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Debate: Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?

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Background and context

Catholic Priests are not allowed to marry. The general premise put forward by the Catholic Church to Justify this policy is that it forces priests to fully commit to God and their priesthood, without the distraction of a wife, kids, and family. Yet, many have begun to question this practice. Many simply argue that it is unnatural and harmful to suppress one's sexual urges and desire to find a life partner. The effect of such suppression can be unfortunate, with many arguing that it creates the nefarious impulse to sexually molest young boys in the church. And, it is the controversy surrounding the fairly widespread molestation of young boys by priests that has brought special attention to whether it is a good idea to prevent priests from marrying.

Church: Does celibacy hurt/help priests perform duties to the Church?

Pro

  • Marriage and family do not distract from priesthood. Thomas DeMatteo, a non-practicing Catholic from Dingmans Ferry, Delaware, USA: "There are pastors and ministers who are allowed to marry and it doesn't affect their job in doing God's work. I really don't see a problem with priests being able to wed."[1]
  • Married priests could better consult married churchgoers Priests are counselors in many ways, counseling individuals on their lives and how they can better reach God. Because marriage is such an important part of living a moral life, it would be valuable for priests to be married so that they can better understand their married churchgoers and provide better counseling as a result.
  • Marriage/sex are sacred; priests should be allowed to marry Paragraph 2362 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.) says: "The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honourable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude."[2]


Con

Kathryn Nicole Stockhausen. "Should Roman Catholic Priests Be Allowed to Marry?". Washington Post. November 7, 2004: "I personally love having a non-married priesthood. I never have to worry about whether I am taking away from a child's time, or a wife's time, if I call up with an emergency."

"Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?". Times Online. October 11, 2005: "A good friend of mine is a Pastor for the Church on Scotland and I know how he struggles in his marriage as well as in his community as he feels he can't be totally devoted to any of them. Name and address withheld."



Religious doctrine: Would allowing priests to marry comply with religious doctrine?

Pro

  • Priestly celibacy is unnatural. Adrian Ryan. "Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?". Times Online, Comment. October 11, 2005: "Celibacy is an unnatural state. How can a priest be expected to advise on the complexities of a normal marital relationship when he himself is utterly ignorant? It is only natural that a priest would want to marry, have a family and experience the love, affection, and fulfillment that marriage can bring. It is high time that the Church recognised and encouraged it. Adrian Ryan, Ardara, Ireland."


Con

  • Bible provides clear rationale for forbidding priests from marrying. Unmarried 1 Corinthians 7:32b–35 NIV: "An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."[4]


Vocations: Would allowing priests to marry increase vocations?

Pro


Con


Tradition: Is it wrong to maintain the tradition of Catholic priest celibacy?

Pro

Con

  • The Church should maintain its tradition of celibacy. R.N. Lentejas Jr. "Debate: Priests should be permitted to marry". Helium: "I believe that priests in the Latin Church should live a celibate life to maintain the rich tradition of the Church. It has been a universal notion from time immemorial until today and until the future that priests are celibates for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This is a universal understanding from across the globe unique to Catholic priests alone, because there are priests in other Christian churches who are actually married. There exists among them (Catholic priests) a universal concept of brotherhood, surpassing the many barriers of race, culture, ethnic origin, economic standing, and many others."
  • Allowing priests to marry insults those who kept celibate. Archbishop John Foley, a Vatican spokesman, said in 2005: "I think it would be an insult to the priests who have remained faithful to readmit these individuals who have left the priesthood in order to marry."[5]


Sexual abuse: Will allowing priests to marry lower sexual abuse in Church?

Pro

  • Allowing priests to marry would reduce sexual abuse in Church. Louise Linehan, a non-practicing Catholic from Dingmans Ferry: "I think priests should be allowed to marry because it might lessen the sexual abuse cases there are in the church."[6]
John Aloysius Farrell. "Catholic Church Should End Celibacy Rule, Let Rev. Cutie and Other Priests Marry". US News and World Report. May 12, 2009: "You would think that after all the molestation scandals of recent years, the Catholic Church would give its priests a break and let them choose to be celibate, or to enjoy loving relationships with women."


Con

  • Lifting priestly celibacy would open door to sexual predation. "Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry? I don’t think so." Pearls of Nonsense. May 12th, 2009: "Matters of faith aside, there are secular concerns that, for me at least, make the idea of dispensing with clerical celibacy somewhat distasteful. Priests tend to be a huggy-touchy bunch. I think it’s an occupational hazard. The ministry of a priest usually demands a lot of touching; reconciliation is the only sacrament I can think of that doesn’t require at least some touching. Most of us are okay with this because we know these touches are loving, not sexual. But take clerical celibacy out of the picture for a moment, and suddenly every woman in the parish is a potential mate. Imagine, guys, a fresh-out-of-the-seminary priest at the church door hugs your teenage daughter a little too closely for a few seconds too long. Or imagine, ladies, a priest hears your confession about something you shouldn’t have done with your last boyfriend, and after granting absolution, he asks you out for a drink. I don’t know about you, but I think I just threw up in my mouth."

Finances: Would allowing priests to marry help/hurt Church finances?

Pro

  • Church policy on marriage is greedy effort to maximize revenues.
Rev. Donald Cozzens. "Commentary: Celibacy should be rethought". CNN. May 15, 2009: "the most human, existential factor that should keep the celibacy issue on the table is the spiritual and emotional health of priests. Celibacy really isn't the issue -- mandatory or obligatory celibacy is. [...] There are many priests who do possess the gift of celibacy -- it is their "truth" so to speak -- and their humanity, warmth and pastoral effectiveness give abundant evidence of their authentic celibate lives. But there remain other priests who believe deep down they are called to the priesthood but not to celibacy. And for these men, the burden of mandated celibacy threatens their spiritual and emotional well-being. The priesthood may be their "truth," but mandated celibacy wraps them in a cloak of loneliness and struggle. [...] I wonder if church officials understand the burden they place on the shoulders of a man who believes he is called to priestly ministry but not to celibacy. Certainly, a married priesthood will have burdens of its own and, sadly, scandals of its own -- infidelity and abuse among others. But it should be left to the individual priest and seminarian to determine whether or not he is blessed with the gift of celibacy."



Con

  • Allowing priests to marry would require Church pay them more. Kathryn Nicole Stockhausen. "Should Roman Catholic Priests Be Allowed to Marry?". Washington Post. November 7, 2004: "And as for financial considerations, most Roman Catholic priests, especially diocesan ones, receive a substantial portion of their pay in the form of in-kind contributions. This would be difficult to maintain if a priest took on a wife and children, and their pay would have to be increased as well. The church, especially in America, is having enough financial problems right now without adding to it by allowing priests to marry."



Pro/con sources

Pro


Con

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