One of Ireland’s best known clerics has criticized compulsory celibacy for all religious and questioned the very criteria that selected him as a bishop.
In a new book, former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly criticizes the church’s view on celibacy.
“I ask myself, more and more, why celibacy should be the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?” writes Bishop Daly.
“Why not prayerfulness, conviction in the faith, knowledge of the faith, ability to communicate in the modern age, honesty, integrity, humility, a commitment to social justice, a work ethic, respect for others, compassion and caring.”
In the book - A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop – he also doubts the need for priests to remain celibate.
“Surely many of these qualities are at least as important in a diocesan priest as celibacy - yet celibacy seems to be perceived as the predominant obligation, the sine qua non,” continues Bishop Daly.
“Celibacy is an obligation that has caused many wonderful potential candidates to turn away from a vocation, and other fine men to resign their priesthood at great loss to the church.
“If things continue as they are, a lot of parish communities will not have a priest in a few years’ time, and those that they have will be older, weary and greatly overworked.
“Something needs to be done and done urgently and I hope that senior members of the clergy and laity make their views more forcefully known, views that are often expressed privately but seldom publicly.”
Bishop Daly goes so far as to suggest the Catholic Church should encourage married men to consider the priesthood.
He adds: “There is certainly an important and enduring place for celibate priesthood. But I believe that there should also be a place in the modern Catholic Church for a married priesthood and for men who do not wish to commit themselves to celibacy.”
As for the selection of Irish bishops, he feels it would be a positive move on the Church’s behalf if more were drawn from among parish clergy.
“The powers in Rome always consider teaching and orthodoxy were primary and that parish pastoral experience was secondary.”
Bishop Daly’s printed memoirs are now available from bookshops and online retailers. He was the priest captured on TV worldwide during Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 leading civilians to safety with a white handkerchief.