Time to end celibacy for priests
I would like to thank the Daily News for the prominent coverage (Aug. 15, edition) given the recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailing 300 priests who molested roughly 1,000 children since the 1940’s. This type of occurrence is not new but still deserves to be reported every time more information becomes available. By spotlighting the continuing Catholic Church sex scandal, children will be protected if parents become aware of the potential danger.
Sad to say, as the grand jury panel concluded, the molesting priests were not the only “sinners.” Many Catholic bishops and diocesan leaders tried to protect the church from bad publicity and financial liability. Many of the hierarchy did not report accused clergy to the police, attempted to silence victims from speaking out, and sent abusive priests to so-called “treatment facilities” which failed to “cure” the priests and permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to parishes where they could continue to abuse children.
U.S. bishops adopted sweeping reforms in 2002 when clergy abuse became a national crisis for the Catholic Church. While these measures no doubt effected some good results, the Pennsylvania grand jury said more charges are needed.
Although I write as a lifelong Catholic, I have long been in favor of ending the celibacy requirement for priests and allowing married men to enter the priesthood — or marry after becoming priests. I firmly believe this measure would help to mitigate this evil which has permeated the Catholic Church. It would certainly not be the total solution, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Catholics should be aware that many of the victims of abusing priests were girls and women. The idea that the priest pedophiles preyed only on young boys is not true.
In his excellent book on the subject titled “An Irish Tragedy,” author Joe Rigert states that a substantial number of the 2,000 abusive priests in America molested girls and engaged in affairs with women.
I propose that the requirement of celibacy — which was instituted by men and not by God — has resulted in great suffering for both isolated and lonely priests and victimized children. To put it plainly, a wife would serve as a sexual outlet for a priest as well as a companion with whom to share his life. If this change would save one or two young girls from abuse, it is worth a try.
Sadly, I do not see any movement in the church at present for ending the requirement of celibacy.
The refusal of the Catholic Church hierarchy to even consider doing away with celibacy reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: There are none so blind as those who will not see.