Martin: celibacy is not dogma and could be looked at
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the Catholic Church's requirement that its priests be celibate and renounce marriage is not a church dogma and it is an issue which could be looked at.
Speaking to the Irish Independent after a prayer service attended by more than 1,000 priests, nuns and brothers in Dublin to mark the opening of the church's special Year for Consecrated Life, the Archbishop of Dublin acknowledged "celibacy is a difficult and challenging thing".
But he added that most priests he knew "live their celibacy very faithfully with all the challenges that are there".
Asked about new research into Irish priests' views of celibacy in the book, 'Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity', Archbishop Martin said he was not aware of the book or its research.
However, he said: "I know what is going on with my priests. I know good priests and I know priests who struggle - I support all of them."
But he added: "I don't think if people fail that you abolish celibacy."
The research in Dr John Weafer's new book shows that the majority of Irish priests do not favour compulsory celibacy, though there was a difference between the ages on the issue.
Older and middle-aged priests found it difficult to see any positive side to celibacy, while younger priests regard it as key to their priesthood.
Four of the older priests ordained pre-Vatican II said they felt that mandatory celibacy had endured because it enabled church authorities to "crack the whip" over priests.
One parish priest, who was ordained in the 1970s, said: "Because of a Church law that is a 'kind of a deformity', [priests] now lack the support that other men receive from their wives and families. It is an unnecessarily lonely life."
According to the book, for the most part, none of the priests ordained in the 1970s and 1980s would have a serious problem if they or one of their colleagues did not live up to the ideal of celibacy, provided it did not lead to scandal. Failure to live a celibate life was "less serious than many other sins".
One priest said it only becomes serious if a child is conceived and a priest is responsible for a life.
Another parish priest who was ordained in the 1980s said he believed the celibacy rule was linked to property and control. "I have been moved five times in my life and if I had a wife, the bishop would not have had that freedom," he said.
He argued that a marriage within the priesthood would raise issues around accommodating spouses in the event of a priest's death.