POLL ALERT: WSJ on clerical celibacy

The Wall Street Journal is running a little poll on the issue of celibacy.


And the results at the time of this writing:






UPDATE 25 Sept 12:27 GMT:


It seems that the poll has moved somewhat since the original posting!

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  1. lucy says:

    It’s 58% yes to 51% no at this moment.

  2. Andrew says:

    There should be a poll:

    “is Jesus Christ going to return to judge the living and the dead? (Yes, No)
    “if you answered Yes, go on to the next question about priestly celibacy”.

  3. Joan M says:

    Currently it is “yes” 50.2%; “no” 49.8%.

    “lucy says:
    24 September 2010 at 2:11 pm

    It’s 58% yes to 51% no at this moment.”
    That adds up to 109%!

  4. jmvbxx says:

    42.5% Yes – 57.5% No

  5. EXCHIEF says:

    Thatnks in no small part, I’m sure, to WDTPRS the poll is now rather heavily in the “NO” column (1225PDT)

  6. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    The problem with a poll like this is the assumption behind it is that its the celibacy thats causing the abuse issues, which is not the case.

    In a normal poll, I would vote that I would have not problem with a repeal of the mandatory celibacy, but that I would still put high privilege on remaining celibate, just as the Eastern Churches do.

    As a former seminarian I get asked from time to time, would you have stayed if you could have gotten married? My answer is always, of course not. And (in my opinion) anyone who would become a priest if they could marry first, but not otherwise, is missing the point and the value of celibacy, as well as that of the priesthood.

  7. danphunter1 says:

    In fact, the Catholic Church forbids no one to marry. No one is required to take a vow of celibacy; those who do, do so voluntarily. They “renounce marriage” (Matt. 19:12); no one forbids it to them. Any Catholic who doesn’t wish to take such a vow doesn’t have to, and is almost always free to marry with the Church’s blessing. The Church simply elects candidates for the priesthood (or, in the Eastern rites, for the episcopacy) from among those who voluntarily renounce marriage.

  8. Christina says:

    In this social climate, I think repealing mandatory celibacy would be a pretty poor decision. I know that there are reasons to allow for married priests, but I can’t believe that the decision would be made for the right reasons if it were changed today.

  9. Christina says:

    Also, it’s amazing how quickly that poll swayed! 32 no, 68 yes.

  10. Christina says:

    Switch that; “No”s are winning. Sorry.

  11. rtmp723 says:

    I have no problem with married clergy. But it would need to be heavily regulated to prevent wa-ho men who would only be priests if they could marry be ordained. That’s not the way the priesthood works.
    Plus before we do that bring back the minor orders and subdeacon =P.

  12. DHippolito says:

    The problem here is seeing celibacy as a gift (as St. Paul described it) as opposed to a mandate for orders. Gifts, by their very nature, cannot be mandated. If those gifts come from God, then certainly no human institution can mandate what God does not necessarily give (or vice versa). For far too long, the Church has tried to force round pegs into square holes on this issue, instead of encouraging discernment and creating institutional humility regarding clerical applicants.

    The other problem is the apparent prevalence of homosexuality in the priesthood (anybody ever heard of Michael Rose’s “Good-bye Good Men” or “pink” seminaries?). Does mandatory celibacy lead to that? That’s a question that the Church must address to preserve its very soul, especially since celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine (which is another problem, because too many Catholics confuse the two on this issue). I know the Church teaches that homosexuals can be priests if they remain celibate, but how realistic is that teaching, given the clerical sex-abuse that has stained the Church for centuries?

  13. cmm says:

    Clerical celibacy is “a great sign of faith”, but failed clerical celibacy is a great counter-sign. Most of all I am against clergy promising celibacy and then breaking their promise. Any way you look at it, it’s not good. Making celibacy optional could keep the signs while getting rid of the counter-signs.

  14. Will D. says:

    The comments come amid the scandal over sex abuse among the clergy, which has shaken the church in Belgium to its core.

