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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,086
August 5, 2021
The Need to End Catholic Priest Celibacy
By Mike McManus

Former Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been criminally charged with sexually molesting a 16-year-old in the 1970s. Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a church investigation found that he had repeatedly sexually abused minors and adult seminarians.

The criminal complaint filed by Wellesley, MA police alleges he assaulted the brother of the groom in a wedding in June, 1974. The victim told police McCarrick assaulted him on other occasions over a period of years.

Mitchell Garabedian, the man's attorney, told the Boston Globe, "This is the first cardinal in the United States ever charged criminally for a sexual offense against a minor."

Sadly, however, this is not a rare example of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. In 2019 the number of clergy sex abuse of minors cases more than quadrupled compared to the average in the previous four years. A report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops cited 4,434 allegations of clergy sex abuse against minors in 2019.

The number was 1,451 in 2018, 693 in 2017, 1,318 in 2016 and 903 in 2015. Heavens, that's nearly 7,500 cases in only five years!

It is time for the Catholic Church to end mandatory priestly celibacy. By requiring celibacy, the Catholic Church is unwittingly attracting pedophiles to be ordained as Catholic priests!

It is time for a new day for Catholics.

Catholic priests should have the option to marry that has been denied for 1,000 years.

Catholics tend to forget that Peter was married, as were most of the apostles chosen by Jesus. In the year 385, Pope Siricus left his wife to become pope. In the 7th century, most priests were married. In 1074 Pope Gregory VII said anyone to be ordained must first pledge celibacy. However, in the 15th century half the priests were married.

In 1545-63 the Council of Trent stated that celibacy and virginity are superior to marriage and made priestly celibacy mandatory. That decision sparked the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther made the marriage of clergy legal as he created the Lutheran Church. Similarly, the organizers of Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations took the same stand. The result is that most Christians in America today are Protestant.

Furthermore, there are virtually no cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors among Protestant clergy.

The Catholic Church is paying a high price for its priests ravishing children. Last year the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese in Los Angeles settled its clergy sex abuse cases for at least $660 million, according to the Associated Press. That's the largest payout for any diocese. Each victim of priest abuse was paid between $1.2 million and $1.3 million.

The settlements push the total amount paid by the U.S. church since 1950 to more than $2 billion, with about a quarter of that coming from Los Angeles. The largest payout in the past was in 2004 when the Diocese of Orange, CA paid $100 million.

The vast majority of priests who were credibly accused - were never criminally prosecuted for their abuse.

Furthermore, 1,700 Catholic clergy who were credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little or no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the church abuse scandal surfaced.

These priests, monks and deacons now teach middle school math and other subjects, work as nurses and serve as volunteers at nonprofits who help at risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and daycare centers. They care for children.

And since they were forced to leave their ministry as priests, dozens have committed crimes including sexual assault and possession of child pornography, according to reports by the AP.

A recent push by Catholic dioceses across the nation to publish the names of those it considers to be credibly accused has opened a window into the daunting problem of how to monitor and track former priests who were never criminally charged, and, in many cases, were removed from, or left the church to live as private citizens.

Dioceses and religious orders so far have shared the names of more than 5,100 clergy members, with more than three-fourths of the names released just in the last two years. The AP researched the nearly 2,000 who remain alive to determine where they have lived and worked - the largest scale review to date.

The AP found that 1,700 were largely unsupervised, with the remainder under some supervision that ranged from prison or oversight by church programs.

There is one bit of good news. Pope Francis has said he is open to the ordaining of married men. He could declare a new day of hope for the church.

Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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