Married priests as an accommodation

Married priests as an accommodation

We’ve been having a long discussion in the comments below (80-some-odd comments and counting) on mandatory celibacy in the Latin rite. I think it would be helpful to clarify some things.

First, I recognize the priestly celibacy in the Latin rite is not a matter of dogma, but is a discipline, one which can change. However, just because it is possible to change something does not mean it is prudent or wise to do so. There may be good reasons to keep a discipline permanently in place, and not let it change with fashion or the whim of the times.

To address the main point of the blog entry, Fr. McBrien suggests that mandatory celibacy is part of the reason for the Scandal. I say it is not, but rather that failure to act to remove priests who fail to live up to their vow of celibacy is the real reason. Allowing a large sexually active subculture to exist in the priesthood and failing to provide formation and oversight are more reasons.

Second, just because the Eastern rites allow married priests doesn’t mean that it is normative or even healthy. With all due respect to our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters, married priests were allowed as an accommodation for those Eastern Christian Churches returning to communion with Rome. Just because it was allowed did not mean that the celibate ideal of the West was no longer an ideal. All the reasons for maintaining a celibate priesthood remained in force.

Finally, I am not opposed to discussing the reasons why the Church asks Latin-rite priests to maintain the discipline of celibacy. It is pointless to agitate to change the discipline because it’s not going to happen. It is pointless to speculate how married priests could solve the vocation shortage. Married clergy in other denominations has done nothing to solve clergy shortages there. And we have seen fine examples in this country of dioceses and religious orders bursting at the seams with new seminarians, eager to follow the examples of role-model priests of their acquaintance into the celibate life.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli