US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Year of the Priest: Time to talk celibacy

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Out goes the Year of Paul, in comes the Year of the Priest. Perfect timing too. Priests in the U.S. especially have been demoralized by the sex abuse scandal; many have suffered pay and benefit cuts because of financial instability of many dioceses; and celibacy is once again in the spotlight because of the case of Alberto Cutie in Miami and Fernando Lugo, former bishop and now president of Paraguay who admitted to fathering at least two children while a bishop.

Rather than let this year be a rah-rah for the status quo, it ought to be an opportunity to study the condition of many priests: Too many are overworked, ministering well past retirement age. Many are lonely, and some struggle with food or alcohol dependence to cope. Almost all are overwhelmed by the demands of serving God's people--though the vast majority are still serving admirably despite the pressures.

The fact of the matter is, we have a numbers problem: Too many Cathoilcs, not enough priests--and that out-of-whack ratio is costing Catholicism big time, especially in Latin America and Africa, where Pentecostals and Evangelicals are eating our lunch.

The need to relax the discipline of mandatory clerical celibacy--among other reforms--is obvious to me. What's keeping us from taking that step?