Saturday, May 09, 2009

The debate over celibacy

I've often wondered why Catholic priest and nuns were not allowed to marry. In my ignorance, I thought that celibacy reached back to the early days of Christianity and had some doctrinal foundation. I was wrong on both counts. They lost the right to marry in 1022 when Pope Benedict VIII banned marriages and mistresses. Later, Pope Innocent II voided all marriages and forced priests to divorce their wives. Requiring the clergy to be celibate was an economic response to the problem of children inheriting the property of the church.

When a priest takes a vow of celibacy, the vow, like many other aspects of a traditional church, has nothing to do with being a Christian and everything to do with politics. When a priest takes a vow, for that matter, when anyone takes a vow, the vow should be kept. Even if the vow is not what it seems. Keeping ones word is a vital social contract. One can always renounce a vow if the need arises.

Priests should be allowed to marry. I am not naive enough to think this will help reduce clergy sexual misconduct. I’ve seen plenty of evidence to suggest the position of pastor or priest is the most significant factor. I’m sure it has something to do with abuse of power and impulse control. Being married does not help the Baptists

On the other hand, if a priest keeps a girlfriend or is secretly married, he is a dishonest man. The only honorable things to do is leave the priesthood and continue life as a married man, or leave the girlfriend and continue life as a celibate priest. When a priest tries to make the argument that he should be able to keep his girlfriend and maintain the priesthood, he has no moral authority to make the request because his life is a lie.

father_alberto_cutie Rev. Alberto Cutié is living this situation now. Pictures of him in the embrace of a woman in a magazine recently. This situation is an embarrassment to the Catholic church because his supporters are vocal and visable. Yet Cutié faces the end of his career for violating his vows.

'Father Cutié made a promise of celibacy, and all priests are expected to fulfill that promise with the help of God,'' he said. ``Father Cutié's actions cannot be condoned despite the good works he has done as a priest.''

''Scandals such as this offer an occasion for the church on all levels to examine our consciences regarding the integrity of our commitments to the Lord and to his Church,'' he added.

The Pope is unlikely to allow priest to marry. There is a third option for Cutié. One that many of his fellow priests use. Keep the relationship a secret and continue to act as a priest. This would be more in keeping with his character and is conduct expected for Catholic priests.

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