The Celibacy Lecture

My husband was working with the Scouts this weekend and the church scandals came up. One woman said, “if the Catholics did not insist on a celibate priesthood…”

My husband, a quiet sort, answered as he worked, “the Scouts have had their share of sex-abuser scoutmasters; none of them were celibate priests.”

I have my own response
to the “if only priests were not celibate” lecture but because it is a rather mean answer, I only use it if the lecturer has been rude about it. I ask them: was there a period in your life, where you were celibate, either because you hadn’t started having sex, or you had no one to have sex with?

When they say yes, I ask how they managed, during that time, to battle their instincts to go around sexually abusing adolescents.

Fr. James Martin has written a response from his perspective as a celibate male. As ever, he is much kinder than I am:

For one thing, if four percent of American priests were accused of abuse, it means that 96 percent of priests have not been accused of anything and are leading healthy, productive lives in the community. (Bluntly put: if celibacy causes abuse, why aren’t the other 96 percent of priests pedophiles?) For another, 30 percent of abuse takes place within families, yet few sane people point to marriage as a cause of child abuse. When schoolteachers abuse children, few sane people say that teaching leads to pedophilia. Many widows and widowers, not to mention some single men and women, are celibate. No one suspects them of pedophilia.

So why is the celibacy of Catholic priests singled out?

The critique of priestly celibacy has to do mainly with its unfamiliarity. Voluntarily refraining from sex is unnatural, so the thinking goes; it shuts down a natural part of life and thus leads to unhealthy behaviors. It is unhealthy, critics say; therefore, priesthood attracts only unhealthy people. It is impossible, others aver, so any priest who says he is celibate must be lying. Most people don’t know priests, sisters, or brothers, and we sometimes demonize those whom we don’t know. It’s easy to stereotype out of frustration and fear.

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  • tim maguire

    I am not a fan of celibacy for the priesthood because I don’t think there is any biblical justification for it (same goes for female priests). I don’t think other denominations have suffered for opening their priesthood to these people.

    I believe the vow of celibacy is an issue with the pedophilia scandals because it makes the priesthood attractive to people who are uncomfortable with their sexual urges–if I take a vow of celibacy, then I don’t have to worry about my scary fantasies because sexuality becomes a non-issue. Then I take my vows and…oh no!…the fantasies are still there!

    This is not the fault of the church, but it does create an obligation for the church to be more vigilant.

    [What do you think of Paul's admonishment for men and women "if they can" to remain unmarried in service of the Lord? Is that not biblical?-admin]

  • Tony de New York

    ‘I don’t think there is any biblical justification for it ‘

    11Jesus told them, “Only those people who have been given the gift of staying single can accept this teaching. 12 Some people are unable to marry because of birth defects or because of what someone has done to their bodies.

    Others stay single for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

    Anyone who can accept this teaching should do so.”
    Matthew 19, 11-12.

    [perhaps a better translation: 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

    10The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

    11Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[a]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” – admin]

  • Gerry

    The initials “S.J.” raise my hackles, and once again, the suspicions are confirmed:

    ” … the Gospels talk freely about his mother, his brothers, and his sisters.”

    [They don't? -admin]

  • EJHill

    Celibacy is only an issue with the left because their entire agenda has been obsessed with it for the last 40 years. It’s like their brains are tied to their genitals. Abortion, AIDS-HIV, feminism, gay marriage, transgender rights, the list goes on and on.

  • Catholic Defender

    I always admire those holy priests and religious who are silently working for the Kingdom of God. The media of today never give importance to them because that don’t sell out in the newstand. Sex, violence, greed, our enemies will feast on.

    Let’s pray for our priests, they really need us.

