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. Debra

    More than likely the Catholic Church will condemn what he says – they said they didn't have a problem before (they just turned a blind eye to it), therefore, no answer is needed. (I strongly disagree!)

    September 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  2. musings

    Anyone who is worried about the celibacy issue and thinks priests would not be able to function as such as married men is really out of touch with today's church at least in the US. There are female altar servers. There are woman handing out communion as well as non-priest men. There are deacons who read the service and even give the homily – deacons can be married, but they do not perform the Mass. You can have a married priest saying Mass if he was once an Episcopal priest and he (already married) converted. So that means you can walk into such a church in the US already – married clergyman, deacon saying homily, female altar attendants, and ordinary parishioners distributing communion.

    The only thing stopping the Vatican from lifting its ban is mumbo jumbo, because they are losing manpower and they seem to need to keep their little bachelors' club, much of it gay. By the way, in Greece, those associated with the Roman faith, can marry like their Orthodox brethren. And this has been going on for centuries.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  3. Juan

    Do Catholics read the bible?
    The book of Luke 4:38 – 39 talks about St. Peter's mother in law.
    So St. Peter was a married man.

    Also the bible says that whover is intending to become a bishop (priest)
    he should be a husbank of one wife. See below.
    1 Timothy 3:1-2
    "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

    Actually the bible says that the celibacy doctrine is a demons teaching, please read below the book of (1 Timothy 4: 1-3)
    1 Timothy 4: 1-3
    1 But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Of course not! It's what makes arguing points with them so much fun!

      September 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      Juan, do Protestants and Fundamentalist-types actually read Catholic Church doctrine before making a strawman? Not often, sadly. The Catholic Church doesn't forbid anybody to marry or not eat meat. If priests want to marry, then they leave the priesthood and marry. It's not doctrinal, meaning it can change. Do Catholics not marry nor eat meat? Where is that in the catechism? Put up or shut up.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Former Protestant

      St. Paul wasn't married during his ministry, either, and even recommended celibacy over marriage. Do Protestants actually read the Bible and realize that the very Church they condemn had councils to determine its very existence and place in Christendom, instead of quoting it like it's a person on its own? (ie "the Bible says")

      September 14, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  4. It_flyer

    Originally catholic priests could be married. The pope decided he didn't want wealth to pass from priest to his children. He wanted the wealth to stay with the church. It had nothing to do with god. It was all the the greed of the wealthy catholic church. Isn't religion just great?!

    September 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      Yeah...... Ayn Randism and Stalin and Pol Pot are much better for the world.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  5. Inciteful

    The assertion that allowing priests to marry would resolve a lot of the Catholic Church's issues is preposterous. So, what he's saying, but not saying, is that since a priest is not allowed to marry, he becomes a pedophile. WHAT?!!! If that isn't the most convoluted argument I've ever heard, I don't know what is. These two issues are TOTALLY unrelated.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • A Theist

      ...Except that unwed priests can suffer from vasocongestion.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Mia

      You see, they have no more priests...because they are all either pedophiles, or they are dying of old age.
      They need to let people who choose to marry, be allowed to enter the priesthood (& sisterhood?) so they still have leaders!

      Personally, I think God is in this thing, I mean the Catholic church losing all it's leadership. Because there is only supposed to be one Head, and they are not Him!

      September 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • musings

      Why do you think you can judge the Irish church and call his statement preposterous?

      In my opinion, the breach between the Irish Roman Catholics and the Irish Episcopalians is preposterous. The Episcopalians are the ones with the big cathedrals, which apparently was the swag they got from the English. And yet their members were some of the most activist Irish nationalists. Once those two get together, and merge their practices, both sides will benefit. Few know it, but many of the orders of nuns founded in Ireland were done at the behest of social worker types who were Protestant, trying to help the poor in a way they could understand. Think of all the American non-Catholic do-gooders who helped Mother Teresa. It was like that. So there is a connection between them already, which is historic.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • anw

      The bishop is saying NOTHING about marriage fixing the pedophile problem. He's trying to fix the problem of dwindling numbers of young men entering the priesthood because of the celibacy rule. The way the journalist wrote the story he makes it sound like the two are mixed.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  6. Vows

    Vows of celibacy & poverty...they're just not biblical! Why is that so hard to understand?
    Many Catholics (not all but many) believe you have to be a member of the Catholic church to be 'saved'. Huh?!?
    Man, I wish Jesus were here in the flesh right now...and walking around the Vatican teaching. That would be awesome!!!

    The apostle Paul was a tent maker...during his ministry...because he didn't want anyone to accuse him of being basically what a lot of people are now adays...gravy train riders looking to live on handouts.

    Hey, and Jesus had a house! He invited people to it! He fed other people! Hello!?!

    September 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Fred1

      Poverty is too in the bible

      JESUS ON GIVING – Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Matthew 19:21

      September 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      Well, vows are biblical, and celibacy over marriage is biblical. So...

      September 14, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  7. Who Am I?

    l claim to be sooo smart, yet I am clearly walking in the dark.
    I claim to need no higher power, yet my attltude towards life and others is clearly sour.
    I claim Christians are to blame, yet I do nothing and have no shame.
    My life has no ultimate meaning, so I come on here screaming.

    I used to be an agnostic/atheist until He changed my heart. Blessed day to all ๐Ÿ™‚

    September 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • A Theist

      Ok.. I got it. You're a lemon flavored (sour) banshee (the screaming) on welfare (do nothing) and haven't paid the electric bill (in the dark) but recently got a double bypass (He changed my heart configuration).

      What do I win?

      September 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • LinCA

      @A Theist


      September 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • A Theist

      You could also be a baby, crying at night because of the pain from your heart surgery, covered in lemon juice.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Matt

      Your a fundamentalist christian who stubbed their toe!

      September 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Matt *in a margherita factory, over by the limes! (You gotta have the sour bit in there too ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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

      fundamentalist = sour ๐Ÿ˜‰

      September 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • A Theist

      Oooo, "figurative" points awarded to Matt!

      September 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • ALNB

      Someone who makes assumptions like most fools on here, like...oh let's see...evan? gerald? pest2all? priyath?

      September 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @A Theist: haha, well done!

      September 13, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Awkward Haha thanks! I also made a reference to blue balls on this page (not this thread), I'm feeling rather Faustinian today... ๐Ÿ˜€

      September 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @A Theist: You were previously an atheist?! I can not wrap my head around that. Please explain how you turned your back on logic and reality. I have never heard about true atheists returning to religion.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • A Theist

      Haha well officially I've never been, so I guess I've never been an Atheist like you have. But there was definitely a point where I fell away from faith. And interestingly enough, I grew up in a household that condemned my faith in Christ–opposite of those that usually condemned a lack of faith–and so I had to defend it what I believed in constantly, and find reasons for what I believe. I was also given lots of wonderful texts that "shed light" as to why "Christianity is a lie." I haven't been convinced.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @A Theist: Oh okay. Thanks for the clarification. I sincerely hope that your logic prevails someday! (Not trying to insult you here). Anyway, good to see you around. ๐Ÿ˜€

      September 13, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  8. mike

    the catholic church is so corrupt and immoral i dont think anything will change....ever

    September 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      Hi, do you know that the Catholic Church is comprised of over 1 billion people? Are you seriously judging each of these people? Are you God? Do you know the hearts of these 1 billion people? Quit with the self-idolatry already.:p

      September 14, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  9. itsjustme

    NO proof that Jesus was not married.

    100% possibility that he was - there was no such thing as a 33 year old bachelor in those days - you hit puberty, became of age, learned a trade and you were married off by the time you were mid teens or a bit later.

    It all had to do with longevity which wasn't long in those days. I am guessing if you were 40 you were already considered quite old.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • A Theist

      I'm just curious, what is a "100% possibility"? Is it different from an "80% possibility"? Would that make it a possibility that is at most 4/5 true, if proven to be true?

      September 13, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Observer

      So what became of his widow, who should probably be among the very most revered women in the Bible?

      You must be kidding.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  10. dudley0418

    The priesthood wished to follow the words of Paul, being centered solely in Christ with no interference from the concerns and influences of marriage. Apparently, Paul was able to do this. Peter was married when he met Christ and went on to be the leader of the new church, some say at Christ's bidding. However, Paul mentions that being a eunuch for the sake of God is not for everyone, and that it is better in to be married than to be the unwitting victim of passion. 'Know Thyself' is a good watch-phrase in this case. Perhaps bridling human romantic passion is a burden that priests can do without and still serve God properly and honorably.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Observer

      Yes. The Pauline Epistles said it's not good to marry. It's just for the less religious people unable to control their passions.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  11. Who Am I?

    I claim to be sooo smart, yet I am clearly walking in the dark.
    I claim to need no higher power, yet my attltude towards life and others is clearly sour.
    I claim Christians are to blame, yet I do nothing and have no shame.
    My life has no ultimate meaning, so I come on here screaming.

    I used to be an agnostic/atheist until He changed my heart. Blessed day to all ๐Ÿ™‚

    September 13, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • A Theist

      Sorry about teasing you up there, I just couldn't resist the joke!

      Congrats on seeing both sides fairly and coming to the same conclusion I did! ๐Ÿ˜€

      September 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Awkward Situations


      September 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Are you the head of the Department of Redundancy Department?

