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Ethics & Religion
Col. #2,098
October 26, 2021
Catholic Priest Celibacy Should Be Optional
By Mike McManus

Catholic priests all take a vow of celibacy, a vow to remain chaste. However, there is cellphone data obtained by a conservative Catholic blog which shows priests at multiple levels of the Catholic hierarchy in both the United States and the Vatican using the gay hookup app Grindr.

The first report, published ln July led to the resignation of Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill,
the former general secretary of U.S. Catholic Bishops. Days later a second report, made claims about the use of Grindr in rectories of the Archdiocese of Newark. A third report, published days later, claimed that in 2018, at least 32 mobile devices emitted dating app signals from within areas of Vatican City that are off-limits to tourists.

"When there is reporting out there that claims to expose activity like this in parishes around the country and on Vatican grounds, that is a five-alarm fire for church officials, there is no doubt about it," said John Gehring, the Catholic program director a Faith in Public Life, a progressive advocacy group.

The reports have put church officials in an awkward position. Priests take a vow of celibacy that is not flexible. If a priest has a dating app on his phone, "That is asking for trouble," asserts Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark.

The only app explicitly named in the report is Grindr, which is used almost exclusively by gay and bisexual men. Only one of the reports directly links an app to a specific person, Monsignor Burrill.

The reports have raised a host of questions. How did The Pillar obtain the cellphone data? How did it analyze the data, which is commercially available in an anonymous form to identify individual app users? How widespread is the use of dating apps among Catholic priests, and how much has the Pillar been able to learn about specific individuals?

The editors of The Pillar, J.D. Flynn and Ed Condon, have refused to answer any of those questions. In a podcast, Mr. Flynn and Mr. Condon said their work was motivated by a desire to expose a secretive culture of wrongdoing within the church.

"Immoral and illicit sexual behavior on the part of clerics who are bound to celibacy but also on the part of other church leaders could lead to a broad sense of tolerance for any number of kinds of sexual sins," Mr. Flynn said on the podcast.

They said Newark was the only diocese they wrote about because it was once led by the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019 and charged last month with sexually assaulting a child in Massachusetts in 1974.

But their decision to investigate the use of a gay dating app in suburban New Jersey, instead of a city with a large gay population, has raised suspicions that their real goal may have been to undermine Cardinal Tobin, an ally of Pope Francis.

Mr. Flynn and Mr. Condon's former employer, the conservative Catholic News Agency, published a report the day before the first post on the Pillar, that it had been approached in 2018 by "a person interested in reforming the Catholic clergy."

That person offered them similar data and also provided specific information about a nationally prominent priest who was not Monsignor Burrill, the executive editor of the agency, Alejando Burmedez, said in an interview.

It is time to wipe this complicated slate clean. A Catholic priest should have the opportunity to marry a woman, as do Protestant clergy. That was one of the major reasons Catholic priests left their denomination to create the Lutheran Church, the United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church. Their marriages tend to be lifelong and satisfying.

It is time for the Catholic Church to change is celibacy rules.

_________________________

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

 

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