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Cardinal O’Brien gives his backing to idea of married priests

By on Friday, 22 February 2013

Cardinal O'Brien (Photo: PA)

Cardinal O'Brien (Photo: PA)

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has told the BBC that he would be “very happy” if married men had the option of entering the priesthood.

The cardinal, the only churchman from Great Britain eligible to attend the conclave, said: “There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the Church – in some branches of the Catholic Church – priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again.

“In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it.

“I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.”

  • scary goat

     Yes, true, but we are not ALL wearing red hats.  To mix metaphors:  those who live in glass houses shouldn’t fly too high.

  • Thomaspj Poovathinkal


    THOSE whom JESUS
    THE LORD called he promoted as APOSTLES, provided they presented their
    credentials in tune with his demands. Look at the 72 whom THE Lord sent two
    two to Proclaim the Kingdom (Word) of God. There are others like the young man
    who wanted to bury his father and come and follow the Lord. THE LORD told him,
    “Let the dead bury their own dead as for you come and proclaim THE KINGDOM
    OF GOD.”, Mary Magdalene, “THE APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES”, 
    The Samaritan Woman,… and What about THE QUEEN OF THE APOSTLES, MARY MOTHER
    OF THE LORD?, And……SAUL, who became PAUL, Stephen, Luke, Mark etc.    

    In the primitive Church every Christian was an APOSTLE. So the CHURCH remained
    under the direction, guidance and protection of THE SPIRIT OF JESUS THE LORD.
    And the fruit produced by the Church was 100 PERCENT.

    Only for PRIESTHOOD nobody seems to have been called by THE LORD. IN

    When PAGANISM (which is lead only by Leaders and not by APOSTLES) took over and
    institutionalised the PEOPLE OF THE LORD, THE CHURCH, it got reduced into
    PROJECTING PRIESTHOOD leaving aside  practically APOSTLESHIP.

    KNOWING how many of our RELIGIOUS LEADERS, with all their worldly
    paraphernalia, of whatever office they may be holding in the Pyramidal setup,
    would anyone be drawn to CHRIST THE LORD!

    APOSTLESHIP comes only from CHRIST THE LORD. BUT priesthood is found also among
    PAGANS. By Pagan take-over THE CHURCH became different; the phenomenon of APOSTLESHIP
    practically disappeared. LOOK AT THE WORDING OF CHURCH  OFFICIALS : Pope,
    Cardinal, Archbishop, Bishop, Priest, Missionary, this, that and what not…The
    Pure and Pristine category of the Lord, He called APOSTLES, and it got reduced
    into, divided into, relativised into and among THESE divided categories
    and  the people are kept occupied with so many  teachings, devotions,
    prayers, rituals, dogmas and dramas.


    The authorities keep the people under CONTROL,FEAR and OBEDIENCE of a sort and
    the RESULT? O we forget they are not PEOPLE, but LAITY.

    LET LEADERSHIP of all sorts GO and usher in APOSTLESHIP or the CHURCH will go
    the of WAY OF EUROPE or still worse.

    APOSTLESHIP IS THE KEY for the salvation of the World in CHRIST THE LORD.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP



  • GratefulCatholic

    True BC and Scripture is clear that celibacy is a very special state. Even St Paul recommends it though he says Bishops can be chosen from among the married.

  • PrickliestPear

    I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but, while the question of what language Jesus spoke is admittedly not entirely settled, the view that he spoke Hebrew is in serious decline among critical scholars, and has been for decades. I suggest reading the work of Joseph Fitzmyer (especially “A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays”) and Matthew Black (especially “An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts”) both of which have contributed to the decades-old scholarly consensus that the most common language in Galilee in the time of Jesus, and therefore the language he most likely would have spoken, was Aramaic. (Even Mel Gibson got that part right.)

    There is no data on which to base a judgment as to what, if any, language(s) Jesus was capable of reading or writing.

    As you should know, there is more than one way of transliterating Hebrew. I was following the method recommended by the Society of Biblical Literature’s Handbook of Style, in which the Hebrew “bet” is transliterated with a “b,” regardless of how it is pronounced.

    “Abba” doesn’t mean “Daddy.” That is itself a myth that has has become popular among lay people, but has been roundly rejected by critical scholars. See “‘Abba Isn’t Daddy,” by James Barr (Journal of Theological Studies 39), or see this website for a brief explanation of how that particular myth began:

  • Parasum

    It’s much worse than that – and much more important.

    Clerical continence – which is not the same as celibacy – is a good in itself. This point is never made – it needs to be. Far too often, the defence of the practice  is merely defensive; there is no hint that clerical continence is a good thing, and worthy to be valued as a good thing.

    Clerical continence is much more than a pawn in a game of Church politics – it is something of very great Christian & theological value, which very much needs to be brought to people’s attention as a good thing, as something that makes excellent sense as a response to Christ, as something with deep roots in the NT vision of Christ & Who He is. It is too valuable as an expression of unreserved love of God, too precious, too good, to be used for belabouring others.

