Priestly Celibacy and the Demise of Marriage

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus used to call it “the parish paper,” a gentle barb at the pretensions of the self-described “paper of record,” but also, I think, a subtle pastoral hand extended to those who think they get all the advice they need when they look in the mirror.

Yes, I’m talking about the New York Times, which just ran a discussion group on dropping the celibacy requirement for Catholic clergy. It was a “usual suspects” sort of panel, with the balance one would expect. Of 7 panelists 4 were in favor of married priests, one argued both for and against married priests, one halfheartedly defended the tradition of a celibate priesthood because Catholics would find it difficult to support a married priest with a wife and children. Only one priest actually defended the celibate priesthood as good and worthy and Godly.

The panel included Fr. Cutie, formerly of EWTN, who left the priesthood and the Church because he was unfaithful to his vows. Of the Church Fr. Cutie wrote: “I experienced how so many Roman Catholic priests—both homosexuals and a significantly smaller number of heterosexuals—often spend a great deal of time and energy dealing with the negative psychological effects of not having true intimacy in their lives.” Daniel Maguire, also a former Catholic priest is a professor of moral theology at Marquette University. His most recent book is Christianity Without God: Moving Beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative. Maguire writes: “Married gay, lesbian and heterosexual bishops and priests would have an impact on the church and on sexism and homophobia.” Therese DeLisio is the associate dean for academic leadership at Union Theological Seminary. She began with a joke. “Have you heard about Vatican III? The bishops are bringing their wives. Have you heard about Vatican IV? The bishops are bringing their husbands.”

The boring predictability of all of this does not speak well for the future of the New York Times when the last week has served up such interesting context and contrast.

The Context: The Mail Online carried a fascinating but chilling piece by Michael Fitzpatrick titled “The hyper-real robots that will replace receptionists, pop stars … and even sex dolls: Unnervingly human androids coming to a future near you.” It is a report from the Tokyo Designers’ Week and the feature attraction was “geminoids.” Asuna is a 14-year-old geminoid girl.

Everything about Asuna’s appearance has been painstakingly honed to make her more life-like. From the superior quality of her silicon skin to the secret animatronic muscles that move her eyes and drive her facial expressions.

Previous attempts by Ishiguro’s team had been dismissed as unconvincing and prone to what is known as “Uncanny Valley Syndrome.”

This is a term coined by another Japanese professor of robotics, Masahiro Mori. It describes the response of revulsion and creepiness when faced with something that looks almost, but somehow not quite, human.

As robots become as dextrous as Asuna at mimicking humanity, so the theory goes, the syndrome will erase itself.

Interspersed throughout the article are Youtube clips of Asuna and other lifelike fembots and sexbots. Also included was a link to a short video showing the manufacture of life-size Lady Gaga dolls.

The Demise of Marriage and Sex
A September 2010 survey found that 36 percent of Japanese men between the ages of 16 and 19 describe themselves as “herbivore,” which is a cultural term meaning not interested in flesh, or indifferent to sex. According to Wikipedia two surveys of single men in their 20’s and 30’s found that 61 percent and 70 percent, respectively, consider themselves herbivore. Further, a poll of Japanese women, 16-19 years old, showed that 59 percent were uninterested in sex. Demographers predict that by 2060 the Japanese population will have declined by 30 percent.

But why is Japan so sexually dysfunctional? Japan is second only to the United States in the sheer volume of pornography produced, and Japan has a fraction of the population. Japan is also about 10 years ahead of the U.S. in terms of mainstreaming massive consumption of pornography. Norman Doidge, in his excellent book The Brain that Changes Itself, explores the long-term physiological changes that occur in the brain of a person who regularly increases his dopamine and seratonine when viewing pornography. Over time, this becomes the routinized neural pathway, and habitual users of porn become addicted and ultimately disinterested in achieving climax through actual sexual relations with the opposite sex.