  • http://none Michael Conway

    Celibacy is not a strange concept, except maybe in Hollywood or talk among the young who are having hormone problems.
    I doubt it is very high on a Priest’s list of difficult things to work on to become and stay a Priest.
    I thought we were way past the movie drivel showing a sex crazed man screaming “I gotst to have it” or the stereotype of a woman that “once she has done it, she can’t do without it” therefore being easy prey for men.
    Get real. Celibacy does not cause pedophilia, rape or any other deviant behavior. It’s a personal lifestyle choice and a reasonable requirement for the priesthood.
    If you want another lifestyle drop out of the seminary and attend the Jimmy Swaggart school of Evangelists.

  • Warren Bonesteel

    Wait a minute. Lemme get this straight.

    You folks are defending pedophile church leaders and you’re defending the church leaders who support those pedophiles.

    The socially conservative christian right is also defending an official political party fundraiser held at a strip club in one of the most morally bankrupt cities on earth.

    …and arguments used to support that position are based upon moral equivalence and equivocations. (‘He did it to,’ and ‘ ‘Well look what he did and said!’)

    Aside from the irrationality and ill-logic of the position, it doesn’t sound like the argument of a mature and spiritual individual.

    …or does that whole Bible, moral superiority thingy not matter, anymore?

    If someone’s in charge of the church, he or she is responsible and accountable. If they are not responsible and accountable, you no longer have a church or even a religion to base it upon.

    “I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; I let them become defiled…”

  • Brian English

    “Wait a minute. Lemme get this straight.

    You folks are defending pedophile church leaders and you’re defending the church leaders who support those pedophiles.”

    You don’t have it straight. Go back and read the blog post and comments again. Slowly.

  • Gayle Miller

    Warren – your comment begins:
    “You folks are defending pedophile church leaders and you’re defending the church leaders who support those pedophiles.

    The socially conservative christian right is also defending an official political party fundraiser held at a strip club in one of the most morally bankrupt cities on earth.

    …and arguments used to support that position are based upon moral equivalence and equivocations. (‘He did it to,’ and ‘ ‘Well look what he did and said!’)

    Aside from the irrationality and ill-logic of the position, it doesn’t sound like the argument of a mature and spiritual individual.

    …or does that whole Bible, moral superiority thingy not matter, anymore?”

    What we are saying is not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Why condemn an entire organization because of 4% bad apples. People who shouldn’t have become priests in the first place?

    When my mother was expecting my arrival in the early 1940s, a relative of hers who had been raised from babyhood by an aunt and uncle due to the death of his natural parents was studying for the Byzantine Catholic priesthood. This was a way of thanking his aunt and uncle for all they’d done for him and he felt it was no great loss because he also had a fiancee and they were planning to marry as soon as he was ordained. Well lo and behold, just days after he had made his final vows, a ruling came down from Rome declaring that Byzantine priests (who are also under Rome) were no longer to be permitted to marry. So this priest – who arguably had no real vocation in the first place and who had become a priest for all the wrong reasons – found himself trapped in the priesthood. Now in those days – it was considered not the “done thing” for priests to go skipping off the reservation (so to speak) and so this priest became a very BAD priest. He was judgmental, unkind, basically rotten to anyone who encountered him.

    Now certainly, his reaction to the disappointment was unworthy of a priest, as is the behavior of those 4% pedophile priests and their behavior is as reprehensible as the small percentage of pedophile rabbis and pedophile school teachers and peophile truck drivers. And yes, certainly, a priest should be held to higher standards since most claim to draw their moral authority from God himself. But I have examined the relevant documents as posted and readily available on the New York Times website (have YOU read any of them, Warren) and I do not find the opprobrium being heaped upon then-Cardinal Ratzinger now-Pope Benedict to be appropriate nor justified!

    If you ARE a Catholic, you may criticize constructively. If you are not a Catholic, then I suggest you shut the hell up and leave my Church alone.

  • EJHill

    Warren, just out of curiosity, just how much do you think employers should know about their employees at any given time? And at what point do accusations become facts? And just what does the RNC-Bondage Club brou-ha-ha make a logical tie in (pun intended)? I mean, other than showing your political bias?

