Opinion: The Catholic Church Needs Married Clergy

By Rolland Kidder
September 16, 2018

I am not a Catholic but I do have a post-college seminary degree. Going back to those “old” days, I recall having conversations with my Catholic counterparts who were also in seminary, who wanted to be married but could not under the celibacy rules of the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, nearly every day when I pick up the newspaper there is a story about sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. There are accompanying articles with apologies from Catholic leaders including the Pope. Catholic lay people are “turned off” by all of this and young people raised as Catholics find it a reason to leave the Church. Something significant has to change.

This is not to say that a married clergy is a total answer. I also read recently of the pastor of a Protestant Mega Church in the Cleveland area who is under investigation for being a pedophile. Sexual harassment is a human problem, not confined to any particular religious persuasion.

However, fewer priests are being recruited for the ministry because of the celibacy rule, and a celibate priesthood can also be a magnet for those who may have sexual aberrations in their own character. If you compound this with the authority of priests to administer Church sacraments, you can see how a person with these difficulties could become a real problem in a Church where the priesthood has such a prominent role in the lives of the faithful.

I believe that being a minister or priest is one of the toughest jobs in the world. You are dealing daily with the fallen, people with deep problems, families that are being pulled apart, yet in a community that needs love and healing. No better way to face these problems as a minister or priest than having a family of your own to provide moral and spiritual support. A person should not be denied the rite of ministry because they are married. Marriage brings them closer to the human side of life, to a better understanding of what other families are going through.

As I understand it, there is a “backdoor” way to be married and become a Roman Catholic priest. You can first get married and become an Anglican priest… and then transfer into the Roman Catholic Church. (The Anglican Church also holds to the view of “apostolic succession” where all priests have been ordained with the “laying on of hands” going back to Saint Peter.) But using such an arcane maneuver to address a church-wide problem is like trying to fix a large wound with a band aid.

There would be a great outcry from some in the Catholic Church if the rule on celibacy were changed. But, something deep and institution-changing is needed to insure the continued viability of the Roman Catholic Church in Christendom. It is time for married individuals to be ordained to the priesthood.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.


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