The realism breakthrough of fembot technology, as robotics has overcome the uncanny valley syndrome, offers a vast new horizon in the land of the rising sun. And of course, they are us, or we are becoming them. Asexual is the new kid on the ever-growing gender identity block. Vast numbers of marriage-aged men and women in Canada and the United States have dropped out of the relationship market.  Families and Living Arrangements: 2012 is a summary and explanation of statistical trends published by the United States Census Bureau. Highlights of the report include:

  • Sixty-six percent of households in 2012 were family households, down from 81 percent in 1970.
  • Between 1970 and 2012, the share of households that were married couples with children under 18 halved from 40 percent to 20 percent.
  • The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17 percent to 27 percent.

Note that in 1970 and throughout history, the most common household type was “married couples with children under 18.” In 2012 only 20 percent of American households fit this description, while for the first time in history, the most common type of household in America as of 2012, is the “one-person household,” at 27 percent.

Priestly Celibacy: An Absolute Necessity
This is the context within which yesterday’s radicals continue to rail against the unnatural, oppressive and out-of-touch nature of the celibate Catholic priesthood. They want priests to be natural, not supernatural. They want priests to be having sex just like the rest of us. What’s interesting is their critique has zero purchase among those living in the current chapter of the sexual revolution. Like so many online seductions, sex has become breathtakingly banal. We are a deeply lonely people. Sexual desire is hardwired deep within us and so we are reflexively drawn back to sex, or back to pornography which is a sad replica of sex, but we are inevitably disappointed, lonely and depressed. Coincident with the dramatic increase in the availability and the consumption of pornography, the destruction of the family and the tragic isolation of more and more of us, has been a huge increase in the incidence of depression and psychopharmacology.

But we are not abandoned.

The Contrast: you must watch CNN’s This Is Life with Lisa Ling, “Called to the Collar.”  It is a 43-minute portrait of a town, a parish, a family and vocations which flow from that family.

I won’t say too much about it other than earlier this week I showed my philosophy class the Mail article and related Youtube clips on breakthroughs in sexbot technology, along with excerpts from The Brain that Changes Itself on neuroplasticity and how the brain is rewired through long-term consumption of pornography. I wove this together with what is abundantly evident in my class and everywhere in Canada and the U.S. Two-thirds of students entering university next year will be female. Men have dropped off of the radar. Two generations ago the vast majority of university students were men, because there was an obvious correlation between education and income, and men wanted to support a wife and family. A generation ago, when I was in university, there was numeric parity between men and women, as women fully integrated into the workforce and the birthrate plummeted. Now, men in Canada and the United States are not interested in getting married and having children, and so they don’t bother going to university so that they might make more money to support families. The rate of marriage has dropped dramatically, but of those who are getting married, chances are the wife will have more education and therefore a higher income than the husband. This will make it especially difficult for the wife to take time off of work to have children.

Needless to say it was a rather depressing class. The next day we watched “Called to the Collar.” It’s not perfect—at times it’s cloyingly sweet and it’s very much the new journalism with emphatic solilloques to reinforce the emotional power of the story. But my students were transfixed. Fr. Gary, the young, newly ordained priest whose story drives the narrative, quotes a wise priest who told him: “when you feel loneliness don’t run away from it. Go over to Jesus and see what he does with it.”

The celibate priesthood is absolutely essential, no matter what the dinosaurs at the New York Times say.

Joe Bissonnette


Joe Bissonnette teaches religion and philosophy at Assumption College School in Brantford, Ontario where he lives with his wife and their seven children. He has written for Catholic Insight, The Human Life Review, The Interim, The Catholic Register and The Toronto Star.

  • fredx2

    The New York Times is a silly institution.

    • Siwash

      I’m not sure that in 2014 it is an institution at all.

      • TommyD6of11

        Asylum might be more accurate.

  • FernieV

    For decades many Catholics appeared to have a complex of inferiority towards the liberal intelligentsia in general and the liberal press in particular. Your treatment of the NYT is the way forward: why should we Catholics be awed by that bunch of decrepit, scripted old boys and girls. It would be pathetic indeed…

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Truly, why should it be the case? I’m sick of liberals & their crap ideologies. And as Catholics, it’s time we stopped bowing down to them.

      • Yes. The major media needs no respect nor attention from the faithful.
        The NY Times is on its last leg; groping for stories to sell papers. . Another 100 newsroom people went last week. As a leader in news it is fading as others sources become increasingly available – and news stories can be checked for veracity and accuracy. Some are predicting that in 10 years the broadcast network will be gone, because of streaming – but not missed – because of their ideological bias.

