Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Irish ask: "Should priests be allowed marry and raise a family?"

Carlow People
Wednesday September 12 2007

Twenty years ago, the Parish Priest was the backbone of every Catholic parish in Ireland. His position of power made him a figure to be revered and respected.

But the Emerald Isle in the late 20th century had a rapidly changing society, one that would change even further when the foundations of the Catholic Church were shaken by an onslaught of scandal.

Revelations that two darlings of the people, Bishop Eamonn Casey and Fr. Michael Cleary, both had relationships with women and both fathered children furthered damaged the people's faith in the Catholic institution.

This issue of whether priests should adhere to their vows of celibacy was re-ignited last week with the showing of RTE 1's programme, At Home With The Clearys', which showed footage of Fr. Cleary's bizarre home life.

So, should priests adhere to their vows as they're supposed to? Or should they be allowed to marry and raise a family?

Olivia Jenkinson points out that marriage and family life wouldn't take away from a priest's duties to his parishioners.

There are plenty of men out there who have good faith, who could get married and still be a good priest,' she reasons. It's human nature, men are men. Look at the 12 apostles, they were married. Eventually it'll be that women will have to be the priests.'

Eileen O'Leary was upset by RTE's programme about Fr. Michael Cleary. To her, he was a man who wanted everything.'

I was sick looking at that programme,' she told the Carlow People. I think it's awful that he didn't recognise his son, Ross.'

Eighteen-year-old, Thomas Hickey, is of an age where he has only ever seen scandal in the Catholic Church.

The church needs to reform itself to attract the younger people,' he says. if it modernised itself and allowed priests to be married, they'd get a lot more respect.'

The notion of celebacy for Tina Fennelly in the first place isn't natural' and she, too, thinks that marriage could only add to a priest's life.

A priest's job is like any other,' Tina says. A good settled background would only add to it.'

Raymond Mahon is a father himself and he argues that if priests were allowed to marry, the church wouldn't be in the crisis that it's in now about falling numbers of vacations.

If they were allowed to marry, we'd have a lot more priests here in Ireland,' he speculates. The way it is now is that if a priest wants a relationship, then he has to leave the church. That puts a lot of pressure on them.'

Not allowing priests to get married causes more problems than if they were allowed to have sexual relationships, according to Jenny Sheil.

It just creates problems if they don't marry,' Jenny explains. Any trouble in the past, like (sexual) abuse, has stemmed from the current situation where they're not allowed to marry. It's just too old fashioned. A priest should be allowed to have a private life.'

The final word on the subject goes back to Thomas Hickey.

Raising a family is one of the most God-given things in the world to do,' he concludes. I don't see why priests should be denied that.'

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