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Celibacy in church- local ministers speak out

Bishop Edward Daly has intervened in the debate over whether priests should be allowed to marry

On Bloody Sunday in 1972 Father Edward Daly faced down the Parachute Regiment responsible for shooting dead 13 unarmed Derry civilians, waving just a white handkerchief as he protected the wounded from the army’s bullets. Now 39 years later the retired Bishop of Derry is confronting an even more powerful force than the Paras: the Vatican.

Dr. Edward Daly, who was Bishop of Derry for 20 years, has become the first senior Irish Catholic cleric to call for an end to celibacy in the church.

The rule of celibacy among the Catholic priesthood is a long established tradition, dating to the Gregorian reforms in the 11th century. Some church commentators point out that because it represents a rule, rather than established church doctrine, it follows that the church is free to change that practice if it believes a change is necessary.

The former Bishop’s challenge to the celibacy rule seems to be largely motivated by pragmatic considerations. In his book ‘A Troubled See, Memoirs of a Derry Bishop,’ Daly says:

“There will always be a place in the church for a celibate priesthood, but there should also be a place for a married priesthood in the church.”

Many young men who once considered joining the priesthood turned away because of the rule, the 74-year-old cleric argues.

However, the continuing sexual abuse scandal, which has dogged the Catholic Church since the 1980’s, has also focused attention on the issue of celibacy in the priesthood.

The other development has been the welcoming into the Catholic church of traditionalist Anglicans, who have been unable to reconcile their faith with the ordination of women or the consecration of openly gay bishops. Many of these priests are already married.

Commenting on the retired Bishop’s remarks, Ellen Peguero, one of the pastors at the Church of God Chapel, Frank Sound. I would tend to agree with him and I would also say that it should be a personal choice and not a requirement of any religion, because Paul wrote; ‘If you can remain unmarried and be totally dedicated to the Lord then that would be great but if you’re going to burn in lust then it’s best to be married.’”

Minister of the Savannah United Church, Rev. Donovan Myers said:

“I don’t think personally that service to God and being married are exclusive but obviously the Roman Catholic Church has had a historical reason for this (rule)… I think that just like every other teaching or practice of the church, it has to be reevaluated to see if it is doing what it was intended to do.

“As I understand it the church uses the practice to ensure that the persons who are answering the call can give themselves totally to the church without the distractions of married life.”

When asked if Rev. Myers felt there were advantages to being a married minister, he answered:

“I agree there are advantages; and part of that is the support of the family, and I have personally found that to be very helpful.”

Rev Myers went on to say that he felt the role of celibate (or single) ministers and the role of married ministers should complement each other.

Pastor Alson Ebanks of the Church of God Chapel in George Town said:

“I recognise that Catholic and Protestant (church traditions) come from two different perspectives. In Protestantism the bible is used as the supreme authority whereas in the Catholic Church there two sources of authority, scripture and tradition, so that (in the Catholic church) tradition itself is seen as a source of authority.

Pastor Ebanks continued: “The power of tradition itself is behind the requirement of priesthood celibacy. There is no biblical grounds for it at all. In fact we find in scripture that Peter himself was married that is found in Paul’s writing, so there is no basis in scripture (for the celibacy rule)… I would suggest that whatever this bishop has brought forward is a good idea on many fronts. I think that it (celibacy) should be voluntary rather than mandated by the church

“I would agree (with him) on a pragmatic basis as well as a theological basis…because even though its not necessary for a counsellor to have all the experience of a counsellor, its still an advantage for a pastor or priest to understand the dynamics of marriage and family from personal experience.

“Furthermore I think it’s an anomaly within the Catholic Church to have one of the seven sacraments (held) as marriage, and yet deny your priests the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of that sacrament.”



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