    The linkage between the requirement of celibacy and these abuse cases has never made sense to me. The Anglicans have had similar problems without any tradition of celibacy, not to mention the many cases of abuse by parents, teachers, and coaches in the secular world. Even if we were to ignore them, and only focus on clerical abuse, what makes people think that the sort of person who would be inclined to molest a child would not have that inclination if he were married?

    As for the poll, I voted no, but I’d have been happier with a third option — I have no strong feelings about clerical celibacy. There are good arguments both for and against it, but to link it to these cases of abuse is mistaken, at best, or mendacious, at worst.

  15. GirlCanChant says:

    71.8% – No, 28.2% – Yes, as of 3:02 CT. Sorry it took me so long to get to it. ;-)

  16. What interest does the Wall Street Journal have in running this poll? Of course, it is completely unscientific so of no merit on that basis alone.

    Secondly, without demographics to correlate it to, what possible use would it be? Catholics will not care much what non-Catholics think the Church should do.

  17. Paul H. says:

    25% yes
    75% no

  18. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    Maybe an essential problem is a “democratic feeling” – everything can be decided by polls (elections, referenda, etc).

    While it is possible (although not ideal) in many fields of politics, it can never be applied in matters of faith, morality and – which is the case here – in matters in which we must obey and cannot decide. It should be more than clear…but obviously is not.

    Or…let’s organize a worldwide poll with a question “Should be beer given for free?” The answer would naturally be a convincing “yes”…and then all restaurant and shop owners would be the bad guys, who do not respect democratic rules, who oppose a majority…

  19. Tim H. says:

    It’s like polling blind people to see what their opinion of the sky is.

  20. Titus says:

    This blog’s capacity to assassinate meaningless internet polls (which would otherwise be trotted out by liberals as if they had statistically meaningful results) never ceases to amaze and amuse me. Kudos.

  21. Scott W. says:

    Celibacy is a most important sign of contradiction to a world that has decided the sex is not only a right, but a necessity.

  22. Wow, I am surprised by some of the comments here.

    If you were to poll just the posters who gave their opinions on whether or not celibacy should be changed (now or in the future), I think the vote would be pretty close!

    Are you sure your readers are responsible for the drastic change in the numbers?

  23. Faith says:

    What will they do with the results?

  24. Wow! I am the 1111st vote!

    Thanks Fr. Z. for alerting us of polls.

    God bless!

  25. Frank H says:

    At 5:49 pm EDT, 81% no, 19% yes. Keep voting!

  26. wanda says:

    Yeses down to 18.3. Kudos wdtprs. (Was anyone inspired by the awesome picture of Taliban Catholics? Just wonderin’ )

  27. Thomas S says:

    I keep this quote on my nightstand:

    “The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need.”

    – G. K. Chesterton, from ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

    The loss of a celibate priesthood would always be a devastating tragedy, but no more so than in our current super-sexed culture. The world needs this “exaggerated” sign of chastity to bring it out of its freefall into the culture of death – abortion, contraception, sodomy, fornication, etc. One of the many lethal effects of the abuse scandal was the spread of the idea that priests aren’t faithful to their vow of celibacy and that the ideal can’t be lived. We’ve seen the World use this as further cover for their own lechery. We’ve got to constantly reform the priesthood (true reform, moral reform) if we’re going to effectively present virtue as worth striving for.

    On a side note, I am so fed up with this chorus of “celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma.” Simply because it’s a discipline doesn’t mean the Church can, should, or will make it universally optional or the norm. Celibacy is rooted in Jesus Christ himself and in Apostolic times. It is not now, nor ever, going away. And just because the Orthodox allow it doesn’t make it very convincing either. If we took our cue from the East, we’d all be Arians long ago. It is the Orthodox practice that deviated from the ancient practice of celibacy, not the Latins who became restrictive. Read Cardinal Stickler’s little book on the subject.

  28. Thomas S says:

    To clarify, I know the Orthodox aren’t now Arians. They can thank the Papacy for that.