  • Bender

    It is pointless to engage an anti-Catholic bigot — he isn’t interested in the truth, he is only interested in smearing and insulting and attacking and distorting.

  • Mary Beth

    Gayle -
    “If you ARE a Catholic, you may criticize constructively. If you are not a Catholic, then I suggest you shut the hell up and leave my Church alone.”
    Thanks, I couldn’t have said it better myself!!

  • Gerry

    You really need to be more careful in what you quote favorably. Yes, any reader ought to know that Biblical translations cannot be exact, because some Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic words may not have counterparts in another languages.

    Martin is either ignorant or worse. He clearly implying that the Jesus of Nazareth had siblings.

    So, are you OK with denying Mary’s virginity?

    Is the Incarnation out also?

    I expect better of you, unless you’re turning Protestant.

  • Telemachus

    I’d like to offer a hypothesis concerning posters like Warren.

    I think such posts are actually submitted by web-bots that have been deployed by the Anti-Theist Computing Society, to search out any website that offers thoughtful commentary about the Church then post an inane, general-purpose comment that essentially doesn’t engage what is being talked about, but distracts people from thinking about what has actually been written.

    So far these bots have been doing a good job. I see their posts all the time.

    Although, imagine if these posts were actually submitted by PEOPLE! Could you imagine the kind of intense re-programming that would have been required to compel them to sit in front of a computer screen day-in and day-out, spewing nonsense without a shred of comprehension of the posts to which they are “responding”? Scary thought.

    (“It is pointless to engage an anti-Catholic bigot” –> QFE)

  • Steve Gallagher

    As an older, second career seminarian, who, by-the-way, just loves The Anchoress, I would suggest that maybe it’s time for First Things to republish the following article on celibacy which appeared in your publication in 2002. It describes more as to how I approach this issue than any article I’ve ever read. Also, I would sure like to hear some comments about what people think celibacy actually is, to include how they live it in their own lives.
    Be at peace folks, once the brush is trimmed it grows back ever more lush.

    Celibacy in Context: by Maximos Davies
    Celibacy in Context

  • Julie Benner

    There is a long tradition of voluntary celebacy for people who have devoted their lives to God, even outside of the Catholic religion. The ancient Hindu swami order, and buddhist priests and nuns, to give two examples. Celebacy is a common vow for those living for God alone, and those who have trouble comprehending it are too wrapped up in the sensual world, in my opinion.

    Poverty is another typical vow of priests in various religions, and I don’t hear accusations that those who take vows of poverty are driven to steal the the property of their parishoners, nor that their vows of obedience lead them to try to overthrow the church.

    These vows are meant to focus lives, minds, and bodies upon God. Those who are flawed enough to abuse children with whom they hold positions of trust, would have the same flaws regardless of the position in life they hold.

  • dymphna

    There once was a guy out West–married with four or five boys who was found to be a serial killer. He preyed on teenaged male prostitutes and hitchhikers. This guy appeared to be as nice as pie, a normal dad and his wife reported nothing odd in their marriage. A pervert will marry in order to have an impeccable disguise.

  • Warren Bonesteel

    Oh, I’m not anti-religion, folks. You’re perfectly free to believe whatever you wish.

    I am, however, anti-stupid, and I abhor hypocrisy and irrationality wherever it is found. Heh. For that matter, not a few right-wing blogs have either banned me or openly threatened my personal safety for pointing out similar problems with their thought processes.

    (As for that so-called political bias…the Democrat Party leadership has its own problems with sexual…indulgences.)

    Walk the talk, folks. With more than a billion Christians on earth…if you were walking the talk, the world probably wouldn’t be in this mess.

    …but, instead of examining yourselves, you attack anyone who questions your self-righteous behaviors …in the face of your own, very public, short-comings….and you defend those short-comings with violent words, and often enough, with violent deeds.

