Clerical celibacy and the Catholic Church

Sir, – In your editorial (August 25th) on the ongoing shortage of priests in Ireland and across the western world, you suggest that abandoning clerical celibacy would somehow result in a permanent solution to the current crisis. This is, in my opinion, a false hope based on the idea that the more liberal or lax a religion becomes the more appealing it becomes to a liberal culture.

Across the western world, it is the liberalised churches that are facing extinction, while their conservative counterparts grow from strength to strength.

The Church of England embarked on a process of steady liberalisation from the 1930s onward, culminating in women bishops and gay clergy. Yet, despite a married and liberal clergy, the Church of England is on the verge of complete annihilation. If the present trends continue, the Church of England will be a historical remnant in just 20 years. On the other hand, conservative churches have been growing steadily in the same period, not merely in the UK but also across the world.

In the 1960s the Catholic Church embarked on a similar programme of modernisation with Vatican II. It almost immediately went into a period of severe decline across the Catholic world, although the cultural and political peculiarities of Ireland delayed that effect in Ireland until the diabolical corruption of the church became apparent here.


In the same period, the reactionary factions of the Catholic Church, orders such as the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), have been growing at a steady rate. Indeed, it has no shortage of vocations, even here in Ireland. This is not to mention all the other orders that also enjoy ample vocations despite their highly conservative outlook.

It would appear that the future of the Catholic Church is not a liberal one. With the growing proportion of priests coming from highly traditionalist standpoints in the western world and the growing influence of clergy from the developing world (who are nearly always conservative), the future church will probably be a very conservative one, even more so than it is today.

With this in mind, the liberalising outlook of today’s Vatican and Pope Francis is not a new departure, but the swan song of a philosophy that will inevitably fade away in the decades to come. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Your editorial on celibacy in the Catholic Church states that “it ought to be possible, with a will, for the Catholic Church to revert to a married clergy again without trauma”.

Well, the Catholic Church has already done so – albeit in limited circumstances.

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, facilitates the ordination of dissident Anglican clergymen to the Catholic priesthood, and being married is no obstacle to their ordination and subsequent ministry in the Catholic Church.

Where there is a will, there is indeed a way. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.