Celibacy leaving priests 'longing for relationships'
Tom Shiel CELIBACY is turning priests into "dried out prunes" emotionally who have nothing to look forward to except maybe getting a parish of their own.
The former head of the Knock Marriage Bureau, Fr Michael Keane, has said the rule was having a negative emotional impact on many priests in modern Ireland who are "totally lonely, longing for human relationships".
The 81-year-old clergyman, who earned the nickname 'Fr Cupid' after founding the Bureau nearly 40 years ago, claimed that some priests were involved in relationships with women anyway despite their commitment to celibacy.
This was unfair to the women involved as it was "taking up their time".
Fr Keane said he has a great deal of sympathy for priests who fall in love.
"They haven't done anything tremendously wrong except to fall in love. Some people regard them as traitors but I think that's unfair," Fr Keane said in an interview at his home in Claremorris, Co Mayo.
"Celibacy should not be compulsory. St Peter was married. It should be left to the priests themselves whether they want to get married or not.
"Deprived of relationships with females, some priests are becoming like dried out prunes emotionally as a result."
Fr Keane said many priests in Ireland nowadays are longing for relationships with members of the opposite sex.
"All they have to look forward to is maybe getting a parish sometime," said the priest. "That is no compensation for not having your own children and watching them growing up."
Imposed celibacy was unnatural and perhaps a factor in some child sex abuses in Ireland involving members of the clergy, Fr Keane suggested.
"I am not defending the priests who did this," he said, "but the Church's insistence that sex is a bad thing and is anti-Creator perhaps led some priests to believe that it is less grievous to have that kind of sex than having a full-blown relationship with a woman."
Fr Keane is no stranger to controversy, having been forbidden from saying Mass in the late 1970s while he was a curate in Templeogue, Dublin.
A disagreement with his superior over how the parish should be run led to Fr Keane being disciplined by the Archbishop of Dublin.
For 23 years, the Co Mayo-born priest was not permitted to say Mass in public, until a Jubilee Year reconciliation in 2000, when the Mayo-born priest was reinstated and had his Mass-saying faculties restored to him. Fr Keane has been a long standing and vocal member of BASIC, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, which campaigns and works for the ordination of women, and LEAVEN, a group that supports married priests.
He now says the way he was treated by the Church over the Templeogue situation was "outrageous." Fr Keane is now engaged in the process of writing a book about his experiences in the Church.