Priests should be celibate regardless of sexual orientation - Archbishop

Church found it hard to resist inequality arguments in same-sex vote - Eamon Martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin talks about referring alleged child abuse cases in a recent interview with Irish TV. He also talks about the recent marriage referendum and his relationships before being a priest. Video: Irish TV


All priests are called to be celibate whether their orientation is heterosexual or homosexual, Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has stated.

The primate also said it was difficult for the Catholic Church to resist the “tsunami” of arguments that voting no in the same-sex marriage referendum was voting for inequality.

The Archbishop made his comments in an Irish TV interview with journalist Eamonn Mallie to be broadcast on Sunday night.

The interview also touches on subjects such as celibacy, same-sex marriage, clerical child sex abuse, women priests and whether the Archbishop would have liked to have had children.

Asked had he had any relationship with a “young woman or with anybody” prior to becoming a priest, the Archbishop said: “Yes, of course.”

He also said he had considered “should I leave [the priesthood] and get married to this person . . . I have had that”.

‘Something beautiful’

“It’s been something beautiful in my life, but you have to be truthful as well to your commitment and to who you are.

“That can be sometimes difficult and that means making a sacrifice.

“Those real emotions, feelings, relationships occur for priests in the same way as they occur for any other person,” he said.

Mr Mallie asked whether the Archbishop had ever been tempted to spend a night with a woman, to which he replied: “Of course.”

“Any man can be tempted but all of us, whether we be married, whether we be single, whether we be priests, we have our moral code,” he said.

He said that people had to have “boundaries” in this regard.

Mr Mallie also asked the Archbishop whether he would have liked to have had children.

“When I see my brothers and sisters with their children and their families, that does make me sometimes wonder, ‘God, I’d love to have my own children,’” Archbishop Martin said.

“But I have made this promise and in some ways it opens up for me the possibility of fatherhood and parenthood in a different way.”

Same-sex marriage

Speaking on the same-sex marriage referendum, the Archbishop said the church had tried, in a quiet and positive way, to argue that marriage was “between a man and a woman” and “open to children”.

“I think a lot of people voted yes because they were told this was a question of equality; if you don’t vote yes you are voting for inequality. Essentially, it was nearly impossible to speak against this tsunami.

“One of the points that we made at the time was, will we be allowed to say that we believe marriage is between a man and a woman anymore? Will we be free? Will I be free to stand up in public and say marriage is between a man and a woman?”

In relation to sexuality in general, he said, “I imagine there are priests who have homosexual tendencies in the same way that many priests have heterosexual tendencies.

“But all of us are called to be celibate, and called to live lives worthy of our vocation. We may not always do that, we are weak, we are sinners, we make mistakes.

“But I think it is very possible for someone to live life as a priest independent of whatever their sexual orientation may be.”

Role of women

On the subject of women priests, the Archbishop said that Pope Francis had “definitively” stated that, “at this time”, women could not be ordained to the priesthood.

However, Archbishop Martin said it was important that women were given “significant roles” in the church.

“It is up to me as a bishop to ensure that in all the major decisions that I am taking that the voice of women is being heard and being listened to,” he said.

In relation to clerical child sex abuse, he said that all cases were referred to the statutory authorities when there was any suggestion of a child being at risk.

He said that since he was installed as primate in September last year he had dealt with “three or four” such cases, all of which were referred to the statutory authorities. So far none of these cases has been further processed by the authorities.*

Archbishop Martin also said that he held with current church teaching that, sacramentally, it was not “possible for divorced people to be married in church”.

However, he said he was happy to marry couples who had children prior to marriage.

“The Catholic church has a very clear understanding that the fullness of sexual expression is within a committed married relationship between a man and a woman.

“That does not mean that we are not aware that many people are caught up in the culture of this time.

“I would believe that it is not good for our society that we become so permissive, that the very precious and sacred, as I would see it, full sexual expression is treated in such a trivial manner in many ways by society . . . I don’t think it is good for young people.”

Eamonn Mallie Meets is on Irish TV at 10pm on Sunday, November 11th.

*This story was amended on Saturday, November 7th, 2015 to correct an error