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. Joshua

    Forbidding to marry is identified as a "doctrine of demons" in the bible.

    This might be the first biblical thing a catholic priest has ever said.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Bravo

    I went to a catholic secondary school, run by priests, brothers and nuns. Some 26 years later, I got back in contact, via Facebook, old friends and X-teachers from this secondary school and found that ALL of the brothers, priests and nuns that I studied under have given up there commitment to celibacy and married.

    The fact for Catholicism is simple, like all religions, they must adapt to changing times and in this instance, they need to allow marriage in the priesthood in order to survive. If they don't, priesthood will simply fade away and take along with it the ideologies of Catholicism

    September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  3. JJ

    Better to shut down the useless catholic church entirely.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Richard S Kaiser

    The GOD who is the Allness and is Creation's High, gave to the lowness of creations' beings-Life in abundant measures-made manifest by the Godly of GOD-the powers that weilded Life into existence. GOD is boundless and yet the Gods are bound up within all mannerisms of the smalled Cosmos we take as being atomic in nature.

    Mat 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

    Jhn 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

    1Cr 3:9 “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.”

    1Cr 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

    Luk 17:21 "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is inside/within you."

    1Cr 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

    1Cr 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are

    1Cr 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

    Of one darkness is INNER Space things and likewise in the other darkness are OUTER Space things. The things hidden within Inner Space are made better known within the far reaches of Outer Space for they are of sameness except in size, one being the smallest, and the other the greatest.

    Each Temple of God or our body has their own God-being and each God-being did partake in our temple/body being formed within the womb. Therefore, one's temple-body has a God that differs from another's temple-body's God. Our Spiritedness Being of physicality's awarenesses sees almost nothing inwardly except for fleeting moments of mental pentagrams/pictured thoughts. To deny one's fleeting mental visualizations of pictured anagrams is to say you are blinded by one's thought progressives and therefore are heavily labored by instincts. The God of your temple body gives you mental pictures for your awareness' needs and it is up to you to accept or reject such picture-grams.

    In my God-given mental pictures, I have been to the outward depths of Space and seen the inwardness of Space and both are of sameness. Both are of the Kingdom of GOD and His Sons.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • JJ

      Take your medicine.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ JJ
      Jhn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

      Jhn 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

      Mar 4:30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

      Mar 4:31 [It is] like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

      Mar 4:32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

      The Spirited Souls of manliness kinds give their seed to womanhood and in sowing does spring forth God-given branches to further the generations of their Life Tree. The God of this Heavenly Fermented Earth allows all manerisms of espoused relations and seeks amid many their righteousness fruits that are held afar from the masses' infidelities of commonly held wanting.

      Read your meds JJ, it's good for one's spirited soul! 🙂

      September 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  5. Soldier

    To disagree and have ones own opinion is one thing, but to comment on it and get your prideful fill of feeling superior to another whom you disagree with is another, and childish ignorance . That goes for anybody with any belief!
    Everybody here arguing in a childish manner – I believe their arguments do not deserve recognition of any sort.
    On the other hand, a respectful adult approach or inquiry is perfectly fine.

    As for reminding those of how they'll suffer, I think its better to not tell them...
    it pushes most further and further away... just pray for them!

    Prayer, Sacrifice, the daily Rosary!!!
    And hold fast to, – or discover – the TRADITIONS.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  6. hippypoet

    allowing them to marry doesn't stop anything... pedophilia is not a choice, its the person's brain and the chemicals in the brain...how do you think we invented a pill that stops the production of this chemical... and therefore no amount of wifey tang is going to cease the child – touchin pervs. they need to be put in a prison and allowed to marry each other and touch one another, that would make both parties happy... each gets what the other wants, then they get eachother... they can make a garden of eden in prison, or they could call it the land of NOD... most willl not get the joke, sad really! but whatever, we live in a world of allowed ignorence, and most like it that way...even more sad!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  7. Gameplayer

    The Catholic church is a den of evil with rules made up to hide their sins. The only people who can believe in them are the poor and illiterate. The first priests wre the Apostles and they were married. The catholic church has made up it's own rules to hide their sins within the Church.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  8. John B

    Here's a better idea. Allow your Nuns to live like your priests.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  9. aubrie

    If these sickos have a predilection for little boys..... what good is marriage going to do?????

