Friday, January 20, 2006

Celibacy debate opened (again)

Every time a priest is found to have abandoned his vow of celibacy the media begins the "we need married priests" chorus again. The argument is always the same, the Church is losing good men due to the celibacy commitment. Although I rarely have the feeling that too many of Ireland's journalists are overly committed to the Church, that doesn't seem to stop many of them from ensuring that only one viewpoint is presented during these "debates".

This week it was all about Fr. Maurice Dillane, who has left his parish to be with his 'girlfriend' and their new baby. The Irish Independent assures us that "there has been an understandable massive outpouring of public sympathy" for Fr. Dillane. This "outpouring" took place over the air waves, which, of course, does not mean that a majority of Catholics in Ireland are all that sympathetic to the 73 year old priest. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't, but radio phone-ins are not representative of anything.

"Many of the callers to those radio phone-ins said that priests should be allowed to marry, that the Church's strict rule of celibacy may have to be questioned".

How many of them are weekly Mass-goers who pay their share towards the up-keep of their local church and the salaries of the priests (and other Church employees)? And, how many of those would be willing to hand over a substantial chunk of change to fund the priests' families?

Oh yeah, there are consequences, but these are never mentioned when the papers/radio shows get into one of these frenzies. How will people feel when their priest separates/divorces? They'll have to pay up to meet his maintenance costs too. Consequences of ending the vow of celibacy - the great unmentionable.