Headlines > Survey reveals Irish priests split over celibacy

04 December 2014 | by Sarah Mac Donald

Survey reveals Irish priests split over celibacy

A new study on Irish priests’ views of celibacy and obedience has revealed a split in the attitudes of younger and older priests.

“Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity” a study based on research conducted by sociologist Dr John Weafer, a former seminarian who is now married, shows that older and middle-aged priests find it difficult to see any positive side to celibacy while younger priests regard it as key to their priesthood.

Dr Weafer’s study offers an insight into the lives of 33 Irish diocesan priests and former priests during the period 1960–2010. He told The Tablet that while most of the priests he interviewed lived celibate lives, not all did; and while some are enthusiastic about their priesthood, others have become disillusioned.

This new research shows that the majority of Irish priests are unhappy with mandatory celibacy. Those most enthusiastic about its retention are younger more conservative priests. Many of the priests were highly critical of the fact that sexuality was a taboo when they were training to be priests.

Separately, Bishop Kevin Doran has warned that any redefinition of marriage to include gay marriage is a mistake.

In an address in Roscommon on “Marriage and the Common Good”, the Bishop of Elphin said it was not just a case of adding “another kind of marriage” to what we already have; it was about the meaning of marriage.

However, the bishop said he recognised that same-sex couples who have lived together in a committed relationship for many years have serious concerns about what happens when one of them becomes seriously ill or dies.

“By all means, let the state provide for these rights,” he said but he added: “Let’s be clear, people have those rights because they are people, and not particularly because of their sexual orientation.”

Elsewhere, he underlined that the Church clearly teaches that people who are homosexual must always be treated with respect and condemns without reservation words or actions that are intended to injure, ridicule or undermine homosexual people.

Meanwhile the Irish Episcopal Conference on Wednesday issued a pastoral statement, “The Meaning of Marriage”, to set out the Church’s understanding of marriage in response to the Government’s proposal to extend marriage to same-sex couples, to be put to a referendum next year.

Speaking to media, Bishop Doran said redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships was a contradiction because marriage is of its nature a committed relationship between a man and a woman open to the transmission of life.

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