Church will not take bishop’s celibacy remarks ‘too kindly’

THE ASSOCIATION of Catholic Priests (ACP) has said the Vatican “won’t take too kindly” to calls from the former Bishop of Derry to end clerical celibacy.

A bishop for 20 years, 77-year-old Dr Daly raised the issue in a book about his life, A Troubled See.

“I ask myself, more and more, why celibacy should be the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?” wrote Dr 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.”

The ACP also said that Dr Edward Daly is just one of several Irish bishops who have called in recent years for a debate on celibacy within the Church.

Such calls were made by the then Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, in 2005 and the then Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, in 1995. Both were serving bishops at the time and such was the outrage at Bishop Comiskey that he was summoned to Rome to explain himself.

In 2005, Dr Walsh called for a courageous, rational discussion of celibacy.

“I have known some very fine priests who have left the priesthood because they found the challenge of celibacy not life-giving for them. Men like that are a great loss to the ministerial priesthood,” he said.

Ten years earlier, in 1995, the then Bishop of Ferns said the Catholic Church should consider allowing priests to marry so that more people would be attracted to the priesthood.

“Where there is no priest, there is no Eucharist; where there is no Eucharist, there is no Church,” Bishop Comiskey said.

Fr Brendan Hoban of the ACP said the need for a debate on celibacy was “part of the organisation’s founding agenda”. Up to 500 priests are now members.

“The Vatican won’t take too kindly to the former bishop’s comments. Why didn’t he say this before? But then it is better that they are said now than not said at all,” Fr Hoban said.

Dr Daly is best known for his work in Derry during the height of the Troubles and is the priest waving a white handkerchief in the iconic photograph of Bloody Sunday.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said he did not wish to comment on Bishop Daly’s remarks.

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