Friday 22 February 2013
Cardinal O'Brien and married priests
It doesn't particularly surprise me that Cardinal O'Brien has suggested the possibility of married priests in a BBC interview. He's quite clear about the differences between matters of doctrine which are unchangeable and matters of discipline which might be changed, among them married priests. His remarks about married priests fall short of a ringing endorsement, and are more of an acknowledgment of a possibility, and the expression of a personal preference for that possibility of marriage in response to the interviewer's persistent questions on the subject. (The relevant portion is about 17mins into the interview.)
I'd be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should be married. It's a free world and I realise many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood, and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family (Here from The Guardian.)
When John Haldane called for this last year, I suspected that he would only have done so if he was sure that this view had a measure of support, particularly within the Scottish hierarchy. Unlike Haldane's intervention, Cardinal O'Brien focuses less on the direct benefits to the Church and more on the benefits to priests. Moreover, the issue seems of much more interest to the interviewer than to the Cardinal.
It is worth stressing again that such a change would be perfectly possible: married priests already exist within the Catholic Church and the extension of this would be a matter of a change in discipline rather than a change in doctrine. However, as I concluded after my previous rather lengthier discussion of Haldane's suggestion, I remain unconvinced:
Maybe married priests should be allowed: it's clearly possible in a way that allowing women to be priests isn't. But my own view is that the advantages are so unclear that it's an unwise step.