Former Derry bishop criticises compulsory celibacy for priests


COMPULSORY CELIBACY for the Catholic priesthood and criteria employed in selecting bishops are criticised in a new book by former bishop of Derry Edward Daly, published today.

“I ask myself, more and more, why celibacy should be the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?

“Why not prayerfulness, conviction in the faith, knowledge of the faith, ability to communicate in the modern age, honesty, integrity, humility, a commitment to social justice, a work ethic, respect for others, compassion and caring”, he asks in A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop.

“Surely many of these qualities are at least as important in a diocesan priest as celibacy – yet celibacy seems to be perceived as the predominant obligation, the sine qua non,” he continued. Celibacy was “an obligation that has caused many wonderful potential candidates to turn away from a vocation, and other fine men to resign their priesthood at great loss to the church,” he says.

“If things continue as they are, a lot of parish communities will not have a priest in a few years’ time, and those that they have will be older, weary and greatly overworked,” he said. “Something needs to be done and done urgently and I hope that senior members of the clergy and laity make their views more forcefully known, views that are often expressed privately but seldom publicly.”

He added that “there is certainly an important and enduring place for celibate priesthood. But I believe that there should also be a place in the modern Catholic Church for a married priesthood and for men who do not wish to commit themselves to celibacy.”

He felt that if more Irish bishops were drawn from among parish clergy it would be “a positive development”. He also felt the powers in Rome always considered “teaching and orthodoxy were primary and that parish pastoral experience was secondary”.