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Comedian Frank Skinner to defend priestly celibacy in London debate

By on Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Frank Skinner, right, and David Baddiel on stage at the Lyric Theatre earlier this year (PA wire)

Frank Skinner, right, and David Baddiel on stage at the Lyric Theatre earlier this year (PA wire)

Comedian Frank Skinner is to defend priestly celibacy alongside a Catholic bishop in a debate two days before the Pope’s visit.

Mr Skinner, a practising Catholic, will argue that celibacy should continue to be a requirement for Catholic priests. He will be joined by Jack Valero, a spokesman for Opus Dei and for the Cause of Cardinal Newman, Fr Stephen Wang, dean of studies at Allen Hall seminary, and Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham.

They will be debating against theologian Tina Beattie, human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy and Carmelite Fr John McGowan.

The event takes place at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square and will follow a screening of Conspiracy of Silence, a controversial film about a priest who wishes to marry.

Frank Skinner said in an article for the Times last year that he stopped going to Mass at 17 but returned to the faith after reading a book by theologian Hans Küng.

He wrote: “[Hans Küng] said the Roman Catholic Church was essentially on the road to truth but sometimes turned into cul-de-sacs; exactly what one might expect from a divine institution run by ordinary human beings. That was more or less the attitude with which I returned to the Church: what Küng called a ‘critical loyalty’.”

  • Jackie Parkes

    Frank Skinner has been very generous in helping children including my own go on numerous Pilgrimages to Lourdes & no doubt other charitable causes. I think he & Jack Valero will do an excellent job.

  • Mephistophiles

    Another simpleton defending the indefensible. Priestly celibacy is tantamount to a sexual perversion.

  • Justin Wong

    I'm on Team Church. :)

  • Jackie Parkes

    We are all called to chastity & often a celibate lifestyle due to illness or death of a spouse. The perversion comes in when the sex act becomes just a function without the great mystery & love it was made for. Priestly celibacy frees our priests to be married to our Church & shepherds for us all. It is a beautiful gift. I have no doubt that Frank Skinner & Jack Valero as 2 practicing Catholic men will give a good account in the debate. I feel sorry for people who think “sex2 is the answer to all societies ills. My eldest daughter a doctor is preparing for marriage. She does not live with her fiance. The Papal Visit is a great opportunity to discuss Catholic teachings & give the correct understanding. I know 3 married Catholic priests with large families. They are former Anglicans & have a lot to offer the Catholic Church, but celibacy is always the higher gift. By the way my husband & I have 10 living children. What a great gift. I do pray for vocations to the Sacred Priesthood for my sons. God willing.

  • nytor

    Only in our overly sexualised world where the very idea of celibacy is met with incompehension by the masses.

    In fact, celibacy was stated by St Paul to be the better state, and marriage only for those who could not manage it.

  • Diffal

    So any attempt at not having sex is in fact perverted?
    I will be sure to pass on your advice to all the people I know who are, for what ever reason, single.
    Or is there a time period, like an expiration date, after which no sex becomes perverted. Please enlighten this poor simpleton
    And you chide others for defending the indefensible.

  • Mephistophiles

    Refraining from sex, when it is a natural act, indeed need, is unnatural. We've seen, time and time again in recent years, exactly how it has turned into a perversion with their penchant for little boys and girls.

    People who chose celibacy for reasons other than religious dogma do so of their own free will, mainly because they don't want sex. For a Catholic priest, this isn't their main reason for joining the clergy. To have a natural urge and not act upon it because the Invisible Man says so is a form of bondage. A perversion.

  • J. Crawford

    Mephistophiles blames celibacy for the sexual abuse of children. He is clearly ignorant of the fact that the vast majority of child abusers are married men with children. When ignorant, it is usually best to remain silent rather than open one's mouth and reveal it to all.

  • Ratbag

    Mephistophiles, do you perform your bodily functions in the middle of the street, instead of keeping your bladder and bowels under control until you find the nearest Public Convenience? Do you follow your human urges to go playing with guns, sharp objects, taunt wild animals, play with fire, throw bombs and turn on the gas 'just because you can' and stuff the consequences? It appears to me you feel the same way about sex. Unfortunately, child sex abuse happens in many families where there are threats, cover up, lies and deceit within families and relatives – their own flesh and blood! Their cases don't always make the column inches yet it is just as heinous and evil as the sexual abuse committed by those whom we should trust that has made the news – nursery nurses, care workers and A FEW priests and religious. Your argument has been blown out of the water for its sheer ignorance and dumbassness! Mindless, careless and gratuitous sex has destroyed lives and has cost the NHS billions of pounds in STD treatments, abortions, morning after pills and so-called sex education – if anyone wants to bellyache about taxpayer's money, bellyache about this humanitarian tragedy on our own doorstep! Even academics admit Humanitae Vitae has been right all along! Celibacy is not messy, leaves you in control of your instincts, individuality and emotions and it respects sex for what it is – something holy, loving and sacred between two married people. It is not a mere bodily function.