        • Catholic pilgrim

          Let’s hope so. I heard the first one that might be gone is MSNBC (msnBS, as we call it in my house when channel flipping) because of extremely low viewership. Followed by CNN, & FOX seems stable (but things can change for FOX too).

        • hombre111

          What is becoming clear is that people who get their news online often limit their sites to sites that agree with their politics, church and secular. They look at life with one eye defiantly closed and congratulate themselves for 20-20 vision. That is why I wander on to this site, to see what the other side is saying.

          • ForChristAlone

            But you promised to never return here. Remember?

            • hombre111

              Your memory fails you. I promised to return once in a while. I have been showing up about once a week. If there is a response, I try to answer, and that can lead to several responses.

              • You said you were done here.
                I don’t have the time to dumpster dive through your comment history (and there’s no edit trail, so..) , but you were in fact absent for several months, which tells us your intent was to confine yourself to America, Commonweal and other places where you could walk with fellow travellers.

          • Jacqueleen

            According to Dr. Michael Savage, the definition of liberalism is, it’s a mental disorder……

            • hombre111

              You mean Dr. Weiner? Savage is his phony stage name.

          • Tom in AZ

            Mostly right-wing busybodies here.

      • Tom in AZ

        You’ll continue to bow down to your superiors.

  • Daniel P

    A very good and helpful article. It’s true that loneliness is a spur that can bring us to Jesus, but it’s also true that communal life is good for priests. Eighty or ninety years ago, priests usually had 3-5 people living with them in community. It’s much easier to live a celibate life in community than alone.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Do you want Father to go home, at the end of the day, to his ‘real’ family?

  • Siwash

    This is one of the more unusual articles I’ve read and bears re-reading.

    FWIW, I canned my subscription to the NYT when that dope Maureen whatsername Dowd called Pope Benedict a nazi. Real lack of serious thought there.

    • planters

      Why are Catholics even reading NYT? It is propaganda machine obsessed with gays, sex and socialism.

      • Catholic pilgrim

        The only redeemable quality of the NYT is Ross Douthat (an actual faithful Catholic); unfortunately, they don’t take him seriously enough.

    • ForChristAlone

      When I was given to buying the Sunday Times, I found it helpful to mulch the garden with the paper. It helped keep the weeds under control. I no longer have a garden.

  • John Albertson

    Celibacy is also in the cross hairs of feminizers who are threatened by young men manly enough to be celibate after the model of Christ. Those dioceses with a more masculine ethos produce priestly vocations. Dioceses – such as New York – where the liturgies are effete and the general culture is degraded, have very few vocations. It is such a neuralgic issue that church officials will not touch it.

    • TommyD6of11

      Very insightful observation.

    • ForChristAlone

      And it is a self-fulfilling prophesy: once a diocese gets a reputation as one populated by feminized priests, young men will avoid it like the plague – young men who are men, that is. Bishops, take note: if you have few vocations to the priesthood in your diocese, look at the quality of men you already have.

  • St JD George

    Interesting article Joe, a good read. I have struggled at times with the celibacy issue because I know the church didn’t always have that position and I wonder if it is too unrealistic. I do believe that it is the superior way but we humans are meant to interact. I think one way we can help is to also see our priests as humans and not supernatural beings. Invite them for dinner or whatever, outside clerical administration functions. As for sex, it is sad to see how we as a collective society have reduced this beautiful gift to a banal act devoid of love and reduced our attraction to just our genatalia. God must be so proud of how far we’ve come. I’m sure he’s quite proud too of all the fine work to come from the NYT. Shame all those good trees had to give their lives only to be turned into rubbish.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      I’ve always been & always will be a strong supporter of Priestly Celibacy (since Priesthood should first & foremost be about Sacrifice & what greater good is there to sacrifice than wife/family for the sake of God’s Kingdom); we need their radical example. And you seem to have a balanced perspective that many (whatever their stance is) lack: We should not expect perfect priests (as long as the devil & his minions are still prowling about the earth). There is only ONE Perfect Priest (Christ), who also happens to be our perfect Sacrifice (Agnus Dei). Let’s all pray for our priests.

