Marital rights ‘would empower priests’

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Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s courageous call on the eve of the forthcoming papal conclave for an end to compulsory clerical celibacy in the Catholic Church claims that it has “caused upset among conservative Catholics’, quoting Patricia McKeever, the editor of Catholic Truth, in support of this view (your report, 23 February). But precisely how representative of contemporary Scottish Catholic opinion are Ms McKeever’s undeniably traditionalist views?

Since the end of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, the issue of the continuing relevance or otherwise of compulsory clerical celibacy has been a recurring theme in the writings of liberal Catholic theologians. It has been given added urgency both by the loss to the Church of the services of thousands of good priests who could not cope with the demands of the celibate life as well as by the ensuing worldwide shortage of vocations to the priesthood.

Moreover, in the aftermath of the recent spate of clerical sex abuse scandals, some have argued that the presence of a married clergy might at least have significantly reduced the incidence of such scandals.

Against this background, I very much doubt if too many Scottish Catholics – particularly among the younger generation – would bat an eyelid if the Church were to sanction the ordination of mature married men.

One last point. Before accusing Scotland’s cardinal of “hypocrisy” on this issue, I would suggest to Ms McKeever that she reflects on the hypocrisy of the Vatican itself, which on the one hand teaches us to recognise St Peter, a married man, as “the first pope”, while simultaneously denying the ordinary secular clergy in the 21st century – 2,000 years down the line – the human right to marry.


Clarence Drive


Once again, the battle lines are drawn: should Catholic priests marry or should they not? Cardinal Keith O’Brien wisely suggests that, if they so choose, they should. On the other hand, the traditionalists in the form of the Catholic Truth Society, amid cries of hypocrisy, see this is as a heresy and for no other obvious reason insist they should not.

The reason for celibacy has been regarded in many lights, including everything from emulating Christ based on the assertion (because an assertion it is) that he was not married, to the purely pragmatic reason that any dependents of a married priest would have no claim on Church assets. All this while there is no scriptural validation to prevent a priest being married.

The fact is that as social mores and societal values change, celibacy may well be perceived as counterproductive to maintaining a thriving priesthood in the Catholic Church. Any move to change this by permitting priests to marry should they choose, can do nothing but strengthen and empower the church.


Keith Street

Kincardine-on-Forth, Alloa

I AM increasingly amazed that the media in Scotland continue to give a voice to Cardinal O’Brien.

As well as being an irrelevance in a secular society, he appears to be somewhat confused. In his interview with the BBC, he states, in support of an end to compulsory celibacy for priests, that it is a “free world”.

This freedom clearly does not extend to gay couples, pregnant women, women who do not wish to get 
pregnant, victims of abusive priests, or the poor in the 
developing world who are often shackled by poverty 
and disease because the Church bans the use of contraception.


Pirn Road
Innerleithen, Scottish Borders