  • Mephistophiles

    How disingenuous. I simply did not blame celibacy in isolation for the sexual abuse of children, nor am I ignorant of the probability that the vast majority of child abusers are not Catholic Priests. However, as a demographic, Catholic Priests are far more likely to be child abusers than married men, single men, homosexual men, women, or any other group than I can think of – but I'm sure you already know that.

  • Mephistophiles

    Who on earth claims that sex is the answer to all society's ills? As for the Papal visit, it's a great opportunity to arrest him for being party to protecting and harbouring pederasts.

  • John Deery

    I am delighted that Frank Skinner has agreed to come and speak against the motion that 'Celibacy should no longer be a compulsory requirement for the Roman Catholic priesthood'. We are going to have a great evening with some wonderful guest speakers.

    Interesting that we both come from similar backgrounds – in my case it was Birkenhead ('the largest open-air mental asylum in Europe' as Lilly Savage once called the place!) – and are both Catholics yet have ended up on opposing sides of the argument. If anyone is interested in attending you can get tickets via:

    John Deery
    Conspiracy of Silence

  • Mephistophiles

    “It appears to me you feel the same way about sex”.

    Only a bigot with an agenda could infer that from any comment I have made. I'm not quite sure how enforced celibacy leaves priests in control of their instincts, especially when the evidence suggests otherwise – that a Catholic Priest is far more likely to be a pederast than the average man in the street.

    Do you even know the history of priestly celibacy? It's a man-made concept. It is there to stop wealth dissipating from the church. As for sex being holy, let me just remind you that Pope Gregory the Great said that all sexual desire is sinful in and of itself. It's hardly surprising that Catholics are so sexually mixed-up. Mind you, having no wives or children might be a blessing. It means that they don't have to worry about their wife being sold into slavery, or their children being abandoned if Ratzinger went all “Pope Urban II”.

    I suggest you read some books – you know, apart from your book of fairy tales.

  • Ratbag

    I'm not the bigot with an agenda, Mephistophiles. You probably haven't had a look on my bookshelf which contains, amongst other NON FICTION : “Love and Responsibility” and “Theology of the Body”, “Crossing The Threshold of Hope” by Karol Wojtyla aka POPE JOHN PAUL II? Humanite Vitae by POPE PAUL VI! Virtues Catholic Encyclopaedia, Catholicism for Dummies, 'God and Caesar' by Shirley Williams, 'Jesus of Nazareth' by Prof Joseph Ratzinger aka POPE BENEDICT XVI, 'Did Saint Paul Get Jesus Right?' by Prof David Wenham; 'For The Love Of My Mother' by J.P Rogers; 'Living With Evil' by Cynthia Owen; 'My Story' by David Pelzer…

    Thank heavens I don't read the books you read, Meph – they are probably on the very top shelf of your local newsagent or have shopfronts covered completely in black!

    The Roman Catholic clergy and religious have been part and parcel of my life. I have family and friends who answered their vocation with joy, no hang ups and no chips on their shoulders either.

    I have met and spoken to people who have been abused by priests and religious as well those who were abused by members of their own family! I have been face to face with a Roman Catholic priest who was accused of sexual abuse; a Methodist preacher whom I knew back in the 1990's was exposed in my community and the local paper as a convicted child sex offender; I heard a victim of clerical sexual abuse by an Anglican vicar on the radio recently passionately wishing people would look at the bigger picture of clerical sex abuse that is happening to look beyond the Catholic Church! These are NOT 'fairy tales' – these are cold, hard FACTS! Even fans of The Brothers Grimm, Arabian Nights, Harry Potter or Spongebob Squarepants can tell the difference between fact and fiction.

    Mephistophiles, I suspect you have a beef with the Roman Catholic Church anyway. Let's leave it at that, eh?

  • Mephistophiles

    “Even fans of The Brothers Grimm, Arabian Nights, Harry Potter or Spongebob Squarepants can tell the difference between fact and fiction.”

    It's a shame Catholics can't. You base your whole life around a work of fiction – a particularly immoral one at that.

