Greg Daly and Colm Fitzpatrick
Well-known homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said that celibacy has been essential to enabling him to work for Dublin’s poorest and most marginalised.
“From a practical point of view, being a Jesuit you’ve a freedom to work in a way that you wouldn’t be free to work if you had a family to look after and a wage to earn,” he told The Irish Catholic.
“So I’m free – I’m available 24/7, I can live in Ballymun, I don’t have to worry about the kids growing up and getting into negative peer pressure. Being a Jesuit gives me a freedom to work in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do if I wasn’t a Jesuit,” he added.
Fr McVerry described reaching out to people as “at the heart of my spirituality as a Jesuit”.
Noting that there are other valuable ways of doing social justice work, he said that “obviously if you have a family and you depend on income, you do that in a different way”.
The popular Jesuit’s comments came ahead of the posthumous publication of an article by the spiritual writer Fr Daniel O’Leary, in which he said that he had come to believe in his last days that that “compulsory celibacy is a kind of sin, an assault against God’s will and nature”.
In the article, published in The Tablet, Fr O’Leary he said “one of the fall-outs of mandatory celibate life is “the violence it does to a priest’s humanity, and the wounds that it leaves on his ministry”.
…but clerics should be able to choose
IC readers are split down the middle as to whether priestly celibacy should remain mandatory or become optional.
On the newspaper’s Facebook page, online users were asked: “Pope Francis said this week that he is personally opposed to allowing priests to get married, but he also signalled an openness to married priests in some exceptions. Referring to areas suffering shortages of priests, he said ‘some possibility’ exists for married clergy in ‘very far places’, adding that when there is a ‘pastoral necessity, the pastor should think of the faithful’. “What do you think? Should celibacy be made optional, particularly in areas where there are few priests, or should celibacy remain the norm for priests in the Western Church?”
Out of the 537 people who voted, 280 respondents said that priestly celibacy should be optional, narrowly outnumbering the 257 respondents who opted for celibacy remaining mandatory.
One commenter said: “Celibacy is already optional. Anyone who doesn’t want to be celibate can do something else, rather than become a priest.”