Not everyone called to the priesthood is also called to celibacy, suggests Prof. MacCulloch in an op-ed for the Guardian.
Christians outside the Roman Catholic church, and very many inside, can see what a nonsense compulsory clerical celibacy is. Its effect is often malign, producing loneliness, alcoholism and, at worst, efforts at emotional compensation through irresponsible exercise of clerical power and unprincipled sexual activity. Critics say there is nothing wrong with celibacy as such; it’s a fine vocation. But to mix up the vocation of celibacy with that of priesthood, tying them unavoidably together, is a category mistake, and it’s time for the Church of Rome to sort it out. The Church of England and the rest of the Protestant world did this half a millennium ago, and the effects on Protestant Christianity have been unmistakably good.
And then he migrates from this general truth to a specific application concerning gay clerical celibacy.
Let Anglicans now just pause before patting themselves on the back too heartily, for the rectory drawing room houses a pachyderm. The Anglican communion has itself imposed compulsory celibacy on a large section of its clergy: those who recognise they are predominantly gay in sexual orientation. And surprise, surprise, many of the malign effects detectable in the celibate Catholic priesthood are equally detectable in this clergy group, plus often an equally malign problem: many gay clergy have conformed to peer pressure and entered a heterosexual marriage, thus endangering the happiness of not just one but at least two people and living out all sorts of lies alongside a ministry which is supposed to be characterised by truthfulness and integrity.
Do read the whole. Wherever you stand on the issue (and you probably know where I do), MacCulloch’s piece is provocative.