    There is no humility or spirituality in such behavior. Your bible tells you this.

  • Andrew B

    As a Boy Scout leader who has also suffered for many years in the Episcopal Church, I can say that there are many problems out there that have nothing to do with celibacy. I remember Penthouse Magazine running several articles about the Episcopal clergy in the Diocese of Long Island, who had a habit of recruiting young men for orgies on the high altar. It doesn’t seem like the option to marry did much to staunch these extracurricular activities.

    Sin will often find a willing home, whether married or celibate, gay or straight.

  • Brandy Miller

    Ahh, Warren. Thank you so much for your thoughtful participation and insightful commentary. However, I think you might have overlooked the point of this article. It is not a defense of pedophile priests as you have conjectured but a defense of those priests who have served and continue to serve honorably and faithfully, as well as a defense of the celibacy requirement for the priesthood.

    I definitely appreciate your charitable attempt to demonstrate for us the dangers of hypocracy by first telling us how much you abhor stupidity and irrationality and then demonstrating both for us so very kindly. Personally, I have only pity for those who are truly stupid as there is no cure for such. What I absolutely abhor is the willfully ignorant – those who are gifted with great intelligence but stubbornly refuse to put their intellect to any use at all except to make life miserable for others.

  • Bender

    How can someone be “attacked” with a yawn?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Andrew, yes, celibacy, really, has nothing to do with it.

    The Episcopal Church, which does allow married priests, has had a horrible problem with sex abuse scandals. The press just hasn’t been as interested in them, as they are in the Catholic church.

    The press has also not been much interested in the scandal of abuse in our schools, the UN sex abuse scandals and the completely secular trade in sex slaves and human trafficing. And, if they ever do an article on the porn industry, they usually whitewash it.

    And the abuse in the schools, by the UN and porno film makers has absolutely nothing to do with the RNC, or celibacy.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    As I’ve said before—I wonder where all this indignation was during the Roman Polanski affair, a while back?

    (By the by, I do think it’s the height of naivete to blame child abuse on celibacy; do the people who do this really believe that all a pedophile needs is marriage to a good woman, and all his problems will be solved?)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Julie, yes, that’s an interesting point; celibacy is a discipline in Hinduism, and Buddhism. It’s not a practice limited to Western religions.

  • Patrick

    I think that the media has gotten fixated on this particular scandal, and has decided that married priests would somehow end it. As many of you have pointed out above, removing the vow of celibacy doesn’t guarantee anything. However, I think that certain related issues regarding this subject have been ignored or forgotten. (Perhaps willfully so by the “progressive” media)
    Celibacy is indeed a great discipline, and we should all admire those who have taken such vows and kept them. The unmarried state, per se, is not a discipline at all. In many cultures and traditions, moreover, the unmarried state is looked down upon. For those cultures which happen to be also Catholic, the only exception is the priesthood. So what do you think happens to so many homosexual men growing up in traditional Italian, Irish, Polish, Hispanic (etc) households? The priesthood is an awfully tempting thing to join. Gayle Miller criticized a Byzantine seminarian for joining the priesthood for wrong reasons. How many Roman Catholic seminarians have there been over the decades who have joined primarily as a means of hiding their true selves from family and friends? I have heard estimates of gays in the priesthood upwards of 50-60% (“Meet the Press”, Easter Sunday 2002). I don’t know whether that figure is correct, but I know former seminarians who tell me that it is high indeed.
    Now, I have no problem with a gay man, realizing his sinful nature, taking a vow of celibacy instead and becoming a truly holy priest. I am sure that no few Saints fit that category. I do have a problem with anyone hiding sinful *actions* behind his clerical vestments.
    Now the media has focussed on pedophilia. We know, though, that prepubescent child abuse has occurred only in a small minority of the minority of priests who have been accused. Instead, most of the abuse cases have been of post-pubescent, teenaged *boys*.
    I would favor a married priesthood and a return to all male altarboys, not because there would be no deviants among the priests, but because the temptations for those (perhaps fewer) deviants would be elsewhere.

