The mandatory celibacy in the Catholic Church


A reflection on the consequences.

 Mandatory celibacy is an almost 1,000 year old law. It was a time when I would be burned at the stake for what I am writing today. This law is still present, but we don’t get burned anymore—yet we still get persecuted and hated for standing against it.
At last, I would like to shed some light on certain things that I feel are necessary to contemplate and question…

1. Some former Anglican priests, who as we know, are married priests—integrated the Catholic Church; concluding that for about 60 years, we find married priests serving side by side with celibate priests. Does it make sense for those former Anglican priests to have the right to have wives—while the Catholic priests have to abide by the law of mandatory celibacy? And would it be fair to say that these former Anglicans are an element of contradiction behind the reasons of that very same law?
2. Women experience guilt and shame when feeling in love, because of a law that they have been conditioned to believe in, unfortunately. They must accept secrecy—and this hiding sometimes exists with a priest’s child instead of getting to enjoy a normal family life. All this happens to avoid judgment, mistreatment, and persecution by some conservative followers and priests; as if the barriers of this law were not making them suffer enough!
3. There are some cases where priests were pressured to suggest abortion by a person in a place of authority or superiority. In consequence, the targeted priest would push the woman to go through with this procedure. Meanwhile, their teachings forbid it—and once a year the priests gather parishioners to stand in the streets to protest against abortion.
4. Children have been bullied by other kids, and even adults, for being born in such situations in the first place. They are often forgotten and denied by their own father, or forced only to hold the relationship with them behind closed doors. In turn, the priest’s kids experience a deprived childhood and struggle with being able to express themselves in many ways.
5. There are literally thousands of priests, women, and children fathered by priests that cannot be heard for some reason—and they all have a unique and heartbreaking story to tell. So, I am certain that I have yet to discover the many possible scenarios like this—where others experience the same injustice and suffering because of this law.

Honestly, is it fair? Is it worth enduring the pain, to follow this outdated man-made law, as if it were laid out as one of God’s commands? To the point where some parishioners and members of the clergy choose to act cruelly about it—just to show how faithful they are to their church, or to simply act out of ignorance and forget logic—is it worth it to destroy so many lives?
From the perspective of the conservative follower or priest, the only answer is that these people should not have fallen into such situations. But, this eludes one key point: you cannot control love.

Additionally, these women and their children are a part of society! The matter of celibacy is not only an internal matter. There are people outside the clergy who are impacted by it too. Therefore, the mandatory celibacy law should be not just a clerical issue but a social one. I believe that the law of celibacy (which will always be broken) shouldn’t be handled only by the conservative bishops inside a Catholic Church. I will dare to say that this action, overthrows a few articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I feel that these select few individuals should not have the right to have the ultimate power over such an important decision; they should not be solely responsible for deciding the fate of our children and our future generation. But enough fantasizing, I guess…
Unfortunately, I would not be surprised if during the 2018 synod they reject optional celibacy—just as they did in 1971 during the time of Pope Paul VI. The Pope did have an open mind then, but the conservative bishops could not reach an agreement and cast a 107 to 87 vote against it.
They turned down a legitimate call for the right of freedom of choice, even though the number of priests leaving priesthood was fast rising at the time. An estimated 8,200 left from the 434,500 existing priests from 1963 to 1969, as well as another 20,000 during the period of 1970 to 1975. The law of mandatory celibacy is not what causes the damage, but rather the people who created it, and the ones who keep it alive…

Now, Pope Francis is thinking of ordaining married men but there is no talk of allowing the priests back that left the priesthood to marry their lovers. Many of these are people that would love to serve their church again. How come? It would not cost anything because these priests have the training already.

The only explanation, from my logical perspective, is that there must be a hidden agenda behind these decisions. One thing is for sure—this whole matter lacks clarity and transparency. But again, it’s only my opinion.

I believe that Pope Francis is open-minded and a very good-hearted man. But, will he find the ability to open hearts and minds to the thought of allowing optional celibacy? Unfortunately, I doubt it will happen—but, nevertheless, we can only hope for the best!

Written by Louise Ouellet, May 10th, 2017