Dr. Marie-Paul Ross, a Canadian nun in the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, sexologist and founder/director of the Institut de Développement Intégral, is already making waves with her new book, Je voudrais vous parler d'amour... et de sexe ("I would like to talk to you about love...and sex", Michel Lafon, 2011), which is due to come out this week.
In her book, Dr. Ross alleges that 80% of priests and religious violate their celibacy vows at some point in their lives. She argues that many priests suffer because they really are not able to live their celibacy requirement well.
While she roundly condemns pedophilia and suggests that the celibacy requirement should be lifted, Dr. Ross doesn't consider allowing priests to marry to be the answer to pedophilia. "With all these people in sexual distress who can't fulfill their celibacy requirement, it destroys the message," she says. "The Church should hurry up and give diocesan priests the freedom to choose between married life and celibacy." But she adds: "A pedophile priest would make a bad husband and a worse father. For one simple reason: he is sick and dangerous person who must be treated."
Dr. Ross's book also contains eyewitness accounts of sexual activity between priests and nuns and instances she has learned through her practice of nuns who have been raped by priests.
The Quebec Catholic Bishops Conference has already responded to Dr. Ross's allegations, saying that, rather than indicating a need to lift the celibacy requirement, they reflect a need for a better selection process for candidates for the priesthood. "There are priests who are not in the place that's right for them just as there are fathers and mothers who never should have had children," says Mr. Germain Tremblay, assistant to the secretary-general of the bishops' conference. "We must modify our approach. Perhaps one of the mistakes has been to call men to the priesthood and then teach them to be celibate and chaste, while the opposite should have been done instead." He acknowledged that such an approach would probably yield even fewer vocations than the current one.
In a separate interview, Dr. Ross said that she feels that a lot of the problems have come from the fact that the Church has historically not adequately prepared priests and nuns for celibacy. She said that consecrated religious were simply told to "be careful" without any instruction in how to deal with sexual impulses. She said that the resulting tensions have led to depression, suicidal urges, and sexual deviance, among other behavioral issues.
Dr. Ross knows that her book, with an initial printing of 6,000 copies and plans already in place for more, will cause a major uproar. She has met with her provincial superiors to discuss the controversial topics in her book and says that she has their full support. "They agree with me that it's time for this hypocrisy to stop," she says.