      September 14, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  12. James

    To all who very quickly defend their ways of the Catholic Church, and their belief that priests should not engage in matrimony. Would you be so quickly to defend your beliefs if the Church decided that in order to be a devote follower you yourself had to remain celibate. To many times as a guest in the Catholic church I have seen the ones who claim to be true followers of the church jump to quick judgement and make themselves and the faith look bad. For instance the busy bodied old ladies who smirked and made comments under their breath due to a family during christmas mass because they felt they were underdressed. Little did they know that was all the family could afford due to hard times. But I applaud the family for not losing their faith or showing shame and celebrating christ on Christmas Mass.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      While I think priests should marry if they choose to, I think this is a slippery slope argument. Celibacy is not about "being too holy" to marry. It follows from the epistle of St. Paul, in which he says that those who have the gift to remain celibate should, because they can devote more of themselves to God, whereas someone who is married devotes himself to his spouse. It's not for everyone.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  13. Charles E

    It stands to reason that if your clergy is suppose to be the first person for you to turn to for guidance and counseling on "family matters" a little experience in the subject would go a long ways for providing quality advice. Celibacy was introduced into the Catholic Church as a form of "punishment" of priests. Whatever happened to an "all loving and forgiving God".
    Get over it Vatican. The time is about 13 centuries overdue to allow priests to do what is natural ie- Marry and raise a family.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • hamida77

      Everyone is so interested in eliminating the practice of celibacy from the Catholic Church, though nearly every other church in existence already can provide you with married clergy (even gay married clergy) to satisfy your spiritual whims. St Paul clearly states in the bible the superiority of a celibate spiritual life in the service of Christ. Let the Catholic Church be what it is, the original church founded by St Peter.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  14. Tony Ingrassia

    I truly believe that priests should marry. The appostles were married men. To me, children born of a such a union would be brilliant and create a safer & better world. A married priest would instill in his children many good virtues & intelligence that would carry on to the next generation.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  15. Catholic4Ever

    Mathew 16;13 13h When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi* he asked his disciples, โ€œWho do people say that the Son of Man is?โ€ 14i They replied, โ€œSome say John the Baptist,* others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.โ€ 15He said to them, โ€œBut who do you say that I am?โ€ 16* j Simon Peter said in reply, โ€œYou are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.โ€ 17Jesus said to him in reply, โ€œBlessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.โ€

    September 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Matt

      And then 2 chapters later he says the same thing to the rest of the apostles. You can't separate Peter from the rest of the apostles. Furthermore, Paul rebukes him (Galatians 2) and Acts depicts him as errant when initially he doesn't believe the revelation God gives him prior to his visit to Cornelius (Acts 10)

      September 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  16. Steve

    Glad someone in the church finally has the right idea.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Catholic4Ever

    Mathew 16:24 -Then Jesus said to his disciples, โ€œWhoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me. 25r For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.* 26What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? 27* s For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Fatherโ€™s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. 28* Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.โ€

    September 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Fred1

      Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against his mother-in-law." Luke 12:51-53

      September 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  18. Pamela Anchang

    Very interesting perspective and worth the discussion.I love the idea of having the choice.Yes, when you get into priesthood or any other religious order you do know the rules, however I would like to see the church consider other perspectives.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  19. Jim

    The Only reason the church made the rule of celibacy for priests is so that when a Priest dies he leaves all of his money and posessions to the church instead of his wife or kids. Priests are paid by the church and they want to make sure they get that money back when the priest dies.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Know What

      What possessions?... like maybe $600 and a set of golf clubs or a fishing pole or some books and *perhaps* a car, if one has not been provided by the church? Priests are paid very little. All of their room/board/clothing and such are taken care of for life, so no need for much money. I'm fairly anti-Catholic, and even I will admit to that fact.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Fred1

      @Know What: Your not thinking about what the priest inherits from his parents and family

      September 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Know What


      Priests make out last wills just like everyone else. Some (not all) take a vow of poverty, whereby anything they might inherit belongs to the church. There are 2 kinds of those vows of poverty – "simple" and "complete". If they have not taken this vow, they are just like everyone else.

      This article discusses a bit of it:

      September 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      LOL! Citations, please?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  20. Gabrielle

    Up until the 7th century members of the Catholic clergy were allowed to marry. It was towards the middle to end of the century that Rome decided to make celibacy a part of the priesthood. This was a method to counteract the influence of women in the church.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • My God's Bigger Than Yours

      BOOM! She said it all.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • dudley0418

      Not to be a muckraker, but this sounds more like a 20th century thought than a 9th century one. It is hard to imagine that a church that worships a woman wanted to reduce the influence of women.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • AGuest9

      dudley, I'm guessing that the woman you are referring to is Mary, the "Ever-Virgin" (at least, according to the church). From Mark 6:3 Jesus had four brothers (and two sisters), in direct contradiction to church teaching. If the church had not wanted to eliminate the influence of women, it wouldn't have eliminated the gospel of Mary Magdelene (who was possibly the wife of Jesus).

      September 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Former Protestant

      Dudley, when I was an evangelical-fundamentalist, I was told the very same thing. Then I actually decided to find out for myself–and was shocked to discover that Mary wasn't worshiped. She is honored. Do you "worship" your mother? Well, Catholics honor the woman who gave birth to Jesus (our God)

      Then I started investigating all of the other lies that were fed to me and never went back...

      September 14, 2011 at 1:54 am |
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