Married Pedophile Priests?

Would the problem of pedophile priests be solved if Catholic priests were able to get married? This suggestion has been made time and again, and like many solutions to difficult problems it seems like the magic fix.

The supposition is: “Gee, those poor Catholic priests who can’t get married. They are clearly just gasping to have sex with somebody so they grab the nearest kid and rape him. If they were able to get married they wouldn’t be so lonely.” Read More.


  • Conchúr

    The vast majority of paedophile cases among the clergy are not paedophile at all but rather ephebophile.

  • Bryan

    I agree, so far as it goes. I think the better argument for the other side is that allowing marriage would improve the pool of potential priests, allowing for higher standards of sexual maturity, etc.

  • Michael

    I agree with Bryan’s observation. Although the reasons for not having married priests don’t involve expanding the pool of “sexually mature” men for the priesthood, it is the best rationale for doing such.

  • Vladyk

    I agree with you Father, but don’t you think that maybe Bishops and priests would have been less tolerant of pedophiles in their ranks if they themselves had children? A bishop might think twice about transferring a pedophile priest to a high school if his children were students there.

  • Jay

    Eastern Orthodox – with a overwhelmingly married priesthood and a celibate episcopacy – have had serious issues with clergy sexual abuse for years. The difference is that the Orthodox jurisdictions continue to fly under the radar of media scrutiny.

    Just an FYI, the following group is a SNAP affiliate, but they do good work rooting out abuse within North American Orthodoxy:

  • Rachel M.

    I agree in that relating marriage/sex and pedophilia have nothing in common. Raping a child isn’t about satisfying one’s sexual desire; it’s about power and most definitely a perversion. Marriage would not have helped these people, but rather just increased the number of victims affected their perverse act (by adding wives/broken marriages to the mix).
    I find the two comments above by Bryan and Vladyk to interesting. Although, I would hope that a Priest would see us all as his children and have a desire to protect his flock. But maybe I expect too much…I’m currently a candidate in the Catholic church and so seeing everything from a different perspective now; there are probably…most definitely!…things I don’t quite understand.

  • Lindsay

    I doubt that, Vladyk. Most priests and bishops care very much for children and have beloved nieces and nephews and siblings, etc…, and at the time so much of this was happening, societally, even parents looked the other way or assumed that children who made accusations were lying. While perhaps more abhorrent coming from bishops who we would like to hold to a higher moral standard as vicars of Christ, this lack of understanding and concern was certainly not isolated to non-parents.

    • Steve

      Lindsay, you’re right in some respects. Some parents were indeed too deferential to church authority and assumed, instead, that their children were lying. The catch, however, is that the bishops who received complaints about abuser priests saw a pattern in the complaints that individual parents could not possibly be privy to. If Bishop Jones received three complaints about Fr. Smith over the course of five or ten years, he very likely knew there must be SOMETHING to at least some of the allegations — and very possibly each of those allegations was accurate. So let’s not blame parents for bishops’ decision to cover the tracks, lie to families, and move abuser priests around to new parishes. Neither the survivors of abuse nor their families deserve to be burdened with guilt that belonged to the abusers and the abusers’ bishops.

      • Sal

        And in some cases, you can’t cure stupid. One egregious abuser had affidavits from his family members, including his ex-wife, outlining his utter unsuitability as a candidate and the seminary took him anyway.

  • Phil

    I don’t think your first argument proves your point because comparing the percentage of children who are abused by married people vs. single people isn’t a true ‘apples to apples’ comparison. Children are much more likely to spend time with and be in the custody of married people. It certainly shows that marriage is not a complete ‘cure’ for pedophilia, but different statistics and studies would need to be examined to see if marriage has an affect on pedophilia, holding constant factors such as available access to children.

    Adding to your argument though would be an article I read a few years ago that said that insurance companies that insure churches against abuse don’t charge Catholic churches anymore than Protestant churches, seeming to imply that there isn’t really any more risk of being abused by a single Catholic priest than a married Protestant pastor. The Catholic Church is the one who takes all of the negative press though because it’s easy to call it a trend when it happens in the Catholic Church, where when it happens at the same rate across thousands of other denominations, there isn’t a good story. And then there’s easy yet simplistic argument that you mention above, that makes it newsworthy to some.

  • Survivor

    I lived with multiple clerical sex abusers during six of the seven years I was in religious life. They wanted to have sex with young men and adolescent boys. Being married to an adult woman would not have satisfied their desires. I can assure you of that.

  • MarylandBill

    The emphasis that the popular media places on the Priest Abuse scandal makes it look like the problem is unique to the Church. In reality, teachers, coaches, Protestant ministers, and a whole host of other professions and volunteer roles that bring adults into close contact with children have exactly the same problem, and as there is some evidence (as the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State has shown) that it is often covered up as well.

