Celibacy Has Largely "Broken down" – Dominican Leader

Catholic News
January 2, 2004

Priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic church has largely broken down in many parts of the world, Father Timothy Radcliffe, former master general of the Dominican Order, said on the BBC radio program, Analysis, on Sunday night.

Unfortunately the web link to a real audio copy of the program is presently broken but we have contacted the BBC to point this out. While The Guardian is no doubt reporting one of the most controversial statements made on the program, the other spokespeople advertised on the BBC website suggest that this program would offer a range of very interesting perspectives on the challenges facing the Church at the moment. The program was entitled “The Next Pope’s Agenda” and is described in this way on the BBC website:

The Catholic Church is the world's largest organisation with more than a billion members. It also uniquely has it's own seat at the United Nations.

On top of this truly global religion sits the Pope, an Absolute Monarch of the Catholic Church. But as Jean Paul II becomes frailer, what are the major challenges which lie ahead for his successor?

One of the great triumphs of Jean Paul II's pontificancy was the successful navigation of the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War in the last century.

What course should the next Pope charter as the world comes to terms with the realities of Christian states going to war with Muslim ones in this new century?

In the West, the Catholic Church has been rocked by paedophile scandals and is facing a sharp drop in the number of priests. Seminaries have closed all over Europe and North America; in the USA today there are more priests over the age of ninety than 90 under thirty.

What can the Church do to attract more men into the vocation? Some say that it's now time to relax the celibacy laws but what would this mean for the Church?

And as it looks to the future, how does a Church with such a massive worldwide membership govern itself? By a strong Papal dictats from the Vatican in Rome? Or should it de-centralise power and give local Bishops more of a real say about what it means to be a catholic today?

Contributors include:

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge

Margaret Scott, President of the Conference of Religious men and women in England and Wales

Father Richard John Neuhaus, Editor of the American magazine, First Things

Fr Timothy Radcliffe, Former Master General of the Dominican Order

Christine Schenk of Future Church

John Wilkins, Editor of the Tablet

John Allen, Vatican Correspondent of the American Catholic newspaper, National Catholic Reporter.


The Guardian

BBC – Analysis Program

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.