For a millennium, the question of celibacy in the Catholic Church has been answered with a resounding yes, and that there is a wish to stick with tradition. However, in the New York Times article “On Eve of Retirement, Cardinal Breathes Life into Debate on Priestly Celibacy,” Cardinal Edward M. Egan comes under fire for his comments during a recent radio interview where he mentions the possibility for renewed discussion on the topic. In the interview on March 10th, Cardinal Egan stated in regards to overturning the celibacy tradition, “I think that it’s going to be discussed; it’s a perfectly legitimate discussion. Further, he said that “I think it has to be looked at. And I am not so sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to decide on the basis of geography and culture not to make an across-the-board determination.”
This interview has sparked a spirited debate within the Catholic Church as to the true meaning behind the Cardinal’s words, mainly due to recent history when 163 priests in Milwaukee petitioned to reopen a discussion on celibacy, but were denied. With this all said, one question comes to mind; Is celibacy essential to the Catholic Church and would overturning this principle ultimately hurt the Church?
The idea must be discussed, and the longer the Catholic Church wishes to deny such a discussion, the more harm it will do to those wishing to become priests. Without showing some conformity to the modern day, the Church ultimately looks more like an out of date institution and less like an institution that is able to accurately connect with modern times and modern thought. If the Church wishes to strengthen its membership and increase its Priesthood, both which have been hurt in recent years, then reopening the debate on celibacy is a positive first step towards reversing these trends.