Speaker

      I got a better one. Where does it say that clergy cannot marry in the scriptures? On the contrary: 1st Timothy 3:2 "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife." Further 1st Timothy 4:3 says that "forbidding to marry" is "a doctrine of devils." Maybe Roman Catholics, including priests and the Pope need to read the Bible more.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Petrov

      Many Catholics forget, or don't know, that the Catholic church is not made up of just the Roman Catholic rite, but of many other Eastern rites. One of the most notable is the Maronite Catholic Rite which is the predominate Catholic Church of Lebanon. This is a Catholic rite in full communion with the Roman rite under the authority of the Pope. Eastern rite churches like the Maronite and Melkite rite allow married men to become priests. Other Eastern rite Catholics are also allowed to do this. Anglican priests who are married and convert to Roman Catholicism are also allowed to remain married. There are rules associated with this practice. For example int he Eastern rites the man must be married before becoming a priest. Also married priest may not be promoted to bishop.

      The point is that that under the rules of the Catholic church is it fully permissible to have married priests and for many centuries even the Roman rite allowed this practice. The Roman rite rule which prohibits married priests is just that, a man made rule which can be changed at any time by the Pope and the College of Cardinals. If there were a doctrinal reason not to allow married priests, then the Church would not allow these other married Catholic priests. I'm always amazed that news organizations and supposedly knowledgeable Catholics never bring this up during these discussions.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Peter may have been the first pope, but it was James' church.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      Well said. =]

      September 14, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  3. elgeevz

    I have never understood the requirement for a celibate clergy. After all, Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, and Jewish rabbis are married.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • LaLa

      He was not a Rabbi. More like a street preacher – highly regarded by the people & thus, feared by those in power.

      But I agree, priests should be allowed to marry. I know so many good Catholic men who, when faced with the choice to have a family or a parish, chose the family. They all would make marvelous priests, but this silly rule makes it impossible. Additionally, I also know of many Catholics who are hesitant to discuss marital issues with a priest, since he has never been married ( most, anyway ) and cannot draw on experience.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  4. Marcy

    As a former Catholic....I agree...let priests marry. The former bishop in this article is speaking from a position of which he knows nothing about. Most of the victims of abuse in the Catholic church were children. The perpetrators of these horrible acts are pedophiles and the priesthood has always been attractive to these pathetic individuals. Allowing priest to marry based on this very wrong assumption is absurd. If priests were allowed to marry – many good men would undoubtedly consider/pursue the priesthood. I no longer follow the Catholic faith as the Church is based on the Pauline priniciple of Christianity.....I consider myself a Judeo-Christian which is based on the Jewish priniciple of Christianity. Jesus Christ never intended to start a new religion...he was a devout Jew and Teacher. I do thank the Catholic Church though for my parochial schooling....it enabled me, as an adult, to learn the truth about the church.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      You do realize that most child molesters are married...right? It has nothing to do with celibacy. Reading the news is not rocket science.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Former: reading the news for most diehard christians is too frightening...they have been brainwashed to think anything outside of the buybull could possibly hold an ounce of truth and that if it isn't in the bible, then it must be evil

      September 14, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  5. Ashlyn

    Maybe if catholic priests could marry and have children of their own, they would be more offended when one of their colleagues molests a child.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      That is a fallacy. You don't need children of your own in order to feel empathy for children in general! I'm sure they are offended but they're more worried about the consequences of being a whistle blower than anything else. Why do you think all this mess has been shoved under the carpet all these decades.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  6. Reality

    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 parishnors 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 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Marcy

      Must be a bummer not to have a higher power....

      September 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Douglas


      Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Ally

      The problem the bishop is trying to solve is the dwindling priesthood. Not the pedophilia. So opening priesthood up to those who don't want to remain celibate would probably go a long way to solving it.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • AGuest9

      @Marcy, Why? There is no need.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • TruthPrevails


      "Must be a bummer not to have a higher power...."

      Not at all...it means I don't get to pass the buck...I take full responsibility for my actions.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  7. olivia

    Our Catholic Church will not "blow with the wind" and change for todays society. Although we may have less priests, the church will ultimately be better for it. There was a liberal era of priests and the Church will purge itself of these men who have abused children. I have faith that my Catholic Church is stronger than ever. God Bless – Let he without sin cast the first stone.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Watch out because I'm about to chuck one right at your forehead you enabler.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Brandon

      Celibacy is contrary to Bible Teachings-–1 Timothy 4:1-3 "However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth."

      September 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  8. Ms

    Asking the Church to do the reasonable and responsible thing is too much to ask.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  9. Truth Tellerz

    Celebate priest is all from paganism.

    Its not good for Adam to be alone. Genesis A wife is a good thing to find. Proverbs.

    Most of the Levite Priest were married , and so was Moses and David and Solomon and Peter too mention a few.
    Pagans always make their own rules. Celebate priest didn't come from God.