  • Ratbag

    Ask any top archaeologist, eminent scholar and top historian anywhere around the world about Christ and they will tell you that the events in the Gospels and writings of Saint Paul are based firmly, indesputably and historically on FACTS. If anyone is living a life based on a work of laughable fiction (The God Delusion) and immorality – look in the mirror. Boy, I pity you. Like I said before, you have a beef with Roman Catholics, plain and simple. I can live with that. Catholics have been dealing with bilge, venom, poison, vitriol,spite, beheadings, concentration camps, chopping blocks, stretch racks, firing squads, lethal injections, having our innards slapped all over major towns and cities, being a main course for hungry lions, exiled to Gulags, starved to death, putting our own lives in danger to save others from slaughter – yes, from those who have your exact same attitude – for centuries! Sane, intelligent, mentally stable ordinary people, with more courage and guts in their little finger than you have in your entire body, have died for our Faith. For you to say that people of faith – especially Catholics – base their entire lives around a work of fiction is the worst example of the sin of Pride I have ever come across! What the heck are you doing reading and contributing to a Catholic website anyway? Nothing good on the telly? Bored with your naughty literature? I know. Is it to vent your seriously diseased spleen at us in a sad, twisted game that bullies play like “Let's wind up the Catholics – har har! They won't fight back! They follow that fictional layabout of a nobody that says turn the other cheek, love one another, do good to those who hate you, forgive them for they know not what they do and all that crap! Hey, it was only a joke! Lighten up, Pope lovers! I have friends who are Catholic, they voted for Obama…” The thing is, Pride is a deadly sin. It is sad to say that you are a virtual ocean of it, Meph. I sincerely hope that, in your search for Truth, you'll find it and subsequently be profoundly moved by it.

  • Mephistophiles

    Thank you, your reply is perfect in its idiocy. You people don't need the likes of me to make you look foolish when you can do it all by yourselves better than I ever could.

  • Diffal

    That is simply not true Mephistophiles, all the evidence shows that catholic priests as a demographic are LESS likely to be abusers than married men. All the research (such as the one in four reports) shows that married men are in fact the most common perpetrators, followed by teachers and other non-religious/non-priest persons in authority. This doesn't make it right but at least get your facts straight before you post.

  • Ratbag

    No, we definitely DO NOT NEED the likes of you, Meph. In fact, sweetheart, we need you like an ashtray on a motorbike, a chocolate fireguard and a liquorice lace climbing rope! Do I detect the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in you, Meph? Poor thing. It is on the increase, especially amongst the anally retentive bullying types who get off on calling people idiots and inferior. One doesn't have to be Hitler and Stalin to be a prime example of this dreadful mental disease, you know. In fact, the likes of you could be in any workplace anywhere in the world making life hell for people who do not live up to your superior, deluded and exacting yardstick; instead, they just want to earn a crust and live a life of their own in a so-called free country. Bankers and Governments have nothing on Bullies for being responsible for hefty losses in productivity and profitability in the workplace – perhaps you are not aware of that fact. Maybe you are one of those so-called intellectuals I've been warned about who find water coolers repellant and queueing up in the staff canteen beneath you. Actually, Hitler and Stalin called people who believed in a faith – any faith – inferior and idiots, too. And do you know what? Hitler topped himself in a bunker because his Cunning Plan did not deliver the results he hoped for, the Berlin Wall fell like a pack of cards and churches in Russia and former communist states have been converted, restored and re consecrated into the purpose they were originally built for – places of joy and worship! Not garages, warehouses or someplace to store rubbish. Wasn't Saint Francis of Assisi a 'fool' for God? It is better to be a fool with a belly laugh and joy in my heart with confidence in my faith than a cold, self-obssessed cynic. Bring it on, Meph, I've been called worse by better people than you! Do your worst.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    I live 'across the water' from Birkenhead in (real) Liverpool… hahahahahaha. It still shocks me that anyone would think that celibacy and being called by God are necessarily exclusive for the priesthood. It is a stupid rule that is man made and is driving a lot of people away from the Church – as well as seriously hampering the Church's ability to successfully preach the Gospel due to lack of ordained people.. it makes me so angry!
    I have spent the last year as a chaplaincy assistant in a university in Liverpool and am shocked at how little theological knowledge or church going there is among young people (and I'm 25) – I think that Frank Skinner is being used by the trads for their own silly purposes… that will destroy the Church in this country

  • Keith Richard Radford Jr

    With the results on google
    Results of about 33,154,753 for sex
    Results of about 223,017 for celibacy
    This guys got them comming and going on the subject,,,whooraw?