  • tim maguire

    Perhaps, Warren, you will find a more receptive audience if you strive to disagree without being disagreeable. If, however, being disagreeable is itself the point, then congratulations. You have achieved your goal.

    I would suggest that loftier goals will make your life more interesting.

  • Sandra

    A homosexual man can be a very good, maybe even a great priest and pastor. Same as a heterosexual man, Both take vows of CHASITY, (abstain from sexual encounters), and CELIBACY (abstain from marriage (or marriage type) relations).

    This is not about Chasity, it is about how the world views the priesthood, and how depraved portions of modern society have become. It may have always been there, the slimy underside, but was it always so “in your face” before?

    4% is still too high a price, but I can hope “we” (meaning the Church) has learned and will not shelter criminals within the ranks of clergy and religious.

  • tim maguire

    Anchoress, I agree that there are passages that suggest you live in the service of God without earthly distractions (ex., wealth and family), but while Jesus did say to cast off your belongings, there aren’t any marriage prohibitions. You undoubtedly know the bible better than I do, but the passage you quote sounds more like a recommendation.

  • Katie

    I am a bit dimwitted: could someone please answer my two questions.
    1. Why should fine upstanding Catholic women have to marry men to prevent them from being child molesters?
    2. Why are people (rightly) indignant about people molesting children but when it comes to dismembering them in the womb that is a matter of ‘personal choice’?

  • Beth

    I think most reasonable people would agree that celibacy does not “cause” child sex abuse. However, there is no doubt in my mind that the celibacy requirement draws priests from a very limited pool of men, and in my experience, many of these men are very lacking in ordinary social skills. To put it bluntly, I have met many “odd” priests. Making celibacy optional would at least widen the talent pool, and very likely would attract more balanced individuals.

  • Liz

    “For one thing, if four percent of American priests were accused of abuse, it means that 96 percent of priests have not been accused of anything and are leading healthy, productive lives in the community. (Bluntly put: if celibacy causes abuse, why aren’t the other 96 percent of priests pedophiles?)”

    That assumes that those who have not been accused of abusing children are always going to be celibate. The 96% (or whatever percentage it is) might well be having consensual sex with adults. There was a report in the Irish Times (I’ll try to find it) which said that 50% of Catholic priests were sexually active.

    I don’t know what the real percentage is, and I agree that the whole “argument” is beyond insulting, but the way you phrased it is far more effective than Father James’s.

  • salvemaria

    The mind boggles!

    ‘Man can’t live alone; he must be with a woman!’

    - But that means he cannot live with a man either!

    ‘Right, okay, well, a man can live with a man or a woman, but not alone.’

    - But Our Lord said, “Neither fornicators… nor adulterers: Nor the effeminate …shall possess the kingdom of God.” He also said, “the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord: and the Lord for the body.”

    ‘Ah, yes, then a man can’t live with anyone!’

    - But how do we procreate?

    ‘Well, do what you want, but you can’t be a priest!’

    - Mmm, I see where you’re coming from now.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Beth, have you ever been in an Episcopal, or strictly Protestant, church?

    There are plenty of odd priests with limited social skills in the Episcopal, Orthodox churches, who allow a married priesthood, and there are lots of strange, and eccentric, Protestant preacher men.

    Again, marriage is not going to cure perversion (or even being “odd”). Furthermore, a lot of sexual predators, so far from being nervous, or awkward in social situations, manage to project very smooth, self-confident demeanors, and are good at manipulating people.

  • Mary

    Some people can justify their own sexual activity if they persuade themselves that it is impossible to refrain. People who can refrain, therefore, threaten to blow the whole thing sky-high, by revealing that no, they didn’t need to engage in that activity.

