Ukrainian priests, while reluctant to criticize Pope Benedict XVI over his unyielding stance on the celibacy requirement, said permitting them to raise families enriched their ability to tend to parishioners’ needs.
“It is important when a priest has an understanding of not only himself,” said Father Volovetskiy, 45, who entered a seminary when he was in his 20s. “Having a family gives a priest a deeper understanding of how to relate to other people and help other people. It is more natural, it makes more sense, for a priest to have a wife and children.”
I agree. I don’t think there’s any serious ground for believing that the Catholic sex abuse crisis was caused by celibacy (after all, married men can be child sex abusers too). But the older discipline of allowing married priests is a healthy one, it seems to me. I have learned so much about married life and family life from having been a husband and a father that I find it hard to imagine a priest who hasn’t lived through these experiences being able to fully relate to them in counseling. I have known at least one Catholic priest who is good at this, but I think that’s got to be exceptional. It’s just so complex. On the other hand, I don’t know how a priest’s wife and kids do it, with dad having to be on call and open to others all the time.
I think it would be good for the Catholic Church if Benedict would reverse the Roman discipline and allow
priests to marry married men to become priests, if they feel called. It would bring a lot more young men into the priesthood, I’m betting.
UPDATE: I’d like to hear from priests, both married and celibates, about the strengths and weaknesses of both models.