June 28, 2002
Ed's note: Various opinions are emerging in the debate over what to do about clerical celibacy. Here two writers offer their unique perspectives on the matter.
|Honor Thy Word |
Should celibacy be a requirement for Catholic priests? Yes. For the Church to change its position for the sake of convenience insults the great dedication and sacrifice of those whose spirit was stronger than their flesh.
I am the product of a Catholic education. I have two great-uncles who chose to become priests. There was a time in my life when I attended mass every day (except Saturday). None of these factors makes me an expert in canon law, but my days as a practicing Catholic (I wasn't any good at it -- that's why I had to practice) have provided me with some insight as it relates to the subject of a celibate clergy.
First and foremost, the Church is not a democracy. While American Catholics have a tendency to blend politics with religion (majority rule), the Roman Catholic Church remains a male-dominated, misogynistic organization run by a cabal of old farts in Rome. And they didn't get to that position by changing Church law every time some progressive American priest thought he'd made a better mousetrap.
Sure the Vatican pays lip service to mavericks. But in the end, the old guard views them as little more than rebellious teenagers. They may raise valid points (married clergy, ordination of female priests, relaxing the celibacy rule), but ultimately the powers-that-be dismiss them with an apostolic wave of the hand.
The truth is, celibacy and/or the priesthood are for everyone. It is fair to assume that those who've chosen to serve God in such a capacity do so after great reflection and prayer. For the Church to change its position for the sake of convenience insults the great dedication and sacrifice of those whose spirit was stronger than their flesh. For the Vatican to reverse itself to address the numerous sexual scandals that have marked its history diminishes the commitment and sacrifice of those priests who faithfully honored their word.
There are other reasons for the Church's reluctance to even consider the matter. Eliminating the celibacy requirement for the clergy would cause more problems than it would solve. What exactly does celibacy mean? The wrong answer would send the dominos of church taboos falling.
Would unmarried heterosexual priests be permitted to engage in what my high school theology teacher used to call "heavy petting?" What about homosexuality and the issue of gay priests?
The Church has historically stuck its head in the sand on the topic, but a change in church dogma in terms of heterosexual celibacy (for the priesthood) would open the homosexuality and pre-marital intercourse cans of worms. And again, the Vatican didn't get in the position of dominating and controlling the behavior of billions by opening cans of worms.
Chris Renaldo is a recovering Catholic who no longer believes in Santa Claus.
|Celibacy Is Unrealistic |
Should celibacy be a requirement for Catholic priests? No. After all we've learned in recent months, the suggestion that Catholic priests should continue taking a vow of celibacy is downright laughable. Men aren't often this honest, but I can say with authority that any male human being who promises he'll never engage in any form of sexual activity is either lying or castrated.
It's obvious to everyone but Catholic leaders that a vast majority of priests ignore their celibacy vow and are flagrantly sexually active. The Catholic hierarchy is even more clueless when it comes to the incalculable damage the celibacy vow has done to countless children and families over the years.
Pope John Paul II, ever the conservative hardliner even in his growing infirmity, has refused to discuss any proposal that would review the requirement for priests to remain celibate. His silence on the matter stands in stark contrast to the deafening drumbeat of sexual scandal that engulfs the Catholic Church in America.
There are many people (including me) who believe that the official Church policy on priestly celibacy is directly related to the horrifying and seemingly never-ending revelations of priests molesting children in this country. It doesn't take a genius to determine that a large percentage of men who are required to suppress their very natures under penalty of eternal damnation are likely to evolve into deviant examples of psychological and sexual perversity. The problem is amplified when the Church nurtures and protects abusive priests, allowing them to continue their evil behavior.
And it's not just the child abuse scandals that make the case against celibacy. Father Donald B. Cozzens, author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood and a longtime pastoral adviser to priests, has publicly suggested that between 30 percent and 50 percent of all priests are practicing homosexuals. His estimate is derided by conservative Catholics as far too high, but Cozzens firmly believes that priestly camaraderie and the vow of chastity are highly attractive to closeted gays who are conflicted about their sexuality and were raised in strict religious homes.
No matter what the Vatican says, human nature can't be overcome by way of a simple promise. Even a promise to God. The Lord has hardwired us all to have sexual feelings, and when they are expressed in a sane, consensual and healthy manner, the gift of sexuality is sacred. It is obvious that God made no exceptions for priests.
As the father of two young sons, I could never consider allowing my children to be alone with a Catholic priest -- at least until the requirement for them to be "celibate" is abolished.
Jeff Berry is totally creeped out by "celibate" men who molest little boys.