      • St JD George

        Amen, good priests are our treasure and need our prayers.

    • Bones

      I am so grateful that I grew up in a family were priests were welcomed to Sunday dinner. My heart breaks for priests eating Sunday dinner alone. Conversations flowed around the table and priests were friends too. Ideally even the smallest congregations could ensure that their priest is invited to a family meal every week.

  • WalterPaulKomarnicki

    it’s not about ‘celibacy’ – anyone can be celibate, but priests do not take a vow of celibacy but chastity, and as well, the long-standing tradition of the Church that her clergy and religious do not marry is a most practical one as well, obviating the problem of the upkeep of the children and possible problems of nepotism.

  • FW Ken

    Celibacy does, in fact, bear witness to a degraded society that genital expression is not necessary to a healthy sexuality. Some years back, I read that a survey found 70% of middle-aged priests satisfied with their lives. I was a middle-aged man at the time and my first question was how the priests compared to the rest of us. I suspect 70% is a good figure.

    Additionally, celibacy works well for us. The world doesn’t need to concern itself about our internal affairs, unless, of course, it doesn’t like for things to work well for us.

  • Richard

    There are legitimate arguments against a celibate priesthood, although, obviously, the NY Times is not the best place to begin that argument. Roman Catholicism has a dangerous shortage of priests, many of the priests are homosexuals (as well as some pedophiles), and the types of men who are agreeable to celibacy are often not the type meant to be leaders. The Eastern Church has survived married priests and we in the West would probably survive it, too.

    • Daniel P

      “The types of men who are agreeable to celibacy are often not the type meant to be leaders.”


      • Richard

        If you’ve never met some of the oddball priests I’ve met in my life, you’ve been a fortunate man. Unfortunately, and I can only speak from my own experience, most of the priests I’ve met haven’t been the types of men I think the Church needs to lead her people. That doesn’t mean a priest can’t be both celibate and a good man, but most of them seem, at least to me, somewhat effeminate and ineffectual.

        • TommyD6of11

          You’ve never met the outstanding Catholic priests that I have. Priests like Fr. George W. Rutler.

          But, I too have met weak and pathetic priests. These tend to be the same who preach Social Justice instead of Christianity. Most Jesuits fall into this category yet think themselves the most enlightened.

        • Priester

          everyone assumes relaxing the celibacy requirement will result in a flood of vocations from real men … the problem with that assumption is it fails to look at where we are and where we are going. Everybody looks at porn, religious education is a disaster, 80% walk away from the faith during the college experience, nobody is getting married and religion is irrelevant – theses discussions are pointless because if we are honest the only thing that can save us now is God Himself – priestly celibacy discussions – who cares – the majority of Christendom is lost …. the best and only thing we can do is pray

          • TommyD6of11


            Prayer with no action is no prayer at all.

            Take your angst and redirect this energy from despair into ministry.

            Carefully choose 3 persons with whom you are close and share with them the truth of God, inspire them with your own actions to see the false promise of modern Liberalism.

        • Catholic pilgrim

          Catholic Priesthood is first & foremost about Sacrifice (not leadership). Sacrifice & leadership are obviously not mutually exclusive, but they’re not the same thing. I rather have a Priest who thoroughly knows & lives the meaning of Sacrifice than a priest who is impressive at making parish budgets & cool speeches, being sociable/popular, or whatever your definition of leadership is. We need priests who deeply unite themselves with the ultimate Sacrifice of Christ made present to us lay people at Mass & who steadfastly keeps Fasting. We need priests who thoroughly embrace Sacrifice, not business or community leaders (those roles are for us laymen).
          As long as the Devil & his evil minions are prowling about, we’ll have a mix of holy priests (which I’ve been blessed to know many), struggling priests, & confused priests. We must pray for them regardless. Don’t expect perfect priests, there’s only One Perfect Priest.

        • GG

          They must be liberal dissenters then. That fits the bill.

    • Augustus

      It is my understanding that Eastern Orthodox bishops are monks and therefore celibates. How ironic that you would hold them up as ideal leaders.

      • Richard

        “Ideal”? No, I never used that word, since, as we both know, there are no “ideal” humans. An Orthodox, as well as an Eastern Catholic priest is, however, allowed to be married.