    Jesus didn't get married because He was only going to be here 30 years.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • USmellLikePee

      Jesus didn't need to buy the cow when he got the milk from Mary Magdalene.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Jesus didn't get married because he was a pimp walking around with his own "disciple" entourage. Every city he went he threw down a couple of magic tricks, turned water into wine and partied all night. He even had female groupies.. I believe one of them was a prost'itute.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      LOL. What about St. Paul then?

      September 14, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  10. Fuyuko

    The celibacy is a weird catholic thing. This is not what Jesus intends for the priesthood. Rabbi's in Jesus's time married. Let the priests marry!

    September 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  11. mouse

    Please....you rail against a Muslim blogger as IF christianity is a religion that promotes peace.......some of you have never even opened up your bible OR your reading skills leave a lot to be desired

    September 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Many here know your good book better than the idiots that follow it.

      I have read it atlest a dozen times I recall, as well as the books you guys deny, and all the other major tombs of stupidity from the other great faiths!

      September 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • DeCon

      All religions promote peace. Sadly, no one reading the bible can figure it out.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • DeCon

      Touche William and Thanks!

      September 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Marcy

      @WilliamD.....what books are those?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Marcy: I'm willing to guess he is speaking of 'science' books and books written by the likes of Richard Dawkins; Sam Harris...given what you have said on this blog I wouldn't expect you to have picked up one of those books...reading comprehension seems like a task for you unless of course it is a fairy tale buybull that is worse than most horror stories out there.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  12. Amy

    I'll just mention the elephant in the room. Why not female priests? I've known women with more ability to perform that job and more devotion to god... that's what made me first question my religion. Women are second-class as far as the church was concerned. My brother could be altar boys, but I wasn't good enough. They now allow altar girls, so the next step should be women priests (priestesses)?

    September 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Because they lack the hydraulics of Jesus, in whose image the church is built

      It seems "wood" is used to build churches as well as crucifixes.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • USmellLikePee

      Because the RCC considers Susan B. Anthony to be the antichrist.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • PapaGiorgio

      Isn't that why we have nuns? really, female priests...The GLBT would love that.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • USmellLikePee

      Nuns are nothing but catholic church maids. Only men hold positions of power in the RCC.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • PapaGiorgio

      USmelllikePee..you smell like stupid...nuns contribute much more if not volumns in catholic school education, community & missionary orders...are you living in the 1920's? gone are the 'housemaid' days...really...what decade are you living in??

      September 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself


      You didn't really contradi.ct anything that USmellLikePee said. So nuns teach – great, but they teach what the Church authorities – the men – tell them to. They do the bidding of the men. They have no real power.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  13. hiltz


    The Catholic church and Orthodox church split. One did NOT break from the other.

    Been brainwashed by your new Church I see.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  14. USmellLikePee

    Catholic Church = NAMBLA

    September 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Marcy

      Only a participant would know what those initials stand for......unless you worked in CPS....which I'm sure you didn't.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • LinCA



      September 13, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Know What


      NAMBLA has been well-known for years... they even did a skit about it on South Park.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  15. Kirk Harrington

    I think that Catholic priests should have the right to marry. I am a priest in my church and I am married. Its a wonderful blessing to have a wife and children. You learn something about the nature of God and his love for his children when you raise a family. It is very nice.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • v.s.1389

      The answer is there but unfortunately Roman's Cesars which are today's Popes messed things up with its strategy of manipulation with everything. The Christian Orthodoxy is the real way but unfortunately most of the people do not realize that.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  16. PRISM 1234

    Catholic church has no biblical grounds in many of their doctrines. Celibac for priests, for one, is not scriptural. There are few scriptures that brand this kind of teachings and imposing this rule in particularly, as evil and demonic.
    But seeing the posts on this blog, it's obvious that this one is littered with crazies. So, no waste of my time here!

    September 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Don't let the digital door whack you in your priests pumping station on the way out!

      September 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  17. Johnny

    Next step: Allow them to marry between themselves. Cool.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Jimmy

      and throw conservatives right out the window..quite the liberal statement dude

      September 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  18. illuminati

    I was Catholic. Now I am Orthodox.
    After the Catholics broke away from the Orthodox Church they went nuts.
    At one time the Catholic Priests could marry.
    The Orthodox Priests still can mary.
    Everybody is happy.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • samer

      Funny, you are twisting history. We love the Orthodox, but to be ignorant of church history is terrible. Orthodox view on divorce is contrary to Biblical view. They claim it is Okay to divorce up to three times which means one can marry 4 just as Islam except one at a time. It is certainly more conservative than Protestants and atheists.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  19. wendy5

    its a gay club only says the vatican

    September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  20. M. Ahmed

    Muslim Imams can marry. Most Imams lead prayers on a volunteer basis in small communities and some are full/time time making living wages in larger communities. works fine for the muslims here in the US. Islam is not centerlized like Catholism and so the community that it serves has to pay for them. Catholics prists should follow the muslim Imam model as for marrage and making a stipent living.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Ah an asymetrical religion?

      I believe that is how your zealots organize their cells?

      Silly Christians should study Al Quieda so they can't be held responsible?

      It seems to have worked wonders in the Middle East!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Jimmy

      hmmm...lets consolidate religions to gain strength for Allah!! NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:01 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.