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. Walla Walla Ding Dang

    I guess Bishop Daly does not realize that priests chose to end their celibacy on their own, with the nearest person they could find.

    There's a bit of a scandal about it. Just a tiny one. He probably has not heard.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • News Flash

      Exactly. Any priest who wants to have an affair does so, without any permission being asked or granted. Celibacy is a sham, and those of us who have seen the facts from the inside know it is so.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  2. 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 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 11:34 pm |
  3. Fred1

    Here’s the problem. Popes are supposed to be infallible in matters of faith and doctrine. A pope decreed that priests must be celibate and now the church is stuck with it. Repeal celibacy and deny infallibility. I think married priests are inevitability and the church will come up with some creative explanation as to what that pope could be infallible even when the church reverses his command. It’s kind of like when they had to back down about the sun going around the earth

    September 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • JFritz

      The church has never had a problem with going back on a papal opinion. It just holds another council and declares that god has spoken again–kind of an ecclesiastical update. Two millenia, and people still fall for it. They'll fall for it again. Millions of people who can still take their kids to a church that has turned its back on abused kids won't have any trouble with yet more inconsistency.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Know What


      The rule of celibacy is not faith or doctrine, it is just housekeeping.

      Not that I think that the pope is infallible in those areas either, however.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  4. mabel floyd

    the catholic church should have long ago ok'ed birth control-married priests–women priests just as they have ok's women entering the church without a hat–eating meat on friday–saying the mass in the local language . the church is slowly becoming
    ignored by their parishioners . the term "cafeteria catholics" is a term used by the catholic laity themselves to describe their ignoring some of the church's decision that do not make sense to the average family. birth control is a good example. the average women is capable of gestating 12–to 14 children. find me a catholic church where the average family has that number of children. time is over when families do not thlnk for themselves and make decisions that affect their families that they feel are right for them.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  5. L. Jones

    Maybe one day they will realize that the requirement for a minister of the gospel to be celibate is no where in scripture. In fact, Peter who they claim the priesthood came from was married. I'm just saying.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  6. Richard

    For the love of God, get rid of religion and the bible, torah, koran, and any other book that purports to be the "word of God"! The Bronze Age was over long ago. Why keep throwing virgins down volcanoes?

    September 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  7. JFritz

    Priests routinely married until the 12th century, when the second lateral council decreed celibacy necessary. It took another century or so for celibacy to fully catch on. The practice stems from the church's desire for power and money, as the wealth of more powerful clergy rose, the papacy wanted to keep it in the firm rather than pass it on to the families of priests. Even though there were earlier attempts to make priestly celibacy universal, up until this time sons of priests often assumed their fathers' roles and power, much as in any corporation. Think Borgias. Boys were removed from their homes at early ages up through much of the 20th century. They had no chance to develop normally, mentored by other men who had no normal social upbringing. For centuries. Any doubts as to why pedophilia flourished? Time to look to yourself for things of the spirit, and stop relying on flawed humans to reveal the will of the creator. Religious dogma is rarely of the spirit.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  8. Solex

    There is NOTHING in the bible that requires priests to be celibate. This was something that was added later to show the world how "holy" priests are. YOU CANNOT DEFEAT NATURE. We are DESIGNED to reproduce. Reminds me of an old joke...

    Pope John Paul II arrives at the pearly gates and is greeted by St. Peter. He gets the dime tour of heaven and John Paul spots the library and asks if ir would be OK to go have a look. St. Peter says fine and he goes back to his job.

    A little while later he hears a blood curdling scream come from the library. Running across the way, he finds John Paul II on his knees and wringing his hands. "Whatever is the matter?" he asks, to which John Paul II replies:

    "It's a typo! The word is to CELEBRATE!"

    September 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • mabel floyd

      celebrate-that's a good one

      September 13, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  9. CorleoneBlood

    In the Christian Orthodox church (Orthodox and Roman Catholic use to be one in the same), a Priest "MUST" be married, if he wishes to have/lead a local Parish. If a Priest does not want to marry, he goes on to be a Monk. Most of the Apostles were married. They were the first Priests of the church. As well, how can your Priest advise you on marriage, problems with your spouse, with your children, ect., if they themselves have never walked that mile? In over 2000 years, we have had NO molestations in the Christian Orthodox Church – NONE!

    September 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • *frank*


      September 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Reality

      "Friday, February 18, 2011

      Pedophilia and the Priesthood: an Esoteric Causality

      We see stories about it nearly every week in the news. It's a phenomenon that ruins Churches, disillusions parishioners, and destroys lives. Today, Bishop Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D. Patriarch of the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church will discuss with co-host Dr. Michael Jon Kell the actual causes of pedophilia in ministry, which he contends has esoteric origins. Why is this happening? Why is it so prevalent? How is it preventable? Tune in and learn the truth about this social crisis."