  • John

    So no married person has this pehchant for little boys or girls?

  • Ratbag

    Good grief!

    If people are going to leave the Church, it is because they want to and, with it, leave behind a million and one excuses/reasons for us to ruminate on if we so wish. I know someone who left the Church in the days before Vatican II and did not return until fairly recently, without prompting, without fanfare, without having to justify the position. For everyone who leaves, there are always more coming back either from years away or that they seek to convert because becoming a Catholic appeals to them very much as tower of strength in a crazy world.

    As for the lack of theological knowledge or church going, the blame lies with the home (i.e. the parents) and a woefully inadequate education system. My parents and grandparents were neither teachers nor professionals yet they taught me the basics of my faith. They went to the trouble of making sure my questions were answered about the faith – be it buying reading matter or asking the priest. They made going to Mass and the sacraments a living, breathing part of life. They had difficult, tough and demanding lives; we had nothing in the way of what people have today (and I'm not talking about many, many moons ago before the invention of the wheel – mark you).

    It comes to a pretty pass when my Parish Priest tells my fiance and I that he overheard a mother say to her daughter, who had just received her First Holy Communion and wanted to buy a Missal from the piety stall: “Why bother? You won't be needing that again!”

    With that true example I've just written, it is NOT soley at the feet of the discussion about priestly celibacy that will, as you put it, destroy the Church (I take it you mean the Roman Catholic Church) in this country. There are other pressing matters relating to the survival of the RC Church in Britain that are needlessly being shoved to the wings instead of being put into the full glare of the spotlight.

    Catholics here have only been emancipated as recently as the 19th Century! Really, when you think about it, it's not that long ago, with grateful thanks to the Irish MP Daniel O'Connell who debated and won in the backdrop of the same hackneyed prejudices and attitudes towards Catholics we see today in the public eye and ear – which is why now, with the visit of Pope Benedict XVI almost upon us, I can say that I'm not surprised in the least at their attitude towards it.

    Frank Skinner does not need anyone to pressgang him to make up his own mind which side of the debate he is going on. When it was initially announced that he was going to be part of the debate into priestly celibacy, I thought he was going to put his case against it, to be honest. I was surprised when I discovered that he is FOR clerical celibacy! Who'd a thunk it?

  • Ratbag

    I'm sooooo looking forward to YouTube -after the Papal Visit- to see you, and the likes of you, dressed up like judges with wigs from the pantomime supplies shop to issue a warrant for the Pope's arrest! It'll be the best timed comedy scene since the beginning of comedy in human civilisation.

  • Mephistophiles

    Please point out where I said that.

  • Mephistophiles

    How sad to see that you think that it's a laughing matter.

  • justanotherparishioner

    'Compulsory celibacy is the principal reason for today's catastrophic shortage of priests, the fatal neglect of eucharistic celebration, and the tragic breakdown of personal pastoral ministry in many places'

    two solutions:

    'Abloition of the celibacy rule, the root of all these evils and the admission of women to ordination, the Bishop's know this but they don't have the courage to say it in public.'

    Frank Skinner may have 'read a book' by Hans Kung, but he certainly hasn't studied him.

  • Emma

    What have Tina Beattie, John Deery, Helena Kennedy QC, Fr. John McGowan, Bishop Malcolm McMahon, Ernie Rea, Frank Skinner, Jack Valero, Fr. Stephen Wang all got in common? They are going to debate the motion 'Celibacy should no longer be a compulsory requirement for the Roman Catholic priesthood' on Tuesday 14 September at the Odeon West End Cinema, 40 Leicester Square, LOndon WC2H 7LP. The evening starts at 6.30pm with a screening of the award-winning film, Conspiracy of Silence, which deals with the celibacy issue head on. The debate begins at 8.30pm. For more details or to book please go to: or call 020 8392 1936. It's going to be a great night.

  • Jpk

    I think this debate is timely. That a married priest who has converted can give mass while and unmarried priest should be prevented from marrying is two tier catholicism. It no longer works and lacks credibility. Looking forward to the debate.

  • Carolwright8568


    1 Timothy 3:1-16 (New International Version)

    1 Timothy 3

    Overseers and Deacons

    1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer,[a] he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.

    8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

    11In the same way, their wives[b] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

    12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

    14Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

    He[c] appeared in a body,[d]

    was vindicated by the Spirit,

    was seen by angels,

    was preached among the nations,

    was believed on in the world,

    was taken up in glory.