Leading Irish cleric calls for review of celibacy rule

 A prominent Irish priest has said it would do a 'great disservice' to the church if 'a blind eye' were to be turned to the problems posed by compulsory celibacy. Fr Gerard Moloney, who edits the Redemptorist monthly 'Reality' said the scandals convulsing the Church had prompted some, including leading bishops to wonder whether compulsory celibacy should be reviewed. "To ask questions about celibacy is not to suggest a link between celibacy and sexual abuse not is it to deny that celibacy is, for countless clergy, a wonderful and treasured gift" writes Fr Moloney in the editorial in the magazine's latest issue. "It is simply to recognise that we cannot address the problems facing the church without confronting the problems posed by compulsory celibacy". Fr Moloney went on to cite three reasons why the Church should be free to discuss the matter. Firstly, he said the link between celibacy and clericalism was "not only unhealthy but had been a major factor in the failure of the church authorities to address the problems of clerical sexual abuse". "To be a priest is to be an member of an exclusive club, a privileged, all-male, hierarchical, celibate caste by its nature, is secretive and authoritarian. The instinct is to protect the interests of the club even at the expense of those who have been abused by its members". To remove compulsory celibacy would "puncture a hole in the system to create more open healthy and accountable church" Fr Moloney argued. "Second is the decline in the number of clergy. More and more Catholics are being denied the opportunity of Sunday Mass because there are not enough priests to go around. The man-made law of celibacy is taking precedence over the Church's obligations to provide enough pastors for its people". "Removing compulsory celibacy would not magically solve the crisis but would remove a serious obstacle that prevents many from giving the priesthood more serious thought." Fr Moloney said it would also allow many of the 100,000 priests who left active ministry since Vatican II to return. The third consideration favouring the removal of the celibacy rule was the pressure some seminaries might feel under to accept candidates for the priesthood" who are simply not suitable" resulting in a lowering of standards, which will give rise to more problems in the future". "There is the additional and sensitive problem of an increasing percentage of homosexual clergy. There is nothing wrong with homosexuals becoming priests but the fact that there is a disproportionate number of homosexually oriented priests is deterring significant numbers of men from considering the priesthood seriously It is also creating an imbalance in the priesthood that is out of sync with the population at large".