Monday, November 27, 2006

Celibacy is the source of priestly abuse


Having lived in New Mexico and Vermont for 20 years, until moving to Delaware recently, I see the pattern of sexual immorality among Catholic priests repeating itself, to the detriment of the church spiritually and even financially, as insurance companies increasingly refuse to bail out dioceses.

The requirement for priestly celibacy is a major source of the problem. There is no biblical requirement, or even a suggestion, for celibacy within the "clergy." In fact, New Testament standards for elders assume a married state, and evaluates a candidate according to how well his marriage is going and how he manages his children.

As a candidate for eldership in a local church, with 10 years of pulpit experience, I was thoroughly grilled recently by the elders on this area of my life. One advantage of this particular group is their concern for mutual accountability.

Furthermore, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that celibacy, while at times encouraged, did not become a requirement until around the 10th century, although there were monasteries composed of married couples in England and Ireland for another two centuries.

Second, God has clearly decreed that marriage is normal; "it is not good that the man should be alone." To impose an unnatural requirement on candidates for priesthood goes against God's clear will, demonstrated by the pattern for Old Testament Jewish eldership.

Yes, conservative, evangelical leaders fall into sexual sin; usually it is in the area of adultery, rather than pedophilia. And it is quickly weeded out when discovered. I can't think of a situation where the situation becomes systemic, without public removal from ministry and hopefully, permanent disqualification.

Bishops from the New England area were sending pedophile priests to a treatment center in Jemez Springs, NM. In order to keep those being treated busy, the decision was made to assign them to help in local parishes.

The resulting scandal and chaos virtually bankrupted the Santa Fe diocese, and created a backlash against the New England bishops' decisions

A Vermont case was further aggravated by exposure of a number of complaints of child abuse in the mid-1900s on the part of nuns teaching in the parochial schools in the Burlington area. Those helped drain the budget and patience of the diocese.

The Catholic Church is very concerned about the increasing shortage of priests and candidates for the priesthood.

Celibacy honestly makes no sense as a requirement (I acknowledge that some will choose to remain single; God bless them).

But why impose an unscriptural tradition and eliminate possibly a large number who would be happy to serve in the married state?

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