  • Doc

    A priest is called Father because he is the spiritual father for his entire parish. A family would pull him away from his primary responsibility, the souls of his parishoners, his spiritual children.

  • Beth

    Rhinestone Suderman, yes I have been in many Protestant churches, including being a Methodist for 14 years. I found that by and large, the ministers I was acquainted with were very well rounded individuals. They were much more “normal” in their behavior than the Catholic priests I knew in my many years as a Catholic. I’m just saying this was my personal experience, and I’m sure there are people who will disagree.

    Also, I did not say or imply that marriage would “cure” a pervert. It is simply that most men do want to get married, and there would be a bigger pool of more suitable candidates from which to choose for admission to the priesthood. The men who are attracted to a celibate priesthood are oftentimes not very well socialized individuals.

  • Spencer

    This continual attempt to link celibacy to pedophiles is so tired and shop-worn. Statistics have continually shown that there is no link – NO LINK – and that the overwhelming majority (anywhere from 40 to 60%) of abusers are married men.
    This may sound crude, and I apologize in advance for it, but those who offer the argument that eliminating celibacy would stop pedophile priests are then, apparently, suggesting one of two things:
    either a) they should marry to have a sexual outlet- which is saying then that their wives would be nothing more than sex objects because that would the the only reason for a pedophile to marry , or
    b) they should be free to ‘grow their own’ victims.
    I cannot imagine such a flawed thought-process, but to jump to the ‘let priests marry’ as a ‘cure’ for pedophilia is so incredibly naive and shows these people have not thought this argument through to its natural conclusion.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Well, Beth, I have to disagree here; I’ve met some very friendly, well-rounded Catholic priests, and some very odd ministers in other churches. My overall impression is that Catholic priests are no more “odd” or maladjusted than the leaders in any other denominations, and many of them seem more than usually cheerful, and likable. (You want strange? Visit a group of “fanboys” at a sci-fi convention!)

    Again, I don’t think getting a “bigger pool” of candidates is going to help anything (and that argument seems to be just one more variation on the all-they-need-is-a-good-woman; hey, if they’re dating, or want to be married, they must be normal, right?)

    Again, remember, just being “well socialized” is no guarantor of morality, or virtue; many serial killers/molestors are always remembered as “such a nice, friendly man!” And all lot of them are quite socially adept, not to mention charming and manipulative.

    And, since being a priest is considered a vocation, not just another job, or social outreach volunteering, the pool of candidates will probably always be (and maybe should be) a small one; it’s a life of sacrifice, and there are few men, socially adept or not, who are willing to give themselves up to that. (I admit, this is a Catholic thing; Catholics, and the Orthodox, do see priests as “Fathers”; spiritual leaders, representatives of Christ Himself. You don’t have to agree with this, but understand that a priest does occupy a more exalted status than a minister in a Protestant congregation.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Again, and I’m sorry to keep harping on this (but I feel I must, to get the point across) are celibacy, social ineptitude, oddness, the Roman Catholic church responsible for the UN sex scandals, the pervasiveness of pornography in our society, the acceptance of “sex tourism” (traveling to countries like Thailand, in order to gain access to child prostitutes), the million-plus dollar business in sex slave trafficing?

    Could it be that we’re facing a much, much bigger problem, one that’s touched the Church, because the Church is part of the world, and society, and doesn’t remain untouched by what goes on around, but is hardly limited to the church, and, indeed, seems to be all over?

  • Tom Michael

    When I first discovered love it was measured in some way by what I received. It was only later in life that I realized that true love was measured not by what we receive but by what we are willing to give.

  • matfir

    Our Lord was celibate. The way of life of a priest, a nun/sister, consecrated lay person is to imitate the life of Christ, to give one’s total self to God. Celibacy is a beautiful gift/grace from God and a beautiful and loving gift to God.

    Also, “homosexuality,” “bi-sexuality,” “heterosexuality,” have nothing to do with pedophilia behavior.

