Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 6/7/2009 8:47 PM EDT

I met a remarkable priest this weekend. The topic turned quickly to the horrific events in Ireland in the recent past, and my clear belief that if priests could marry then there would be far less room for pedophiles and abnormal deviants.

He disagreed politely with me. He let me know that while he debated celibacy often in his mind, especially the loneliness it brings him, he, on balance, still favored it.

Then he told me about his day and I understood where he was coming from.

It had begun with a funeral mass for a dead newborn. I can only imagine where anyone finds the strength to help bereaved parents cope with such a horrific loss.

It was followed by a funeral for a much-beloved parishioner, Irish-born as it happened, who had passed away. He had to comfort yet another grieving family.

Following that was a wedding and the kind of gear shift that must have left his head spinning as he moved from darkness to light, from death to celebration, from family tears to cheers.

He looked at me after he had recounted this and said 'I poured all my emotion, my empathy, my love into those three events -- how could I have anything left for a wife and children?

He told me about a horrific event at the beginning of his career when a young child was savaged to death by a dog. He was the first person called to the scene. The boy died. He was not from a Catholic family, but the Lutheran pastor never came to visit the family that awful day. The priest found out later it was because the man's wife had just given birth to twins.

His point was that to dispense his duties and to give everything in the name of his church, he was better off not married with no responsibilities at home. That way, he could focus on the parishioners in trouble, the tragic death or the uplifting wedding, and perform the pastoral duty he was very clearly well-suited to do.

He is a good man and a good priest, and he spoke a lot of sense in his defense of celibacy. I still disagree with him, but he did show another side to this debate, for which I am grateful.

What do you think?