    September 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Well...

      I don't think it's so much that it would make pedophiles not prone to molest, but it would bring into the priesthood good people who would otherwise be excluded due to this strict rule. Perhaps the pedophiles would eventually be squeezed out by good people.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  10. Kevin Eric Smith

    The Church should not give in to temporary public hypocrisy, stupidity, ignorance and hysteria about "orgasms" and/or... . Do not alter your policy and allow priests to marry just because SOME people who are not priests do not understand.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Kevin Eric Smith

      Without thoroughly reading through Protestant comments, I am sure it will include much continued stupidity...like most often.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Just sayin'

      The vow of celibacy required to be a Catholic priest is a MAN-MADE rule PERIOD!

      I am not Catholic, but my mother was and she knew a priest she loved very much, he helped her, etc...he was well-loved by all, but he fell in love & wanted to marry a fellow parishioner. Of course, he had to leave the priesthood. This particular parish has never had anyone even close to the servant this man was. How sad! There is no way God imposes celibacy on people who want to serve him in any capacity. It is a private decision between people and their God.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  11. Gospel Truth

    Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    Matthew 8:14 And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.

    The whole Catholic church is full of phony teaching and beliefs contrary to the Holy Bible

    September 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Pablo

      Without the Catholic Church, there would be no Holy Bible in existence. Fact.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Shoshanna

      I disagree. God can communicate through a babbling brook if he so desired (or a jack ass?). Why limit the Limitless One? This is why I've come to the opinion that organized 'religion' is not good for the spiritual seeker, because the followers are now following the 'church' rules instead of God's word. God's word is living & active...he didn't need the Catholic Church. Still doesn't. It is time for people wherever they are, Catholic church, etc, to stand up & speak when something is not right. Come on! Start a revolution!!! Jesus did!!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  12. keith

    yeah cause otherwise you're just a bunch of perverts

    September 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Paul

      keith, you're a judgmental idiot

      September 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • JJ

      And you are a deluded fool in denial.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  13. Geekalot

    The celibacy rule was initiated centuries ago in order to prevent wives from inheriting property from their dead husbands. It was all about money. All the BS about being clean and pure is just so much nonesense propaganda that became the dogma of the Church.

    I do support every person's right to choose what to believe so long as those beliefs do not directly harm anyone else or involve forced conversion or denial of the right to leave the religion. However, it is clear that for a huge majority of people se-x is a natural part of who they are. Denying this fundamental part of humanity is wrongheaded. Now, if someone chooses of his or her own freewill to live a celebate life, that is totally acceptable. Dictating such behavior is stupid and bound to create negative situations.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Chris

      Thank you Geekalot. I thought I had heard that Priest were allowed to marry at some point in the Churches history. It is kinda strange to think of a Priest out on a date though. Would he be given an allowance. Ha – sorry...

      September 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  14. BellniniMartini

    I agree with letting them marry. Never thought this was normal for them not to marry. They counsel people that want to marry, yet have no first hand knowledge of what they speaking about. Marring the Church is just BS to me.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  15. ufpog

    yup, they need to get married....a larger pool of priests will allow for a more effective (but not perfect) ability to weed out bad eggs. And it would make parishes better to add a married partner to most priests. It is sad that tradition trumps reason.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  16. Kenny

    The Catholic church is full of these stupid rules. A single many who wants to be a priest must be celibate, however if a married priest from another denomination (let's say a Lutheran or Episcopalian) converts to Catholicism, he becomes an ordained Catholic priest who is married. The only reason that the Catholic Church has this silly rule in place is because back in the early days of the church, priests were willing church property to their children. Its a stupid rule, and I believe that if priests were allowed to be married, you would have more priests and less problems with pedophiles.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  17. Thomas

    The New Testament teaches that the "Bishop" should be the husband of one wife anyway. What's taken this church so long to wake up?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  18. Stephen

    If they can't marry; at least allow priests to date.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Shoshanna


      September 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  19. Shoshanna

    Jesus hated organized religion, he came down the hardest on the religious leaders of his day...not the Romans, not the Samaritans, not the Greeks or any other people. He called the Jewish leaders 'Vipers', and 'whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones' among other things.

