By AMANDA GREENE
Religion News Wilmington
Last week’s revelation that Los Angeles Catholic Bishop Gabino Zavala resigned after fathering two children in secret brought back an age-old debate – should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?
We asked our Religion News Wilmington contributors to weigh in on this issue. They had a lot to say, and I’m sure you will, too, after you read their thoughts.
“As a married Catholic woman, my response to scandals that occur within the church is not to leave my Catholic faith. . . It makes me sad to hear of priests’ struggles, like it makes me sad to hear how anyone struggles with temptations in this world. This is why our family continues to pray for our priests and religious (vocations) and pray for more holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We are reminded too many times of priests breaking their vow of celibacy, which is a reminder to our family to get down on our knees and pray for all those who struggle with the vocation they have been called to live.”
Fran Salone-Pelletier, religion columnist for Brunswick Beacon
“I am married to a Roman Catholic priest who has not given up his priesthood. He can’t because, once ordained, the man (unfortunately the law prevents women to be so ordained) is a priest forever. . .The problem/challenge lies in the fact that celibacy is mandatory. I submit that optional celibacy would clarify matters considerably. The option would automatically screen out those candidates whose celibacy is artificial and incomplete. It would afford the church the additional charisma of a wife’s viewpoint or a family’s viewpoint.”
“Beyond outdated historical tradition, the command to celibacy simply and harmfully serves to attack the most basic functions of the human condition. Our key natural drive is to procreate, and this creates undeniable natural need to fulfill sexual desire. Of course, each of us should, in fact must, have the right and wisdom to exercise restraint as to their own choice of action, but to impose a policy of compulsory abstinence is simply to deny basic natural law.”
“In every major religion there are monks and nuns, people who renounce worldly life to pursue mystic union with the sacred. In almost all of these traditions celibacy is something that is a natural consequence of this lifestyle, for whatever reason. Buddhists make it a ‘precept’ and several denominations of Buddhism require strict celibacy that even encompasses not looking at the opposite sex. In Hinduism, there is brahmacharya, which is celibacy. Catholicism shouldn’t be exempt from this tradition, and in fact it isn’t.
Some people say that celibacy is not ‘natural.’ However, it is natural, or it wouldn’t have arisen within these traditions. It is not normal, but neither is extreme athleticism or extreme brilliance. Just as a Michael Jordan, who excels in athletics, and Albert Einstein and Marilyn Vos Savant (possessor of the highest IQ) who excel in brilliance, are not normal, so are holy people who choose to belong to the ancient tradition of celibacy.”
“Many other priests and nuns I’ve talked to over the years declare they are celibate so they can serve God with no distractions. And yet sex is a basic human drive, and avoiding it can in itself be a distraction. Seeking to have a partner and a family is normal for all of us, and as a result there are many other priests and bishops who have chosen the course that Bishop Zavala did. How sad to have to live a lie. I would challenge the assumption that my love is divided (as a married man). Loving a spouse or partner and family in no way limits loving God. On the contrary, the one can be an expression of the other.”
“I’ve never really understood how priests can counsel married couples if they have no experience with relationships or marriage. It seems they are boxed into a very artificial existence in which they have to suppress the very natural and – I believe – God-given urges to love, bond, couple and grow old with another person. . . I’m not saying that everyone who takes a vow of celibacy can’t live happily under such a condition. But it’s very unnatural and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that we’re finding stories of secret marriages, molestation and other evidence of what happens when people are forced to deny themselves love and sexuality in the name of religious service.”
“Intended to transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy, celibacy is observed by many world faiths as a path to enlightenment. Communities of monks and nuns are supported in their vows by the very structure of the convent life in Buddhism, Hinduism and Catholicism. Problems arise when a priest, with no support from such a community, is required to engage in secular life outside a convent’s wall, residing year-round in an isolated dwelling near the church.”
What do you think?
Amanda Greene: Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com