        • ColdStanding

          Jesus Christ, ideal human. Mary, the Theotokos, ideal human. Saints in Heaven, ideal humans. They, save Jesus Christ because He ever and always is perfect, have been perfected according to God’s eternal will. They are the perfect ideal humans.

          This call to perfection applies to you, as well. You too, with the help of God’s grace, can attain the ideal which God conceived of you before creation.

        • TommyD6of11

          His point was that your example was not ideal since orthodox bishops ARE celibate. Therefore, your argument fails.

          • Richard

            Of course, as I’m sure you know, celibacy is not a “doctrine” of the Roman Catholic Church, but a matter of discipline and can be changed at any time. I think we should be careful not to make an idol out of celibacy. On whether Bishops should marry, if I remember correctly, the first Bishop of Rome was a married man.

            • Catholic pilgrim

              So what? Our Lord Christ Jesus (the High Priest) was a Celibate Man. St. John the Baptist (the son of a priest who heralded our Lord) was celibate. Prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to celibacy. St. Francis of Assisi. St. Jerome. St. Paul the Apostle to Gentiles was a Celibate & even praised Celibacy (sacrificing goods for the highest good- the Kingdom of God- by being full of the Holy Spirit). St. Benedict. St. John Paul II. Celibacy is tied with the Kingdom of God & a life full of the Holy Spirit, why do you want to diminish that, Richard?
              St. Peter the Apostle was already married when Christ came to him as a fisherman, what did you want him to do? Throw his wife out in the street with the rats?

              • Richard

                “Throw his wife out in the streets with the rats?” Uh, no, I have no idea where you came up with that one. I, personally, just have no problem with married priests or bishops. I know it would seem a little strange at first, but we’ve survived mass in the vernacular, altar girls, versus populum, the sign of the peace and homosexual priests. How much worse could married priests and bishops be?

                • Augustus

                  You have a great ability to miss the point. Your repeated claims are baseless or irrelevant. When they are debunked you change the subject rather than concede the point. The fact is that a married priesthood is not a solution to anything. The Anglicans have a married priesthood and the Church of England is on it’s death bed in the developed world. It will not solve the challenges facing the Church, which have to do with a crisis of faith which a married priesthood by itself can not solve. The Church has been able to attract quality candidates in large numbers throughout it’s history. The vocations crisis of the 1970s was largely self-inflicted since many good candidates where turned away because their progressive betters thought they were too “rigid.” Dioceses that have quality episcopal leadership have no vocations crisis. Furthermore, vernacular masses, altar girls, versus populum, signs of peace and homosexual priests have done nothing to improve mass attendance or increase piety. The Church “survives” thanks to the Holy Spirit despite these things, not because of them. The Church is hardly flourishing because of these changes.

                • John200

                  ‘Tis a pity that you don’t know how much worse married priests and bishops would be.

                  Perhaps a run through RCIA would help you? Give it a go, RCIA, Richard.

                • TommyD6of11

                  Have we really survived? Well, yes, but barely. The Church was decimated by all these things. So to say since it did not completely kill off the church so what’s the big deal, is wrong thinking indeed.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Priesthood (like the name implies) is firstly about Sacrifice. Our Lord Christ Jesus was a Celibate Man, so was St. John the Baptist (the prophet who heralded him), holy Prophet Jeremiah was also celibate, St. Paul the Apostle was also celibate (& praised Celibacy for the Kingdom’s sake), St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Jerome, & countless other holy men. And they were neither homosexuals nor pedophiles (as you seem to be implying, that these issues are exclusive to celibacy only). With the holy Gospel of Christ, we are called to sacrifice even the higher goods (like Family, wives) for the Highest good (the Kingdom of God, which the Risen Christ establishes). We are called to live Radical lives wholly embracing the Holy Spirit… A holy sign against the dark, secular ages. Celibacy is healthy, historical, spiritually beneficial, & foundational for our supernatural Catholic priesthood. I am in Communion with & fully support Eastern Catholic Churches but even their bishops are celibate as well as their strong numbers of priestly monks; so even Eastern Catholics acknowledge the significant link between priesthood & celibacy. In the Latin/Western Church, Celibacy is indispensable; it has worked for centuries (for 2000 years really). What has not worked are the liberal priest in the 1960s who excitedly embraced the Sexual Revolution lies of “free sex” (that resulted in unprecedented number of homosexual/pedophile priests).

