Priests Seen As Interested in Discussing Celibacy Issue
Most Wish for Review, National Survey Shows

By Jay Tokasz
Buffalo News [United States]
October 4, 2004

A national survey of 3,846 priests has found that more than two-thirds of them wish to discuss whether the Catholic church should end a centuries-old tradition of forbidding priests to marry.

The survey, which originated in the Diocese of Buffalo about a year ago, is the latest advocacy tool of two national groups calling for the end of the church's celibacy requirement for priests.

In all, priests in 53 dioceses were asked anonymously whether they favored "an open discussion" of the celibacy requirement.

The majority of priests who responded in most dioceses said yes to the question. In three dioceses - Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Philadelphia - the majority of priests responded that they did not want such a discussion.

The results from the Buffalo sampling were consistent with the overall national figures, with 66 percent of the 162 priests who responded saying they favored an open discussion.

While middle-aged and older priests overwhelmingly favored a review of celibacy, more than half of priests younger than 40 said they did not want to discuss the issue.

Call to Action, a national church reform organization, and FutureChurch, a Cleveland-based group, are using the survey results in a continuing campaign to have the U.S. bishops and the Vatican reconsider the celibacy rule.

"We think it bolsters our request for open discussion of mandatory celibacy," said Sister Christine Schenck, executive director of FutureChurch. "The data we have are very consistent with other data gathered by professional researchers."

Amherst residents James and Sally Orgren, organizers of Western New York Call to Action, came up with the idea of the survey and distributed it to local priests.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on the survey.

Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, Buffalo diocesan administrator, urged caution when interpreting the survey results, and he disputed the suggestion that the church refuses to talk about the celibacy discipline.

"I am open to this type of discussion. I would love to have a forum to let people know what celibacy means so they understand the tradition," Grosz said. "Celibacy has been of great value to the Catholic Church and society.

"Catholic priests, along with men and women religious who are celibate, have totally given themselves to their vocation. Celibacy is not imposed. Men and women who take a vow of celibacy do so freely."

Pope John Paul II has staunchly defended mandatory celibacy for priests, saying in 2003 that it "not only leads to human fulfillment of those who are called to embrace it, but proves to be a source of growth for others as well."


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