      September 13, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • GaryM

      Good point. In fact in there are married priests in the Catholic Church as well – priests that have come over from Greek Orthodox, Russian (few) and Episcopalean churches have, of course, remained married and this has not caused any "stir" -so little stir, in fact, that few people are aware of it. Therefore, if it seems to be working for the Orthodox and Episcopals (and others, Rabbis, Pastors etc.) and in fact is working on a small scale in the Roman Catholic church, there isn't an "organizational" or financial issue – and everyone agrees there is no Scriptural prohibition – then it is just a mindset. Hopefully, the Curia being what it is, will speed up this reflection on modernizing, so that, sometime in the 24th Century, Catholic priests, too, will be able to marry...

      September 14, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  10. nogods

    The vatican is no longer relevant in today's society. Disolve all of the burdensome heirarchy, sell vatican city and use the procedes to help end hunger across the world. Help impoverished populations to become more self sustaining. The remaining churches could decide for themselves the questions of celibacy, birth control, divorce etc.... Please step into the 21st century and shed the constraints of ancient times that are dictated by one central leader.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • MaryW

      The reasoning for celibacy of priests is because the priest is in a sense "marrying" the church, devoting his entirety to her which is such a beautiful thing. So it would be considered adulterous for a priest to marry. How could a priest care for his church and the people therein and ALSO support a family of his own? His parish would not only be supporting the church, but would be supporting his family. And though I don't think it is impossible, and their would be many a good priest and father, I just don't think it would be reasonable. I know so many priests who really wouldn't have time. And as for thinking the church isn't relevant, maybe they need to update the wardrobe and other miniscule things, the Catholic faith is a way of life, their is no "burdensome hierarchy" it's rules are a guide to just living a healthy and happy life. It goes hand and hand with common sense and decency. And if that is outdated, then what kind of society are we living in? And just so you know, the catholic church donates and helps out more impoverished people than all of the charities combined, including the Red Cross.
      The pope was appointed by Jesus and is an intrinsic part of the faith, he was set up to guide the priests and other bishops. Otherwise it would just all fall apart, because after all, we're human and wouldn't be able to agree on anything. It would be like the democrat and republican parties, totally useless.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Fred1

      @MaryW: Almost every other religion on the planet does just fine with married clergy. Catholic priests need celibacy like a fish needs a bicycle

      September 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @MaryW: you said "And as for thinking the church isn't relevant, maybe they need to update the wardrobe and other miniscule things, the Catholic faith is a way of life, their is no "burdensome hierarchy" it's rules are a guide to just living a healthy and happy life. It goes hand and hand with common sense and decency. And if that is outdated, then what kind of society are we living in? And just so you know, the catholic church donates and helps out more impoverished people than all of the charities combined, including the Red Cross.
      The pope was appointed by Jesus and is an intrinsic part of the faith, he was set up to guide the priests and other bishops. Otherwise it would just all fall apart, because after all, we're human and wouldn't be able to agree on anything. It would be like the democrat and republican parties, totally useless."

      First off, the Catholic church is not relevant...especially when it comes to little children being harmed.
      Second: You do not require the churches rules for a happy healthy life...if you're not capable of living a life like that without the church then you should not be considered an adult.
      Third: Jesus appointed the Pope???? Could you please provide proof of this fact???
      Finally: You don't need a religious organization of any form to have charitable people...those of us who are secular donate and do good also.

      If you really support the catholic church, you are supporting a bunch of pedophiles and that in and of itself is sick.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  11. SDFrankie

    Don't do it! Don't let priests marry. Think of all the innocent women who will lead lives of quiet desperation as a result of the stampede of gay priests rushing to appear straight by marrying some unsuspecting female.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  12. Isolate

    Too sensible! Too rational! Violates nearly 2,000 years of dogma! It will break up the Old Perverts Club! AAAAAAAAAHH!!

    Interesting comparison with Judaism, where a man is considered "incomplete" if he is not married, as his soul is only one half of a larger whole that remains to be unified. The Talmud is filled with condemnations of celibacy and praise for a happy family. Rabbis inevitably marry because in doing so they can better understand the dynamics of the family, which they are often called upon to counsel. Go to an alleged celibate for advice on marital problems? Better to ask a chicken for advice on pregnancy.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  13. jb

    It is a little know fact that there are ALREADY married Catholic priests, and have been for hundreds of years. To read about this, look up "Eastern Catholic Churches" on Wikipedia. These are "Eastern Rite" priests, not "Roman Rite," but they are still Catholic priests in good standing, and are accepted as such by the Pope himself. Yet many of them are married and have children! There is absolutely no deep reason why Roman Rite priests need to be celibate either - it's just pigheaded tradition.

