Celibacy in the Church

Is this a need for change that will become unstoppable for the Catholic Church?

St Peters

I approach this subject with some hesitation. It’s a free world, and how people choose to organise themselves is basically their affair; freedom of association and all that. However, all freedoms are both a personal matter and an absolute right as long as they do not impinge on the rights and freedoms of others. So, in for a penny ……

The Catholic Church’s insistence on celibacy for their priests’  is obviously absurd. It is all very well in theory – “they can then concentrate on serving God” – if you (somewhat bizarrely in my opinion) choose to make that argument. The problem is that Man is NOT a theoretical animal. Sexual abstinence is alien to most models of Homo Sapiens that roll off the production line. It may be the preferred CHOICE that works for some, or even many, but forcing it on priests just DOES NOT WORK.

In recent years, there have been endless scandals in the Catholic Church about the abuse of children by priests, to the point where their policy in fact makes a total mockery of the vast edifice and bureaucracy that their Church is.

There was (or rather is) the dreadful case of the abuse in Ireland going on for decades and involving the most appalling abuse covered up at the highest levels. Now there is an on-going crisis in Germany, with churches and priests all over the country suspected of child-abuse. There are plenty of other examples we know about, and no doubt many we don’t.

And the word “cover-up” is deadly, of course. As soon as an organism evolves – and I find an amoeba, the Church, a company, a political party all alike in this respect – its first instinct is to survive and multiply.  And so we have today the grisly spectacle of a Bishop apologising for covering up a priest’s paedophilia. The (usually wrongly) perceived needs of the organism almost ALWAYS take precedence over the law, humanity and decency. Rather than deal effectively and openly (and THAT is what this Blog is all about) with a real problem, the Church very often sweeps the problem under the carpet in the hope that it will go away.

Safe, or in harm's way?

Only of course (like the toxic effects of sub-prime insanity) a serious problem does NOT usually self-heal. Would the Bishop try out this policy with a toothache? I doubt it; he’s know it would only get worse and whack him in the midriff at some stage. So WHY do they do it with abuse cases in their own Church?

No, as long as you have this absurd dogma in the Catholic Church, you will have abuse. And the point is, as soon as you get abuse, it concerns us ALL. We then DO have a right to stick our nose into the Catholic Church’s affairs, or so I maintain. No man is an island ……

Unfortunately, the larger the institution and especially where it concerns beliefs, creeds or whatever (and companies are often similar) the more difficult it is to give up a long-held shibboleth even in the face of the most overwhelming evidence that it is time to “move on”.

If the Pope thinks that all this is helping his particular organism to survive, he is – I believe – sorely mistaken. Celibacy is unnatural – period. Man is HUMAN (sorry to state the obvious). Sex is an integral part of humanity (for the vast majority). But all that is theory and opinion; the point is, the policy JUST DOES NOT WORK, thus leading to multiple and repeated cases of abuse. There may be hand-wrenching, apologies, investigations and promises to put the house in order, but as long as the Pope insists on celibacy, there will be abuse.

And what for? It is all so POINTLESS! Is the Catholic Church maintaining that , for example, the Church of England (CofE) is in some way heretical? If marriage for priests works OK for the CofE, then why not for Catholics? In reality, this dogmatism is only the dead-weight of centuries of tradition, but we should cast off dead weights in the interests of innocent children – and of course (they are human, too) of priests themselves.

Though not a believer, I also sometimes wonder what God would think. In fact, trying to empathize with God is one of my favourite pastimes. Looking down on all this, wouldn’t he be inclined to think the Catholic Church is barmy? How could he POSSIBLY (if he is the God I think he must be) want his humanly-frail priests to be celibate if it means (AS IT DOES) the regular and repeated abuse of children?

By Chris Snuggs

5 thoughts on “Celibacy in the Church

  1. Question: Is it celibacy that causes the abuse of children or the fact that within the church paedophiles find vulnerable victims, opportunity and an environment that will support and hide them?

  2. A good point, but are you suggesting that there are probably an equal proportion of paedophiles OUTSIDE the Church who DON’T figure in paedophile acts because they don’t have the same opportunity?

    Well, difficult to get objective facts, but my main point is the futility of celibacy. What is the point? It isn’t natural, is it?

    What would God say? Oh, if ONLY we could be sure!

  3. No not suggesting that but there is evidence that paedophiles gravitate toward areas where they will have access to vulnerable children and opportunity eg the scout movement.

    I agree with your point on the ridiculousness of celibacy but I see celibacy within the church as yet another way of exercising power and control over it’s followers – the very unnaturalness of it makes it a powerful lever for control. If the church is about anything it is about power and control so I doubt they are going to give it up quietly.

    I am unsure if celibacy in a normal heterosexual male would make him turn to paedophillia I believe there are stronger influences at work for the sexual abuse of children and my point still is that it is not celibacy per se that causes churchmen to abuse but the opportunity and support they find within the church.

  4. The Catholic Church doesn’t have any problem with sex. Historically Catholic families have been very large, I’m pretty sure sex has something to do with that. Celibacy is not forced on priests, it is chosen by them when they decide to become priests. If celibacy is not right for an individual (and you are right it’s not for most people) then being a priest is not right for that person either. I think what’s happening goes something like this. Young men growing up in the Catholic community start coming to the realization that they are sexually attracted to other men. They are left with a choice to make; (a) Reject their church, family, community, and society and lead a gay lifestyle, pretend to be ‘normal’ and find a wife and just pretend everything is peachy, or (b) embrace their religion, make their families proud, look for answers within their church, and since priests are celibate anyway why does it matter what gender they are attracted to? Right?
    I want to be clear that I am not making any suggestion that homosexuality and sexual abuse are in any way connected, nor am I making any statement about the morality of homosexuality.

    What I am saying is that a sexually confused young man who joins the priesthood for all the wrong reasons, continues to be sexually frustrated, ashamed and confused by his own sexual thoughts and feelings, combined with a position of power, trust, and access to youth, a few of whom are confessing their own homosexual thoughts to those priests looking for answers and reassurance, and I can see how it might bring out the worst in some people. The problem is not celibacy, it is too much power, too much trust, and too much taboo.

    1. Ted, that is a very thoughtful and sympathetic response to what, as you say, is likely to be a much more complex issue than the ‘man in the street’ comprehends. Thank you for taking the time to write to the Blog, Paul

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