      • TommyD6of11

        Correct. The Catholic Church did not have a pedophile problem. It had a homosexual problem. Multiple studies have shown that 80% of those molested by priests were post-pubescent boys. In other words, these were homosexual rapes, not pedophilia. Though it still exists, the Gay Mafia within the Church has largely been purged. Unfortunately, and bizaaringly, many neo – Liberal priests are embracing secular fads instead of Christian truths. Alas, there is no end to Satan’s insidious ways.

  • M.J .

    Would it be that the lonliness in priesthhod is related atleast partly, to inadequate formation !
    Having yearly house blessings for parishioners thus getting to know all parishioners and their issues , more time in the confessional ,even before every Holy Mass , having Eucharistic Adoration for the whole parish , with the priest presiding ,atealst weekly , visiting nursing homes, may be accomanied by few aprishioners who too would want to be part of the ministry , encouarging school kids and their parents for small performances in such places ,with the riest in attendance , street evangeliastion along with interested parishioners , active involvement in deliverance ministry – hard to see how a life filled with such Godly pursuits and the prayer life that would be there to keep the priest and hopefully those in his life, in powerful communion with Heaven ,
    can leave room for boredom or seductions !
    What most likley happens is , there are the usual tempations to go after human pursuits – a liitle football or whatever and pretty soon , may be far sooner than for lay people , becuase the debt of wasted time would also be greater , the boredom for spiritual things come in !
    May the memory of the Ordination Holy Mass, the truth that The Lord of The Universe makes His Presence in The Bread and Wine, at the priestly prayer , there by to transform memories and lives moment by moment , into occasions of utainted purity –
    may such a memory help to keep the holy priesthood vibrant and powerful !
    May The Mother of Untainted Purity come into our hearts , to bring in heaven and its purity and reality , into lives of those we bring to her as well, even if they seem as lifeless as silicone , wiping away all that is dead and banal !

    • Priester

      oddly enough its only because they are celibate that you can work them into the grave

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Beautiful words! I once had a parish priest who could never make time for House blessings (he never blessed my house) & would come up with all excuses not to come & bless our house, yet somehow, he always found time to go on weekly golf games & if a parishioner invited him to a golf match/game, he’d always find time. (This same parish priest only did 30 mins of Confessions on Saturdays only & the notorious “by appointment only”.) Golf games/matches, Airplane Travel, Football, etc. are good things but parish priests should spend more time with their flock (“smell like them”), bringing them the goodness of the Good News (like in the things you mentioned). .
      The Priesthood (as the name implies) is a life of Sacrifice after all. First & foremost, Sacrifice (like portrayed in the excellent Life with Lisa Ling- Priests video).

    • publiusnj

      One of the big problems with priestly celibacy is the lack of respect most of us Catholics now have for it. Since the 1960s, there is usually a snicker associated with most discussions of celibacy. A snicker as in either: 1) “what’s wrong with anyone signing on for celibacy?” or 2) “you don’t think he’s really keeping his vows, do you? Who could?”

      That has to make it harder for any man called by God to be a priest to keep his vows. Back in the 1950s, a guy becoming a priest was usually regarded as an heroic person making a valued sacrifice for his fellow Catholics. We need to get that back.

      I myself do NOT consider a married “clergy person” to be making nearly the sacrifice that a priest does. We need our priests to understand that we greatly value what they are doing for us as Christ’s Holy Catholic Church.

  • M.J .

    if I may add this too ; reason many persons like celibate priesthood would be , since same seems more in line with the words of The Lord – ‘if you have seen Me , you have seen The Father ‘ ; thus , priests as those who are ‘ married ‘ / commtted to The Church and to those in Her , helping to bring forth and nourish spiritual life .
    Hopefully , every priest would be blessed with good persons around him, like in the words of The Lord in Mathew 12 ; 50 – ‘ whoever does the willl of My Heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother ‘.
    Interesting that He does not add ‘ my wife ‘ since He all along knew who the Biride – The Church is !
    Thus , every priest hopefully would be blessed with enough of brs, sisters/ mothers , fathers , who can also support each other, to help do His will,, which would include frequent spiritual union , in prayer , transforming minds and hearts , into that of pure love for The Lord and each other , all the while bringing out the goodness of The Father , to a world that starves for same !
    Agree , in certain situations , if celibate priesthood is considered to be a true hardship and The Church decides to make allowances , there would not be that great an outcry either !

