Should the Catholic Church make celibacy in the priesthood voluntary?

Asked by: ladiesman
  • It is a start

    If the pedophilia crisis is going to be understood and dealt with, we need to start with the celibacy requirement. The Catholic Church is the only Christian denomination that demands clerical celibacy. Former Benedictine monk and therapist Richard Sipe studied celibacy in the priesthood for 25 years and found that no more than 50% of the Catholic clergy practice celibacy. He also found that there were some levels of sexual experimentation and relationships, most of the time with other adults. According to Sipe, Vatican religious superiors are aware that celibacy is not practiced, but it is not condemned as long as it is secret. And this creates a culture of secrecy that not only protects priests having adult relationships, but also extends to priests who are sexually involved with minors. And that needs to be addressed.

  • Free will means it is already voluntary.

    Celibacy was not a seminal (pardon the put) requirement for the Roman Catholic priesthood. It was not required until the twelfth century. Prior to that, many priests were married. Originally celibacy was a voluntary sacrifice some priests made as their consciences dictated. As it is, whether sanctioned or not, some priests still have sex.

    My wife, who grew up Roman Catholic thinks that priests should be celibate because she thinks it promotes a greater commitment to God, and a gives the impression that they are more spiritual than "normal" people. (Oddly, she does not think that divorcement from other physical drives and pleasures like eating, drinking alcohol, watching movies, or enjoying music has the same effect.)

    There is an interesting corollary to celibacy in that many Medieval nuns and priests eschewed bathing as a sign that they were holy. St. Fintan of Clonenagh was reputed to bathe only once a year. There was a nun who was reputed to be so holy that she had never bathed in her whole life. I am fairly certain that in some cases this embracing of filth justified the requirement of celibacy.

    In general, many religions associate asceticism with holiness: Christianity, Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, for example. The idea seems to be that sacrifice of some important aspect of life indicates, and maybe reinforces, commitment to the focus on the divine. If this is a crucial part of religious devotion, then it is even more important to acknowledge that it is completely voluntary. The minute it is not voluntary, it loses the aspect of sacrifice, and becomes merely privation.

  • It was so with Christ

    Jesus did not require celibacy in the clergy but he clearly had a preference for it, as he was celibate himself so that he might dedicate himself wholly to his "father's business". Likewise, the Church has priests remain celibate so that they might be like Jesus, and devote themselves to the things of God and not of men. Marriage and children can bring distraction and scandal and can erode the authority of the priest among the laity. Jesus asked his followers to be perfect as his father in heaven is perfect, and certainly the Church has every right to expect that commitment all the more so from the clergy.

  • A true religion does not bend with time

    Whether or not priests are following the rules or not is irrelevant, we are all sinners, and they are breaking rules. Religion is a set of beliefs, and the rules of the Catholic Church were established by Jesus Christ and his apostles and some disciples of the time. A true Church does not bend it's stances or ideas to conform to society. Whether it is popular in the time or not is irrelevant, because for a religion to be true it has to be firm. A religion's goal is not to gain followers, become popular, or make it likeable. It is to follow teachings and beliefs it holds as absolutely true, no matter who says otherwise. Just as with anything, the Catholic Church should not change it's beliefs just because some priests are breaking the rules or its unpopular. They are not meant to be changed. The catechism is not a living and breathing text, it is the beliefs, values, and guidelines of the church SET IN STONE to remain untouched.

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