  29. Every parish has a “power couple” or two or three. Can you imagine the overbearing and pompous result of a married priest and his wife? I can. I was an Anglican. Protestant ministers’ wives and their congreations can tell you that there’s a down side. Don’t do it!! You reap the whirlwind if you allow married priests. Not so much because of the priests, but because of their wives. If there is jockeying for position and importance with un-married priests on the part of church ladies and their cliques, imagine that difficulty increasing exponentially once the church ladies are married to the pastor. God save us from the Reverend Mrs. Whoever! Let marriage be held in honor and esteem without subordinating it to Holy Orders.

  30. Thanks, Thomas – well stated. I hate it when the premise, “it’s just a discipline, not a dogma”, is so often stated. It makes the conclusion that some draw from it, namely, that “it is therefore okay for me to be in favour of optional celibacy”, seem so legitimate.

    I disagree with this conclusion and that it is “merely” a discipline. It is not okay for most to believe this. It’s only okay to believe this if you can come up with arguments “against” what Trent, Vatican II, Paul VI, Pius XII, the Church Doctors, etc. said on why we should “always” have a celibate priesthood. Until you do this, you should not be supporting a change to a rule that you know so little about.

    Oh, and another thing – the Sign of the Cross is merely a “practice”, a “discipline”. Would I be justified in saying, “I am in favour of doing away with this prayer and gesture?” Anyone here who wants optional celibacy care to answer this for me?

  31. AnAmericanMother says:

    Magistra Bona,

    Ain’t that the truth! I was an Episcopalian, and the only decent sort of clerical wife is the kind who keeps to herself and doesn’t get involved in church politics. I actually know one clerical wife who became her husband’s deacon. Now THAT is scary!

    I will add in passing that my dear grandmother in law was a wonderful lady and helpmeet, but she was a Methodist Minister’s Wife in capital letters, italics, and underlined. My husband says you could talk to his grandfather for an hour and never learn that he was a minister, but you couldn’t talk to his grandmother for five minutes without hearing that she was a minister’s wife! And that was despite the fact that she really was a good woman. Imagine how awful it would be if you got a mean one . . . .

  32. markomalley says:

    Currently 287 for and 1423 against. Wonderful.

  33. John 6:54 says:

    84% now 1619 to 308.

    What worries me is the state of the world that without Fr. Z pointing us where to fight in numbers the liberals win the short term battles until they make themselves extinct or the 2nd coming which ever comes first.

  34. This is not the time to be discussing this. Exceptions and indults, yes, under the proper conditions.
    But the norm must be mandatory celibacy; this is the need of our day: men who are celibate and willing to love Christ and His Church, as their only Spouse and Bride.

  35. kradcliffe says:

    I don’t understand the point of the poll, in the first place. My opinion as a lay person of how priests choose to live their vocations doesn’t matter.

  36. patrick wells says:

    I wonder if this is a problem that is currently dogging all the various Latin Rite parishes with Permanent Deacons and their Wives world-wide? At this point with thousands of such parishes here in the states it should be a pretty easy answer to find out….as for myself, I have never been in a parish that had a problem with a Reverend MRS Deacon. I haven’t read any articles in the various Catholic media about it either. Perhaps someone could point out some published examples of an overbearing, pompous, or abusive Deacon’s wife?

  37. patrick wells says:

    True, but as a quick witted Orthodox bishop once noted “The Pope is the father of Protestantism.”

  38. Thomas S says:

    You can tell that Orthodox bishop that by his witty logic, the Pope is also the Father of Eastern Orthodoxy. Obey your Father.

  39. I’ve never seen our archbishops pick out an obnoxious permanent deacon or one with an obnoxious wife. This is the benefit of being able to pick out exactly whom you want, and to pick from a bunch of older people whose personalities are already formed. Strong, silent, dependable types (who speak well when they do speak) are who we’ve always gotten. No egos, but not pushovers, either. Good men.

