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. Steve the Goat

    If we get rid of churches altogether, the chance of a priest diddling a boy goes right out the window. Granted, some non god-deluded person may still do it, but then there wouldn't be any churches feeling the shame.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • William Demuth

      And our budget deficit would disapear once the charlatans paid their taxes

      September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  2. Lee

    Why not have a church where the order priests can be celibate and the parish priests be allowed to marry. Either could serve the Church, but not be subjected to so much personal conflict. Lee

    September 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  3. huxley

    Molesting children should be enough for them. They don't need to marry.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Ofc. Krupke

      Molesting anyone, man, women & child is against the law, period.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  4. Kris

    What does allowing priests to marry due for the pedophilia problem. That is the churches problem. the priests abusing young children.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Ally

      I don't think the bishop was trying to relate his suggestion to allow priest to marry as a fix for the pedophilia problem. He's trying to fix the aging and dwindling priesthood. It seems like the writer of the article threw in the scandals, not the priest.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  5. David Estupinan

    Alot of comments about people being raised catholic; apparently none of them got it, the most precious gift of the Catholic church is the Mass in which we partake of The lord Jesus, body, Blood , Soul and Divinity......Now the church is administered by humans and as humans we are weak, sinners, some more than others, let he without Sin cast the first stone. The catholic church is the most wonderful thing that we have from antiquity It shall never be taken down by all you doubters and spectics and super smart people that believe to be above GOD.........

    September 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • HellBent

      I can't be above something that doesn't exist.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Normon

      What an odd thing to do, by the way. Why did Jesus share his body and blood?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      @Normon, Maybe he was setting the future stage for organ donation?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • aubrie

      It's already being taken down.... didn't you read the article? Very few priests signing up? Many turning away in disgust.? Many getting in trouble and turned out? Scores of parishioners quitting the church. (Myself included) The Catholic Church is dying along with a lot of other antiquated denominations. It refused to recognize it's shameful past, shameful present, and now it's paying the price. People became smarter than the sheep they used to be... Following blindly out of fear. They began to see the church for what it really is, and uncover all the lies and charlatans in the process. What the Catholic Church has done through history is a crime against humanity. It's time to go.... Long overdue actually....

      September 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      That the Roman Catholic church will never be taken down by those you named is correct. God himself will take her down. You dont want to be near those 7 hills when that happens. And just before the end you definitely dont want to be Catholic clergy. Nevertheless, many catholic clergy will turn to Christ and away from their church, as will many Catholic lay people who have honest hearts and are seeking truth.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  6. Ieat

    I disagree. If one wants to marry, don't become a priest. I have been to plenty of protestant's churches where the priests children are messed up. The children and wife always complaint that the pastor does not make enough money or do enough for the family. There are advantages to the priests being single. The scandal will just be replaced with extramarital affair or domestic abuse scandals.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yes, but the boys bung holes shall be eternally greatful!

      If a woman wants "the body of Christ" forced into her, its her call, but leave the boys alone.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  7. McJesus

    Lets take it one short step further. End the Catholic Church all together.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Burger Queen

      Could we get fries with that order?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • illuminati

      It would be easier and cheaper to end you.
      You can make an appointment at your own convience.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Taxes, fines and reduced contributions are the key to its demise

      Just point out to anyone that is still donating that they are complicit in buggery, and in time it shall go the way of Odins Temples!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Ah the illuminati

      Christian killers staying loyal to their pedophille Pope right to the bitter end!

      Remeber you predecessors, whom the Pope had murdered?

      You who wont learn history shall die the same way the fools before did!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Anton LaVey


      Lets take it one short step further. End the Catholic Church all together.

      The catholic church is diseased and already dying slowly.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  8. Lily

    Perhaps psycho Mel Gibson could storm the vatican to get results.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  9. Neecie

    Seems a little known fact: married men who were Episcopal priests and left their church to join Catholic are functioning fine as
    Catholic priests. They have families and yet it's almost a secret. I would like to hear more about this.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  10. ProudCatholic

    I have been a Catholic my entire life. I went through a period where I stopped going to Church but I never stopped believing in the Word of God. It's embarrassing and frustrating that pedophiles PRETENDED to be Priests preaching the Word and abused the most vunerable. I have to agree with Former Bishop Daly, that the MAN-MADE rule of celebacy be reconsidered. However, regardless of the abuse, I strongly believe that PEDOPHILES DO NOT REPRESENT THE ENTIRE CHURCH, THE TEACHINGS OF THE LORD AND THE CONGREGATION AS A WHOLE. The devil takes many forms, including Priests. He (the devlil) is trying and succeeding in convincing the masses that the Catholic Church is a bad place with bad people. Hold those accountable in a court of law and God will take care of the rest. The focus has been lost. As a victim of abuse myself (not by a Priest), Forgiveness is the best revenge.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • McJesus

      God expresses his love through his representatives. His priests. You should accept his will and bend over. Who are you to question God's will? Are you Satan?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Vengance is a dish best served cold.

      When one forgives and forgets being violated, he damns the next child to the same suffering.

      If you REALLY had faith, you would want justice, not for yourself, but for the next victim.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Matt

      Religion is MAN-MADE

      September 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Ally

      @ William – Not knowing this person's story, we don't know if justice was done. You can forgive someone and still turn them over to authorities.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Agreed, but morals require you identify the deviant.

