Priest group backs Daly's calls for end to celibacy


THE ASSOCIATION of Catholic Priests has supported calls by the former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly for a removal of the compulsory celibacy requirement where Catholic priests are concerned.

The association’s founder member Fr Brendan Hoban said yesterday: “It is one part of our platform. The vocations situation is one thing, but it is also important as an issue.

“In 10-15 years’ time it will be a drastic situation [where priest numbers are concerned] and there is no plan B.”

He said many Catholic priests were “mesmerised” by the Vatican’s recent creation of a new personal prelature for disaffected married Anglican clergy, now recognised as Catholic priests.

“They cannot understand how the rule can be ignored or disposed with in cases and yet not be acceptable generally,” he said. Writing in the July 2009 edition of Furrowmagazine, Fr Hoban forecast that priests “will have effectively disappeared in Ireland in two to three decades”.

In his memoir A Troubled See, which will be published this evening at the University of Ulster in Derry, Dr Daly writes that “something needs to be done and done urgently” about removing the compulsory celibacy requirement for Catholic priests.

The former bishop says he hopes “senior members of the clergy and laity make their views more forcefully known” on the matter, “views that are often expressed privately but seldom publicly”. He believes “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”.

In his book, Dr Daly is critical of how Irish bishops are selected, and says he is “very happy with the liturgy and language of the Mass as we now have it”.

He was “deeply disappointed” by an experience of celebration of the Mass in Latin some years ago, which he found “ lifeless and somewhat meaningless . . .”

He notes that “bishops who served in the dioceses of Ireland for the last 100 years have been largely drawn from a small elite group within the priesthood”.

He estimates that, in the 20th century, “more than 75 per cent of bishops were appointed from less than 20 per cent of the priests” and that these latter “were engaged” or “have spent most of their priestly lives engaged in full-time teaching (at second and/or third level)”.

He himself was the first bishop of Derry in the 20th century not to have been president of St Columb’s College there.

He and other bishops “who had served exclusively in parish ministry . . . were a tiny minority” among the Irish bishops.

He was bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1993. It is his impression “the powers-that-be in Rome had always considered . . . teaching and orthodoxy in teaching were primary, and that parish pastoral experience was secondary”.

He believes the type of education gained in parish ministry “cannot be replicated in an academic environment” and “would venture to suggest that the academic common room or dining room is, in most cases, at least a step removed from such mundane experiences”.

He believes “the virtual absence of pastorally experienced clergy in positions of authority in the Irish church” helped inhibit renewal promised by Vatican II.

“While much could be learned from a background in teaching or academic studies or senior positions in the Holy See or as major superiors in religious congregations”, it is his view that “there is also a great deal that can be learned in the university of the parish”, he said.

“There should be a preponderance of priests from parish pastoral backgrounds in the ranks of bishops,” he said, and more of these should be in the 35 to 50 age range.