    Now, what happens in other parishes or other dioceses, I don’t know. But that’s what I’ve seen.

  40. for Patrick Wells: My comment was not about ‘Rev. Mrs. Deacon’. It was about ‘Rev. Mrs. Priest’–should that come about as a result of lifting celibacy. Currently the Church does not make a man a permanent deacon without taking the wife into consideration, or without offering her necessary and complementary formation. Most permanent deacons have wives who have bought into and accepted this new form of life–a life of service, being available to others, and some sacrifice. And for most, this comes at a time in life when the allure of climbing the greasy pole of prestige and preferrment has faded. I have great confidence in our Roman Catholic Rev. Mrs. Deacons. But is such formation for the wife going to be a part of the scenario of married priests? Such was not the case for the Protestant clergy I knew and commented upon. It is a rare woman who identifies so closely with her husband’s vocation that she can willing take a back seat to his ministry. I’m glad you’ve not had bad experiences. Let priests marry, and I guarantee: You’ll have new ones.

  41. Supertradmum says:

    Who would pay for the many children who would come for an obedient, non-conceptive couple, who would home-school, and make the parish school board angry, and who would need retirement, as well as daily needs? If there are no other arguments, which there are aplenty, finances should trump the deck.

  42. HCSKnight says:

    I have no doubt the Holy Father’s direction to use the internet to reach out to the world is the right direction, though I know there will be many damaging storms created by priests on this Galilee. This post however Father is not one, good job Father and thank you.

    Regardless as I posted on the pieces discussion page [see below], the media is a problem, those who distort and lie about the truth always are, but the deeper and far more important problem lies within the Sanctuary.

    Thank you again Father for this post.


    Posted comment on WSJ poll discussion: “Your points are valid, however the roots of the problem lie much deeper than the ignorance of the media and those who hate The Church. The fact is the evils surrounding the “pedophile” problem are a result of the “Smoke of Satan” entering the Sanctuary of the Catholic Church; of which abuses of Vatican II acted like an accelerant.

    St. John Chrysostom was not mistaken, nor speaking of a one time event. The fall of man is something which will always be with The Church but is not The Church.

    And the WSJ is not at all immune from such ignorance.”

  43. DHippolito says:

    Oh, and another thing – the Sign of the Cross is merely a “practice”, a “discipline”. Would I be justified in saying, “I am in favour of doing away with this prayer and gesture?” Anyone here who wants optional celibacy care to answer this for me?

    Wade, I don’t see the Sign of the Cross as a possible contribution to extensive homosexuality in the clergy. That was my point about celibacy and homosexuality in my first post.

    Of course, there are no panaceas with married clergy, as many have cited here. The biggest problem would be financial support. But if married Protestant ministers who convert are accepted into the faith, what does that say about the absolute necessity for celibacy?

  44. Dr. Eric says:

    Anthony Dragani, Ph.D. wrote this as an answer to Cardnal Stickler’s book:


    One could say that His Eminence is a stickler for celibacy. ;-)

  45. Dr. Eric says:

    From what I know about the formation of priests in the UGCC the wives of seminarians are given classes and formation. No deacon can be married so before the man is ordained, there are classes for both the future priest and the future Pani Matushka.

  46. DHippolito, you missed my point – I was saying just because it is a discipline it doesn’t mean we can just change it on a whim. Celibacy and the Sign of the Cross are “uber-disciplines” – apostolic, I would argue (so would Fr. Cochini, Fr. Cholij, and Cardinal Stickler), and therefore, practically unchangeable even if in theory they can be changed.

    What does the Pastoral Provision say about the absolute necessity for celibacy? I’ll tell you what it says to me. The “powers-that-be” in the Vatican have and continue to make some bad decisions and exceptions to rules that keep putting us on the slippery slope. I am not a fan of the Pastoral Provision, and I find it so interesting how the Papal and Magisterial documents go on and on about how people are wrong to want the discipline to change, how great priestly celibacy is, but then contradict themselves by talking about the “longstanding tradition” of the Orthodox which they “have no intention of changing”. Just kind of thrown out as a “footnote” for the sake of “ecumenical expediency”.