    She/he whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Thomas

      Jesus didn't hate organized religion! Read your scriptures. He has has said that his house is a house of order. Based on prophets and apostles. The Church of Jesus Chirst is the most organized church on the planet.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Shoshanna

      Nope...you are wrong. People made it into an organized religion. Yeshua was never about organized religion...he was always about restoring relationship between God & people, the gap is what religion tries to maintain. The Body of Christ is a living, breathing, growing organism made up of many cells & parts. No church organization or building on earth can contain God, and any church organization that tries to say it has all the answers is spitting in the face of Jesus.

      Jesus respected children more than those priests, bishops, etc, that he walked amongst. Children are open & teachable, they are innocent and uncorrupted. Most of the so-called church leaders are like the career politicians, so set in their ways and believing they have the right to Lord it over the rest.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  20. Tina

    The ONLY reason why priests can (no longer) marry is because the greedy catholic church does not want their wives who could become widows to get all their assets. The catholic church allowed popes, bishops, cardinals and priests to marry centuries ago. They only outlawed in for the sake of money. It's one of the most greedy, selfish, perverse and EVIL religions on the planet. As long as the pope is in power from his golden throne he'll never agree to allow priests to marry. Money is god to those religious "leaders."

    September 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Josh

      Amen, celibacy is not a spiritual vitue, Paul even said to Timothy that to forbid men to marry is a doctrine of demon. But I guess this just another reflection of their complete lack of godliness.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Reality

      Not a valid point in the 21st century considering the cost to educate Catholic and Episcopalian priests, their monthly salaries to include Social Security taxes and care of said priests in their old age.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Thomas

      Ament to that! The pope has not authority to act in God's name. These are false prophets and Jesus called them hypocrites.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Logician

      You are correct that for 3/4ths of the Church's time, priests have been allowed to marry (up til ~1500 ad). Additionally, even today, there are indeed married catholic priests...those that accepted an invite to come over from the Episcopal church who were previously married. So, your logic about money is clearly flawed. Sooooooo....what is your point now that I have undermined your logic? Please advise.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Mel

      That is a laughably ignorant statement. Do you know that none of the church leaders have a wage – they only get paid pocket money. Yes, they are given a place to live and have their basic needs met, but thats it! How are they selfish? I know 100 or more priests, they work tirelessly, on 24/7 for their the sick and dying, sacrifice so much for others. The Catechism of the Church contains the strongest statement you will find anywhere against perversion. You only need a tiny number of bad apples to blacken the names of everyone. You are judging on appearances, but the reality. Get a sense of proportion here. Most of the priests I know are the best of society, certainly not the worst. You can't accuse anyone of anything if your heart is full of hate, it is hypocritical.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • TonyKMN

      Catholic priests take vows of poverty. There aren't any "assets" to hand down to their wives.

      Find out where the bishop of the diocese in your area lives, and go look at his home. Go look to see where the priests in your area live. None of that is theirs. Those are either owned by the church or donated by the community.

      Go see the retirement homes for priests. This is where they all go because they don't own a home, and a lifetime of service to the church doesn't pay well enough for them to buy their own homes when they retire.

      I'm certainly no Catholic fanboi, but you're militantly ignorant here on this issue.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Reality

      The Epistle to Timothy- not written by Paul (See Crossan’s “In Search of Paul”, Harper, San
      Francisco, 2004, p.105) and S Father Ray Brown's analyses in his 878 page book, An Introduction to the New Testament pp. 639, 654, 673,
      an excerpt:

      "Authenticity: Probably written by a disciple of Paul or a sympathetic commentator of the Pauline heritage several decades after the apostle's death. "

      September 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • DianeD

      @ Mel: Amen!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Reality

      Some Catholic priests take vows of poverty (e.g. the Franciscans). Most do not.

      September 13, 2011 at 2:32 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.