By Fr Dwight Longnecker
I can speak from experience. I was a celibate Anglican priest for seven years. Then I got married. I was a married Anglican priest for three years. Then we joined the Catholic church. I was in the married state as a layman for ten years. Now I am a married Catholic priest and have been for six years.
This week the question of mandatory celibacy for Catholic priests is in the news again. The question is a real one–especially in light of the most recent scandal involving Cardinal O’Brien of Scotland. One of the most vociferous voices opposed to same sex marriage, it turns out that he had a few homosexual adventures of his own in his younger years. Repeatedly we have heard rumors and whisperings of the sexual crimes and misdemeanors of clergy who have taken a vow of celibacy and then fallen off the chastity wagon.
Is celibacy the problem? Would the sexual scandals be solved if priests were allowed to marry? We have to stop, take a deep breath and think it through with common sense. First of all, celibacy in and of itself doesn’t necessarily cause a person to run out and commit a sexual crime. One only has to check out sexual offenders. Many of them are married men, some are sexually promiscuous, some are using prostitutes. Sex crimes are more likely to be committed by the sexually active than they are by the celibate. Therefore, we can conclude that celibacy (not being engaged in sexual relations with anyone) is not the cause of sexual crimes and misbehaviors.
In addition to this argument is the fact that a huge number of men and women, for many different reasons, are sexually inactive. It is not just celibate Catholic priests who are not having sexual relations on a regular basis. Many single people are not involved in sexual activity. Many older people are not involved in sexual activity. Members of certain professions which involve solitude or separation from their spouse are not involved in sexual activity. These other people who are not sexually active are not immediately and insatiably involved in sex crimes. Therefore we can conclude that celibacy in and of itself does not cause sexual crimes and misdemeanors.
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