  • redfish

    “This is the context within which yesterday’s radicals continue to rail against the unnatural, oppressive and out-of-touch nature of the celibate Catholic priesthood. They want priests to be natural, not supernatural. ”

    The problem here is that people see celibacy as unnatural, when its quite common: most people are celibate during large stretches of their lives. In childhood before they find someone they want to be with. When couples start having children, they naturally start having sex less, and may have a celibate relationship in old age, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people — therapists, pharmaceutical companies — make a living on selling the idea that if a couple isn’t having sex that there’s something inherently broken about the relationship, but it isn’t true.

    There isn’t anything inherently different about lifelong celibacy, except it being a different vocation. The biggest thing given up is having a family, not having sex.

  • Stuart Koehl

    So, we of the Eastern Catholic Churches are still not “real” Catholics after all these years. Figures.

    • WSquared

      Nobody’s saying that, certainly not me. Frankly I don’t have much of a problem with married priests, either, and I respect that the Eastern Rite ordains married men to the priesthood. Latin Rite priests who are married under special provision are also, similarly, married before they are ordained.

      What I do have a problem with is Latin Rite Catholics who diss celibacy and can’t be bothered to understand it– they think that if they find it too hard and unreasonable, then it’s hard and unreasonable, never mind that God’s grace is sufficient; Eastern Rite Catholics don’t pull those shenanigans. What I have a problem with are Latin Rite Catholics who think that marriage will “solve everything” and we’ll have a vocation boom, when most people, Catholic or not, have crappy marriages that are hardly a good example to anyone, period, let alone providing any tangible witness to Christ. If the divorce rate is to be believed, marriage as most people know it from cultural assumptions hasn’t solved anything for people who actually get married, so why should we think that it will “solve” anything for our priests? Why should we want priests to be married, “just like the rest of us,” when the rest of us mostly do such a poor job?

      All in all, marriage is about witnessing to Christ, and is complementary with the priesthood in both the Eastern and Latin Rite. Christ the High Priest is celibate, but He is also the Bridegroom of the Church, just as God is husband to the people Israel: central to marriage is self-gift, and here, priests have something to teach us– not just any married priests in the Church, but celibate priests, too, and all the more because with celibacy, the connection is not immediate when we insist on walking by sight and not by faith. It makes us think, and therefore jolts us out of our complacency.

      What I am noticing is that most of the Latin Rite “let’s have married priests; it’ll solve everything!” crowd seem to forget that the Eastern Church also respects celibacy, only with a different emphasis: monks are celibate, and most Eastern Bishops are drawn from this group. Moreover, a married man who is ordained cannot remarry if his wife dies. In other words, he is returned to the celibate state. Those who are celibate point to the love that we will have with God in Heaven forever, where none are given in marriage, anyway. It’s crucial for married couples to remember that, and celibates in both the Eastern and Latin Church are a good reminder.

    • M

      Not to Pope Francis, Stuart. He and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are calling very strongly for reunification between the Roman and Orthodox churches.

      • GG

        Nothing new.

  • jacobum

    I guess the extraordinary gift, blessing and power to bring down the Son of God on to the altar through the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is well… boring and lonely for these “priests”…that what?.. They don’t believe it? For sure and neither do a lot of their superiors. They have been “deformed” rather than “formed”.

  • In the West, the Catholic worldview is the only thing that’s sustainable.

  • hombre111

    Very complicated article that made a lot of good points. I read the NYT debate, which included a writer from Crisis, a married Catholic priest. I am not sure the author of this article understands clearly the distinction between celibacy as a charism, a gift from the Spirit, and celibacy as a discipline imposed on diocesan priests by the First Lateran Council in order to keep married priests from getting church property into the hands of their children.