      I hope the poster has found peace by whatever means

      September 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      I was brought up in the Catholic Church and confirmed, but when you think about it, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, they are all just trying to enforce versions of a very old philosophy on how to maintain a stable and orderly society. However, we live in a world that has changed so much from when the bible was written. Perhaps it is time for a new prophet to come to give us a new book by God. The Mormon's prophet, Smith, seems to have just built on old ideas. We need a new prophet, maybe one of the quantum mechanics folks, to be inspired by God to write a new bible for our modern world.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Anton LaVey

      And your popes and church protect your devil. You support the church then you support child r a p i sts

      September 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      Sir, believing in the word of God, if you mean the bible, and Roman Catholicism, are two opposite things. They can never be harmonized as they are two opposite things.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  11. Kim

    Spelled Sea wrong, but the rest I agree with. Everyone should have the right to marry. Even still, that is not going to stop pedophiles. Pedophilia in itself is a incurable illness but the catholic church should work to make some changes to itself. More careful screening of potential priests for example.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Marky Merlot

      No, "See" was spelt correctly.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  12. USmellLikePee

    So they're gonna let priests marry but they won't let gays marry? Lol, the RCC is so backward it's comical.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • William Demuth

      If they hunger for boys, what of the wife?

      I guess she gets Nun?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • USmellLikePee

      Lol, nicely done.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • USmellLikePee

      Maybe she breaks bread and says 'eat me'.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • William Demuth


      I believe that is covered under the Seven Fishes story!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  13. yep

    "it is not good for man to be alone" – God

    where in the bible does it prohibit priests to marry?

    Scripture > Tradition

    September 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • McJesus

      Reason/Logic > Scripture

      September 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • HellBent

      rock > scissors > paper > rock

      September 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  14. Felicitations

    Catholic men who have been married 25 years should be allowed to be ordained. By that time they are in stable marriages, the children are grown up, and they can dedicate themselves to the church. If they are in their 50's or 60's they still have 10-20 years ahead of them. Simple solution.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  15. Kevin

    A priest IS married, to the Church. He should take great pride in his bride (I know it rhymes, get off me). He is mimicking Christ who's bride was the Church. I know there are a lot of people who have anger issues with the Catholic Church, but look at an event like World Youth Day and tell me that the Church is not as strong as ever. Also, people looking for a "more accepting denomination" need to realize that it is HARD to follow Christ and should not look to be accepted. "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man" Lk 6:22. The Catholic Church should not apologize for any Christ-centered teachings. Spend some time trying to find the truth and not just listen to what you area told. You will quickly find the Catholic Church to be whole and vibrant and welcoming.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • HellBent

      Um, the church is not as strong as ever. At least here in the states, the Church is declining rapidly. One third of people raised Catholic no longer identify themselves as such.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • JR

      1 Tim 4:1-4 "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth."

      Also, church leaders are to be "the husband of one wife". It's never suggested that church leaders are required to be unmarried. Don't confuse Catholic tradition with scripture, scripture alone is the authority.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Anton LaVey


      A priest IS married, to the Church. He should take great pride in his bride (I know it rhymes, get off me). He is mimicking Christ who's bride was the Church.
      You would think they would at least have the nuns "service" the priests.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  16. mark

    I have been saying for YEARS that the Catholic Church should allow ONE ORDER of priests to have the OPTION of being married. There are so many different orders with so many different schools of thought. Why not try just one different?

    And of course, if it didn't work, they could all be excommunicated to burn in the everlasting fiery pit with no blame falling on the hierarchy...

    September 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • uh

      that's not what excommunication means

      September 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  17. osro

    Who cares? How is this news? No one is forced to be a priest, and people who sign up for this do so knowing full well what they're getting in to. How about we get an article about something that matters next time?

    September 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Alfred E

      Huh? This DOES MATTER! to millions of catholics, you moron!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  18. rod1148

    Alan Kmiecik. Bishops are basically forced into retirement at age 75. This bishop is 77. It's not a choice they make.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. Joe Black

    I was raised a Catholic and this is one of the reasons I don't go to church any more. The Catholic religion has change so much sense I was a kid, going to church is like going to a building just full of people. The people have taken over the church it's even hard to find a priest. If I want pray I do it at home.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • LoveLifeHarmony

      Yes you can pray at home, you can pray anywhere, but my question is don't you miss the Eucharist. That is the essence of Catholicism receiving the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. As for priests marrying, I am for that, but that should have no effect on abuse of children. A molester is a molester and being married won't change that. But I do agree that it would make a difference in the number of clergy. I know that many men, who would make wonderful priests give up the idea of a religious vocation because they don't want to give up having a family.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • HellBent

      As an ex-Catholic I can say that I've left my vampire and cannibal days in the past. The blood withdraw doesn't last as long as one might think, and I always found human flesh to be really bland.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • William Demuth


      The eucharist? Perhaps some yeast? Maybe a few sesame seeds?

      Its as bland as the priests post coital blatherings!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  20. annodmc

    You are talking about a cult of men who refuse to open their minds to ANYTHING! And you want them to embrace WOMEN who they have denied for many, many years. These men who make these suggestions need their heads examined!! The Vatican ignored, lied and hid their crimes and would have forever if not for the brave human beings willing to speak out! WHO do they think they are...I know them as hypocrites. Some have said they 'did not know' who are they kidding. These priests all lived in the same house...and you did not know–how insulting! May you all rot in hell.
    BUT...what is important to them now...changing the words of the liturgy! OMG! If you think this will divert attention away from your demented acts, you are all real idiots! I was raised a catholic all my life but now only consider myself a Christian who is completely horrified by this church.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I shall toast your escaping!

      Spread the word, there is life after indoctrination.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Anton LaVey

      If catholics truly had faith and understood their god, they would realize they do not need the catholic church to saved and go to heaven.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Once people realize that there is nothing to be "saved" from, all of the nonsense will stop.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:13 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.