  • Patrick

    Those criticizing the very idea of a married priesthood should not forget the many married Eastern Catholic priests, St Paul’s admonitions (Titus 1:5-9) and the very fact that St Peter himself was married!
    Again, I ask you all to separate in your minds the discipline of celibacy from the state of being unmarried. And pray that all of our priests who take a vow with their words of the one, take a vow in their hearts with the other.

  • Ben-David

    Mary nails it:
    Some people can justify their own sexual activity if they persuade themselves that it is impossible to refrain. People who can refrain, therefore, threaten to blow the whole thing sky-high, by revealing that no, they didn’t need to engage in that activity.
    - – - – - – - – - -

    This is part of the Gramscian attack on free will. It comes from the same camp that is desperately trying to convince people to model their intimate lives on their simian ancestors.

    So the articles about how “men are genetically disposed to infidelity” and “women are genetically disposed to seek out alpha males” and “homosexuals are born that way”.

    All designed to undercut the notion of free will.

  • EJCMartin

    A couple of thoughts. Is not the Dalai Lama celibate? Does that make him a potential molester?
    Having been involved in Boy Scouts for over 20 years I often bring it up in defence of the Church. It is usually used in response to the attitude of how can you still believe in the Church… I often respond that I am a Scout leader and believe in what they do and feel many boys and young men have benefited greatly by the program. Has there been abuse cases? Yes. Have these diminshed my belief in Scouting, not at chance.

  • Brad

    Matfir’s #41 comment is excellent and graciously brings the whole discussion about Latin rite priests back to where it should stay: the Roman priest is in persona Christi and his spouse is the Church.

    We pride-filled humans certainly get caught up in our own chatter and forget to simply look to our Lord for his example. It’s like the rosary: it’s not about Mary, it’s about Mary always pointing immediately beyond herself to Christ. Oh, if we could just follow her immaculately-tuned example.

  • Jim

    First, most people don’t understand what celibacy is. Celibate means unmarried; it is not a statement about sexual activity. However, our faith teaches that a celibate (unmarried) person–priest or not–is to practice chastity.

    Priests do not abuse at a statistically different rate than do clergy of other traditions; various studies since the scandal have shown this. Most of those studies show that clergy–Catholic priests and non-Catholics alike–abuse at a rate between half and two-thirds the rate of men in the general population.

    If celibacy were an issue in abuse, there would be a significant difference in the rates of abuse between celibate priests and the non-Catholic clergy who are predominantly married, and the rates of abuse by priest would be higher than that of the general population. Neither of these is true.

    The facts simply don’t support the theory that celibacy leads to abuse.

  • Tony Layne


    This is just a guess, but: Perhap part of the reason you find celibate priests so odd and disturbing is because the priest is, by nature of his office, meant to be disturbing. He isn’t called to validate our lives but to shake them up, to challenge our wordly preconceptions, to walk among us as a reminder of the One who came “to cast fire on the earth”. As Msgr. Charles Knox once said in one of his posts (on the Archdiocese of Washington website), the priest’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable”. The priest who lives his vow faithfully is even more disturbing; like Mary points out, they demonstrate that the sexual urge is not an irresistable force, while at the same time reminding us that marriage and physical paternity are in fact good.

    In fact, I would argue that the current cultural context is precisely the worst time in which to abandon the celibate discipline. Warren does have a point hidden in his rather aggravating blather: We need more Christians to be chaste in both word and deed, to be signs of contradiction (or, if you prefer, dissonance producers) in this sex-obsessed madhouse called “Western civilization”. This is exactly why the celibate priesthood is such a focal point of hatred … because intentional chastity strikes at the fundamental lies and half-truths on which the “culture of death” is based (and what is a half-truth but the most effective of lies?). On how many issues have we heard others laugh at the “slippery slope” argument just before they pushed us over the edge? Chastity and celibacy are the weapons we need most, and should be the ones we’re least willing to throw away.