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

      There also exists in the Roman Catholic church married priests who have converted from the Episcopalian or Anglican church and have been ordained as Roman Catholic clergy. I might also add that there have been priests from Africa who have been married. The first pope was Peter and didn't he have a "mother-in-law"???

      September 13, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  14. King James Bible Society

    King James Audio Visual Bible – and it is free at http://kingjamesbiblesociety.org

    September 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Crock

      That book is a crock of shit, edited and total crap.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      It's not free! The price is your logic and intellect! Don't fall for it.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • USmellLikePee

      Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • David Malta

      I agree with Daly though I understand why the Vatican takes this stand. Anyway a millennium ago, in Constantinople (Istanbul) was when not marrying or having kids became a rule for priests.
      What we need is a man who is a combination of and holds a role between a priest, an alter boy and a church helper. Who is fully committed to the Vatican/church, can have a family, is trained/educated by the church and who is employed indefinitely by the church.
      This will really increase the church's man power and contact with the people. The ones who are still following and to the one's who are leaving or left or never been there because their parents left. But this will bring the church really close to the people and the will increase the man-power of the church in the long term as these wise men's kids may follow in their father's footsteps like many kids do and take on their father's job or take it further and become full authentic priests.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      fairy tales are for children

      September 14, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • Druthers

      King James,

      I'd rather spend $20 on a nice copy of "Aesop's Fables" - just as many pearls of wisdom in there as in the Wholly Babble.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  15. john

    Seems to me that if this guy is a retired bishop then he is still a bishop. He was never laicized. Therefore, he is the Bishop Emeritus of Derry and not an "Ex-bishop." CNN might want to check their facts.

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

      Good catch!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  16. Frenchy

    Katie to correct you the Catholic Church is far from being the only church with an abuse promblem.Several sites exist exposing the same promblem in the Protestant churches.As their influence and numerical strength are not the same as the RCC the news does not go that far around.The truth of the matter is the RCC must come clean and throw out not just excomunicate these crimmals without aid or pension.They did not live up to their vows ! The church has no promblem banishing re-married divorced catholics from a full life in the church,so why should a unfaithful priest be given special treatment.Many re-married catholics who love the faith have left the RCC for smaller catholic churches organised at the turn of the century who have married priests,democratic church goverment,and humain mariage laws.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      There is a very specific reason for an unmarried preisthood, but it cannot be expressed. As the end time events unfold, you will have to see why for yorselves. As several have said, it is a totally unscriptural position to require an unmarried clergy. There are deep and dark aspects to all of this. The Roman Catholic church will never change on this. As I say, as events unfold, you will begin to discern the reasons. By the way, the Catholic clergy should not be compared to the protestant clergy regarding their relationship/status to the laity, which involves another dark aspect of catholicism.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  17. Mark

    The bishop is absolutely right and making the change ASAP would be a brilliant first step in righting the wrongs of the Church. I'm one of millions of Catholics who will never give the Church another penny until they correct their ills.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      If you only understood what the ills really were...the things that upset you about your church are minor symptoms.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      WOW...how can anyone consider the ills of the church minor when the ills of the catholic church include pedophiles; fear-mongering; money gouging and not paying taxes (no church does but the catholic church makes the most money)?

      September 14, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  18. SensiblePat

    Marriage will not stop a pedophile from abusing children. The church needs to concentrate more on screening their potential priests for inappropriate feelings and actions towards children.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • anw

      It sounds like the bishop is trying to fix the problem of fewer and fewer men choosing to become priests. The journalist just makes it sound like it has something to do with the pedophilia.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • yettie

      That's it.Those that r not discipline as a priest can't be as married,besides r they forcing them to go to seminary?NO

      September 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  19. krehator


    September 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  20. krehator

    Celibacy is a creation of the Church, and was never a requirement of God or Jesus.

    As with many other things in Religion, they are creations of the Church (men), and motivated by many factors, to include those that had NOTHING to do with God. The early Church did many things wrong, and there is a solid history of evil acts by the Church. Some of the current polices and believes came from those same periods and evil men.

    The fact is that most Christians (and many other religions) are NOT following the word of God. They are following the words of men. IT IS FACT. There is a mountain of evidence to prove that much of what is in the Bible is total BS!

    September 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Fred1

      Jesus might not have thought much of celibacy; but, he approved of castration

      "For there are eunuchs, that were so born from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, that were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, that made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Mat: 19:12

      September 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • *frank*

      The Roman Empire fell because some schizophrenic berber's nuts never descended. Terrible...

      September 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      A mountain of evidence?.....Yes to prove the bible is divinely inspired.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Biblet Ruth? Please provide this evidence.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:11 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @tabullah: noticed how BuybullTruth(lies) has not responded? you put her back against a wall b/c she knows she has no proof...kudos to you 🙂

      September 14, 2011 at 6:59 am |
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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.