    I think there might be a role for married priests in the Catholic Church. I do know however that it will in no way reduce the incidence of child molestation amongst the clergy. The Church is doing the best it can now to reduce the chance of it happening again, but as of yet, there is no foolproof method.

    • The Crescat

      A ban on homosexuals is a good start, though.

      • doughboy


        • The Crescat

          Eh, you’re right. Heterosexual men and even quite a few woman take advantage of children and pre-pubescent kids. Mea cupla.

      • Jack

        “Ban all homosexuals from the Priesthood”

        What do you mean by homosexual Kat?

        Are we talking about someone who actively engages in such sinful behaviour, those who once did so many years ago but have now repented of their sins and done penance, someone who may have been tempted to engage in such behaviour/thoughts but never gave in, what about the Priest who was first tempted to engage in such actions after ordination? Should he be kicked out of the rectory, forcibly laicised and left to fend for himself?

        For once KAT use your brain and think of the implications of what you’re saying; I know that many Americans (who believe the lie that the world is divided the world into good people and Death Eaters) find it hard to use the critical faculties of the intellect (thankfully Father L isn’t one of them) but please try!!!

        For that matter (and I know I am straying off subject here); considering that the world is doubly dangerous for those afflicted with SSA shouldn’t there be some form of consecrated life that is open to them? Shouldn’t we I don’t know, treat them with Christian Compassion as the Catechism tells us to? Or is such mercy beyond the prideful Jansenism that masquerades as Orthodox Catholicism in the United States.

        By the way before everyone accuses me of being a lily livered liberal; I hold true to everything that Sancta Mater Ecclesia teaches.

  • Ken Mueller

    Perhaps insisting on traditional marriage might serve as a deterrent?

  • Gail Finke

    I understand why people want to ban homosexual priests but I don’t think that’s the problem either. There is no reason to suppose that homosexuals can’t be celibate. I’m not sure what societal problem is or was, but whatever the cause the result was that Western culture encouraged a certain kind of sin. Just as, right now in the general population, single men are able to abuse children (sexually and by beating them) in far larger numbers than they would be if most children lived in a household with married parents. I’m sure the sort of man who moves in with a woman desperate for a man just so that he can abuse her children has always been around, but there was a lot less opportunity for them to do anything when there were a lot less single women with children. If you ask me, which no one did, we should be looking for what sins are going on now in our society and being covered up or pooh-poohed, rather than being hyper-vigilant about this one. Something else is happening; something else always does.

  • Alejandro

    Homosexual priests aren’t banned, as far as I know. The Church only said that men with deep rooted homosexual tendencies and a big connection with LGBT culture have to wait three years or something to be ordained, and that it was put after the sex abuse scandals became a severe problem. Maybe you are right in that married priests might worsen the problem.

  • Thers

    This is not logic.
    The problem of pedophile priests is an institutional problem: these monstrosities occurred, and were covered up, and the See shut its lid.
    But that’s not even addressing the point of this post.

    Here: (a) most people are not pedophiles; (b) most people are heterosexual non-pedophiles; (c) allowing most heterosexuals to marry and be priests will significantly widen the pool of non-pedophiles available to the Catholic Church as they strive to identify non-child-rape clergy-candidates.

    The math is what it is.

    • savvy

      What needs to be corrected first is the profound crisis of faith. There is no point in reforming the priesthood if even priests call for things like priestless Eucharists. Like in Austria or American nuns do not even believe that Jesus is God. The damage has been done due to years of bad teaching.

      I don’t think these things would have taken place if there was no such a deep crisis of faith. People taking vows and then going out of their way to break them.

  • SKay

    For years we were told that pedophile ‘s could be cured – and we believed it. That was a terrible mistake.
    Thank goodness we now know better and so does the Church.
    These men can never be allowed around children again-for the children’s sake as well as their own.

    Survivors post makes the point very well. There are some who should never be allowed to become a priest.

  • Danielle

    I’d like to know, by comparison, what the numbers were for children in the state system at the same time as the clerical abuse. In 32 years, I’ve met more men AND women who have survived abuse at the hands of their foster parents than at the hands of priests or religious. And my dad was in a Catholic boarding school. With the facts as they are (or were) it would seem marriage did nothing to curb this behavior. And neither did the mental health practices of the time. I think Gail Fink had a really good point, and I don’t really know that the root cause has anything to with priest/bishops/religious sex life (or lack there of).

  • Joe

    Why do we never read of priest scandals that involve an affair with a willing, consenting woman? I’m sure priests have their ‘groupies’ who try to tempt them, as well as predatory priests who prey on housewives and widows who attend the parish. Why do we always only hear of scandals that involve priests and boys or young men?

  • jean

    Paedophiles will marry to have access to children, including a single parent with a child, or to have children of their own to abuse.
    Therfore its naiive to hink marriage will somehow cure the peversion of a paedophile.