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Catholic paper: Is priestly celibacy tied to sex abuse?

John Geoghan
John Geoghan  

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The lead editorial in the official newspaper of the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese questions whether priests should continue to be celibate and if the priesthood should be reserved solely for men.

The Pilot newspaper, in its Friday edition, said the scandals involving sexual abuse of children by priests "have raised serious questions in the minds of the laity that simply will not disappear."

The editorial asks:

  • "Should celibacy continue to be a normative condition for the diocesan priesthood in the Western (Latin) Church?"
  • "If celibacy were optional, would there be fewer scandals of this nature in the priesthood?"
  • "Does priesthood, in fact, attract a disproportionate number of men with a homosexual orientation?"
  • "Why are a substantial number of Catholics not convinced that an all-male priesthood was intended by Christ and is unchangeable?"
  • The sex abuse issue has rocked Catholics in the United States. Boston Cardinal Bernard Law earlier this year admitted that a priest, the Rev. John Geoghan, had molested children for years but was kept on the job anyway, shuttled from parish to parish as more accusations were made against him.

    Since January, dozens of priests nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign, and priests' names have been turned over to prosecutors.

    "Before intelligent answers can be given," the editorial says, "we must realize that there is no panacea; that a married clergy presents its own distinctive problems and liabilities, and that more studies with concrete data will be necessary before an intelligent response can be made. Right now emotions are running too high."

    The editorial says American popular culture doesn't appreciate and understand "celibacy as an expression of love for the Lord and His kingdom."

    "Would a married clergy, in a culture in which there is a 50 percent divorce rate, be the answer? Data from Protestant and Orthodox churches might provide a helpful insight."

    Pope John Paul II has strongly supported priestly celibacy.


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