Many Priests Favor Celibacy Discussion
More Than Half of Priests Polled in the Dubuque Archdiocese Want Open Dialogue

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register [Des Moines IA]
January 17, 2004

Most priests surveyed in the Archdiocese of Dubuque favor an open discussion of the Catholic celibacy rule, according to a recent survey.

Call to Action, a Catholic group favoring reforms such as ordination of women and more consultation with lay people in church decision-making, is promoting a campaign to push optional celibacy as a way of addressing the priest shortage.

Central Iowa Call to Action mailed the survey asking, "Do you favor an open discussion of the mandatory celibacy rule for diocesan priests?" to 222 active and retired priests in the Dubuque archdiocese.

One hundred and two priests answered questions on the survey. Among those, about 56 percent said they favor a discussion of celibacy rules, while 39 percent rejected the idea and 4 percent were undecided.

"We can't conclude that all these priests favor optional celibacy, but I think it's very eye-opening that a majority of priests in our archdiocese, including two-thirds of priests aged 50 and older, are ready to openly discuss whether mandatory celibacy is good for the Catholic priesthood and the church," said Linda White, president of Central Iowa Call to Action. "I hope our leaders will hear the desires of the priests and honestly explore whether priests might marry."

Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus and the Rev. Msgr. James O. Barta, diocese vicar general, were unavailable for comment Friday.

The Dubuque archdiocese has 199 parishes, 24 of which have pastoral administrators - laypersons, deacons or sisters - instead of assigned priests. Nationally, the number of parishes without a resident priest jumped from 702 in 1975 to 3,040 in 2003.

The Catholic Church has required clergy to be celibate since the 12th century. Since 1980, married Anglican, Episcopal and Lutheran pastors who convert to Catholicism can also serve as priests

Seventy percent of Catholic laity polled in 2001 said they approved of ordaining married men and find services led by laity unsatisfactory, according to a survey by Catholic University sociologist William D'Antonio.


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