Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why the Catholic Church should not abolish celibacy for priests

Priests in the Catholic church have to make a vow of celibacy, a tradition that is currently under pressure because it is a serious hindrance to the recruitng of new priests. Indeed, such a vow implies a serious commitment that men are less willing to make compared to Malthusian times where population control was a matter of survival and being a priest was a good economic choice.

Men-Andri Benz, Reto Foellmi, Egon Franck and Urs Meister claim the Catholic Church should resist the calls for the end of celibacy. Their reasoning is again about commitment. It allows the Church to signal to its believers that its priests are more conservative, and this triggers more donations. While it reduces the pool of candidates for priesthood, the celibacy vow selects the right ones for the task of showing conservative values. All this, of course, assuming that conservative values will remain strong, at least among Church donors.


Agent Continuum said...

More cutesy stuff :-(

This looks rather sensitive to how you set it up. Also, the answer is not to the question of what outcome is (Pareto) efficient but rather what's best for the church (given some exogenous distribution of beliefs).

The priesthood in the Orthodox church (eastern Europe and such) is not celibate but that's not associated with any Protestant inroads.

Anonymous said...

I am a conservative Catholic and believe that the Church should allow the marriage of priests. The Church has been very weak in its teaching authority and function. If one were to look at the Protestant clergy they could see that has been their strong point, no doubt becuase of their ability to marry and develop into well rounded men, fathers and husbands. How can one instruction couples when one lacks the experience of marriage? The only reason celibacy was mandated by the Church was to keep Church property within the Church. A purely economic proposition.

Several years ago a local priest in my diocese was ordered to counseling when he was caught with a girl friend. He was counseled and temporarily suspended from his vocation for being a normal human being. I believe this would lessen the rate of alcoholism and other sexual problems within the priesthood if they were allowed to marry.

To suppress these forms of human nature is unnatural. I know several married men who left the priesthood because they wanted to marry. They would make excellent priest because marriage and family have made them well-rounded men. That is actually what the Church is lacking.

If the Church was to lift the vow of celibacy for priest you would see priest lining up at the altar in numbers unthought of that the average Catholic would have to wait much longer than they do now to exchange vows. Catholics can either continue to believe ( probably will) in the fantasy of Bing Crosby as pastor of Saint Francis or get a grip on reality by having priest stop living in the shadows of their true selves.

Danny L. McDaniel
Lafayette, Indiana

Graeme said...

There is a good reason for celibacy in signalling commitment. I am less convinced that it signals conservative vales because:

1) My experience is that priests (monks and nuns) are not necessarily particularly conservative compared to the catholic laity. It varies across countries, orders, and institutions.
2) The Catholic church is much less conservative thanmany protestant churches, especially small evangelical ones, which not not require celibacy of their ministers.

I actually think celibacy is a good idea (it has practical advantages: makes it easier to send priests to difficult or dangerous areas for example), but is too difficult in Western societies.

Anonymous said...

Every married man has been single at one time in their lives but the same cannot be said for a celibate priest. Great religious leaders from Saint Peter to Martin Luther King have been married. For the first 1,000 years of the Catholic Church priest were allowed to marry and many sects of the catholic CVhurch still allow married clergy. Celibacy, institutionalized, is stupid!