  47. DHippolito says:

    Wade, discipines are not ends in themselves but means to superior ends. I have no idea whether the celibacy that has been enforced for nearly a millenium has resulted in a massive homosexual presence in the clergy. But if it has…and that presence is found responsible for the clerical sex-abuse that has plagued the Church for centuries, then should the Church continue it merely for its own sake? What’s more important here: maintaining something to make ourselves feel good about how “Christian” we are (and how “better” we are from the non-Catholic world) or following God’s will in protecting the innocent and affirming His own Reputation as just, righteous, holy and loving?

  48. If we ever determine a link between celibacy and pedophilia, if it is ever proven that some men became pedophiles after having had celibacy “enforced” (your word) on them, then we should cross that bridge only when we get there.

    Then again, the old maxim “abusus non tollit usus”, or “abuse should not abolish use”, comes to mind here. If some have turned into pedophiles after years of celibacy, we should attack not the discipline, but rather whatever factors led to those priests turning into pedophiles.

  49. DHippolito says:

    Agreed but I think you misunderstand the thrust of my question. It’s not whether celibacy in, of and by itself can turn men into pedophiles (St. Paul was celibate, as far as we know, and I seriously doubt he molested anybody). It’s whether enforced, institutional celibacy created a heavily homosexual atmosphere that tolerates (if not encourages) molestation.

  50. pewpew says:

    Seems like the taliban Catholics saved the poll (xD)

  51. Ah, but Father, with all due respect…the only vote that matters in polls like that is the vote cast by the Holy Father. ;)

  52. Tony Layne says:

    That, I believe, would be harder to empirically demonstrate than any putative link between celibacy and molestation. For one, you’d have to demonstrate that pedophilia (or, more precisely, ephebephilia) is more prevalent among Catholic priests than among any other denomination, particularly those which have married clergy; the studies I’ve seen to date don’t support such a contention. It would also be helpful to show that similar rates don’t obtain among secular groups focusing on youth, especially schools; very little work has been done here, but again what work has been done doesn’t support the contention. There is a suggestion that the exclusive maleness of the priesthood presents an attraction to homosexuals; again, though, we’ve seen little more than WAGs as to the numbers of homosexuals in the priesthood. Frankly—as we say down here in Texas—that dog won’t hunt.

  53. DHippolito says:

    Tony, then how would you explain the apparently overwhelming numbers of homosexuals in the Catholic clergy? I’m not saying that other churches don’t have their problems. But is Michael Rose’s dog barking up the wrong tree, to extend your Texan metaphor? How and why does the clergy attract so many effeminite men? I also suggest that you read anything written by Leon Podles on the matter.

  54. Tony Layne says:

    I don’t, because the numbers I’ve seen were too obviously pulled out of hats; I’ve yet to see something that remotely resembles empirical research on the matter. “25 to 50%” isn’t a statistic—it’s a WAG. But again, even if you demonstrate a larger-than-average presence of homosexuals within the Catholic clergy, you still need to show that a greater percentage of priests are ephebephiles than are other clergy or any other seculars that work with youth. That’s precisely what you need to do to make the argument stick that enforced, mandatory celibacy creates an atmosphere of toleration and promotion of sexual abuse. But if there’s no “spike ” in the priesthood out of proportion with non-Catholic/non-religious groups, then the argument won’t work, no matter how passionately you argue it.

  55. tttr83 says:

    ” And just because the Orthodox allow it doesn’t make it very convincing either. If we took our cue from the East, we’d all be Arians long ago. It is the Orthodox practice that deviated from the ancient practice of celibacy, not the Latins who became restrictive. Read Cardinal Stickler’s little book on the subject.”

    I’m pretty sure celibacy was adopted in the 9th or 10th centuries by the western church.

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