Diarmaid MacCulloch: On Forced Celibacy

Not everyone called to the priesthood is also called to celibacy, suggests Prof. MacCulloch in an op-ed for the Guardian.

He begins

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.

If One Priest Can Marry, Why Can’t They All?

The Catholic Church actually has quite a number of married priests.  They’ve all been married while outside the Church and then entered the Catholic Priesthood.  Sure, it’s rare, but it happens.  And it has happened again:

In a rare move that needed the pope’s approval, a Lutheran convert is being ordained as a Catholic priest in Germany and is being allowed to remain married to his wife — who has already become a nun.  The Cologne archdiocese said 61-year-old Harm Klueting is to be ordained as a Catholic priest Tuesday. Pope Benedict XVI gave him a special permission to remain married to his wife Edeltraut Klueting, who became a Catholic Carmelite nun in 2004. The couple has two grown children.  Klueting and his wife were both Lutherans when they married in 1977 and both converted to Catholicism several years ago.

If the Catholic Church admits to the priesthood men who are married, why doesn’t it allow its own priests to marry?  It really isn’t consistent and it makes no sense.

Rome, let your priests marry.  Since the Reformation you’ve been asked to.  It’s time.  It’s better, to borrow Paul’s phrase, ‘to marry than to burn’!