    Celibacy as a charism, as a call to give living testimony about the Kingdom of God, is truly life-giving. Its natural place is in monasteries and religious orders. Mandatory celibacy exists only in the diocesan priesthood and is often accepted as the price a man must pay if he wants to become a priest. Perhaps he has the charism, but often enough, he does not. When I was ordained, little effort was made to help a young man discern that kind of call. No wonder so many of my classmates left the priesthood. At our fiftieth reunion, those former priests who attended were convinced that they had a call to the priesthood, but left when they realized they did not have a call to celibacy.

    Now that I am old and grey, I consider mandatory celibacy a freedom destroying form of sex abuse, not unlike the castration endured by ancient keepers of the royal treasury, a mutilation assuring that they would not steal the king’s riches for the sake of their children. That said, I would have been grateful for a Spirit-based discernment process before I made the promise (diocesan priests do not make the vow) of celibacy, accompanied by a well-conceived spirituality for celibate people. I started out as one of the guys gritting his teeth, bravely paying the price for being a priest. It took years for me to find a way of discernment and a spirituality to go with it. Yes, I accept that I have the charism. And yes, I am working on a Mary-centered spirituality to help me live my celibate commitment.

    • GG

      Celibacy was the norm from the start. Allowing marriage was a consession even in the East.

      • hombre111

        I am afraid you are going to have to prove it.

        • ColdStanding

          I am afraid you will simply dismiss what is obvious proof anyways.

          You already have.

        • GG

          Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy
          By Fr. Conchini

          The definitive scholarship on the matter.

          • hombre111

            How did he do with his peers?

  • Anon

    Mr. Bissonnettee, it appears that your YouTube link to “Called to the Collar” is broken.

    “This video has been removed by the user,” it says.

    • Crisiseditor

      Should work now. Thanks.

  • Lynette

    Very few Catholics want to sacrifice anymore, laity or priests. How many happily married, faithful and non-contracepting Catholic couples do you know? The rising din of voices who advocate for a non-celibate priesthood is just another symptom of a narcissistic culture. Pray and fast.

  • john

    My Name is Ms. Tracy Newton, I was married to my husband for 13 years and we were both bless with three children, living together as one love, until 2009 when things was no longer the way the was [when he lost his job]. But when he later gets a new job 6 months after, he stated sleeping outside our matrimonial home. Only for me to find out that he was having an affair with the lady that gave he the job. since that day, when i called him, he don’t longer pick up my calls and he nothing since to come out good. Yet my husbands just still keep on seeing the lady. Until I met a very good friend of my who was also having a similar problem, who introduced me to a very good love spell caster. But i told her that if it has to do with things that i am not interested, but she said that it has nothing to do with pay first. but the only thing he was ask to do was just to go and buy the items to cast the spell, and that was what she did. And she gave me the spell caster e-mail address and phone number. When i contacted him, i was so surprise when he said that if i have the faith that i will get my husband back in the nest three [3] day, and off which it was really so. but i was so shock that i did not pay any thing to Dr.obadam, but my husband was on his knells begging me and the children for forgiveness. This testimony is just the price i have to pay. This man obadam is good and he is the author of my happiness. His e-mail address obadamtemple

  • Objectivetruth

    One only needs to take a look at divorced or married Protestant Ministers to see an example of what a disaster a non celibate priesthood looks like. Frankly, most of them are part time. They can not dedicate themselves fully to their “ministery” because of the time consumption and stresses of having a wife and kids. Having to decide to go see a dieing member of their congregation in the hospital or attend their seven year old daughter’s dance recital means either decision has negative consequences.

    I don’t believe Lisa Ling is Catholic, but I watched her show on priestly celibacy and I think she did a pretty good and honest job of it.

  • Celibacy is a valuable path for clergy to choose, but it is by no means essential to the priesthood. There is nothing in the Church’s dogma that makes celibacy essential for priests.

  • knitwit

    I’m a fairly regular reader of Crisis and overall admirers of the Catholic faith. As a protestant I don’t really see the harm in priests marrying. I’ve never known a celibate minister though they surely exist; their family life doesn’t seem to diminish their ministry.
    I’m genuinely curious as to how this would harm today’s Catholic laity.