Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Debate Over Celibacy

I heard a story on the radio a few days ago that should be of great concern to practicing Catholics everywhere.

It seems that there is a growing shortage of priests, in Europe and in other industrialized nations, one that could spell long-term trouble for the Church.

The primary reason for this shortage is simple enough and can be summed up in one word: Celibacy.

The celibacy requirement for Catholic clergy is one of the primary things that drives young men away from a life of service, and keeps older married men who feel a calling later in life away from service as well. It is difficult in this day and age for any man (or woman, for that matter) to willingly agree to forgo one of the most basic human biological needs, for life. To willingly agree to never engage in one of the most joyful and intimate interactions between two human beings. To never boink anyone ever again, in other (and much more simpler) words.

This is a requirement that goes against all possible logic. In nearly every other major organized religion (and many that aren't quite so major), not only are the spiritual leaders of those faiths allowed to marry and produce offspring, they are encouraged to do so. It is, after all, perhaps the best way to guarantee the continuation of that faith.

I don't pretend to know all that much about Catholicism (I don't spend a lot of time studying something I don't believe in). But I know many of the Celibacy arguments. Jesus was celibate (Dan Brown books notwithstanding) so the Church believes the leaders of the faith should do the same. And a priest without a family to worry about can devote his time to tending to his flock. And while most churches are willing to support their leader, few want to pay to support his family too.

But those arguments simply don't hold up in this day and age. Nearly every pastor in every church I have ever belonged to was a devoted family man, and I think it made them better for it. And while it is hard for most small parishes to support even a single clergyman, there is no law in this day and age that prevents a woman from getting a job.

And of course there's the ugly truth: sexual repression can lead to perversion. One need look only at the decades of scandals that have reverberated throughout the Catholic Church to see that.

I do not see the celibacy rule being canceled, or even modified, under the current Papacy, or any of the other requirements for clergy. But the simple truth is this: The Church has got to start changing with the times. Otherwise, it is going to see its numbers--and its influence--dwindle more and more with each passing year.

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