    The Cardinal is woefully mistaken. A change, now particularly, would send entirely the wrong message – it would be a symbolic capitulation to “the world”, and be seen as such by the world; the power of such symbolism cannot lightly be underestimated. Clerical continence requires self-giving, love of God, faith in God, hope in God, perseverance, self-sacrifice – it requires, if it is to be fruitful (& not an insupportable yoke) a high degree of Christian heroism. For the Roman Rite of the CC even to seem to give way on that, would be a calamity.

    It may not not easy – but that is what (in a Christian context) makes it so worthwhile. Life in Christ is not easy. It never has been. Why should it be easy now ? What makes it so ? If chaste sexual activity within marriage were not a very good thing, it would not be worth sacrificing.

    The fuss about (so-called) clerical celibacy not only misidentifies the problem; it is superficial. No change in rules can make life in Christ easy – if the problem is not that, it will be something else. The problem is with attitudes – no change in rules can alter those. If people lack love or faith or hope, or are worldly, regulations (or their removeal) cannot heal them.

  • Parasum

    Where’s the insult ? That reaction is very revealing.

  • Parasum

    Chastity, celibacy & continence are confused all the time, and often subsumed under celibacy. Which is too stupid for words :( - or ignorant.

  • Parasum

    The prohibition by Jesus on calling men “father” is an expression of the Fatherhood of God – the disciples, by sharing the rest of Jesus’ mission & ministry, become sharers in His Sonship of the Father as well.

    One effect of this is that the “family” of Jesus  (and of His followers) includes Jews, Torah-observant or not; ritually unclean people of every kind; Gentiles of every kind. This is one of the Biblical reasons for the universality of the Church.

    This is why, in that gospel, the familiar ties of family and people are denied or ignored by Jesus: such tiesare too limited, & confining, & are set aside by Jesus’ understanding of human relationships; which are now defined by whether someone, regardless of origin, does the Will of His Father in Heaven. This is all a result of His preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of God’s Righteousness & Peace which He embodies. 

    In Luke 16.24 & 30, Jesus is not expressing His own thought – He is giving the words of a character in a parable. By the same logic that mistakes what Jesus thinks for what a character in one of His parables thinks, Agatha Christie must have killed about 100 people, because the characters in her stories do so.

    Words can’t be sanely interpreted, if we ignore their contexts, and fail to ask who is saying what, for what purpose, to whom, in what literary genre, & so on.

    What Christ said cannot be set aside.

  • Lyndafinneran

    On the contrary, the traditional Mass shows clearly the maleness of the priest in his sacrificial role

  • Lynda

    Catholic priests have never been permitted to marry; in some circumstances, certain married men were allowed to become priests, quite a different thing. It’s my understanding that only only unmarried priests can become bishops. And there was a tradition in the Orthodox Church of married men who became priests becoming celibate. We need celibate priests to be the norm, and the spiritual power of their sacrifice is especially needed in times when more evil abounds.

  • JabbaPapa

    Well I’m not sure that I am any the wiser after reading that

    hmmmmm probably not — it’s a complex topic.

  • liquafruta

    more like a confused rant.

  • Lynda


  • Lynda

    Yes, there is no way round it. He did not defend the rule on ecclesiastical celibacy but rather questioned it.

  • Benedict Carter

    We are all called to be “APOSTLES” Father.

  • WG Grace

    Given the censorship by the Catholic Herald of a comment condemning the militant homosexual Peter Tatchell and his stated desire to have homosexual “sex” with 14-year old boys legalised, one wonders why my grandfather bothered getting his three wounds or why my two uncles killed in action bothered joining up.

  • Tyrone Beiron

    The divine origin imprinted on the ordinary of celibacy is imprinted in the model of Jesus himself, and not upon the apostles or the disciples. I can’t imagine how a Cardinal Prince of the Church can “forget” this. The consecration and ordination liturgy of the Latin Priesthood turns to Christ the Lord himself as the model and origin, the mediator-priest exemplar. Thus, in the whole sacrifice and personal priestly offering of Jesus in fulfilment of the Old Law is perfected in his life, ministry, death and resurrection. Substantive scriptural basis especially Hebrews attest to this perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ being what the apostles and overseers (episkopos/bishops) and presbyters (priests) are spiritually incorporated as one divine office. 

  • Charles Martel

    As a condition of receiving the red hat,
    the then Archbishop Keith Patrick O’Brien made his public Profession of
    Faith and then added, at Vatican insistence the following:

    “Furthermore, I having been
    called to be Cardinal by pope John Paul II, state that I firmly hold and
    maintain all and everything taught by the Holy Catholic Church
    concerning faith and morals, whether solemnly defined or asserted as
    part of her ordinary Magisterium, especially those doctrines touching
    the mystery of the Church as the Body of Christ, the Sacraments, the
    sacrifice of the Mass and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.

    I further state that I accept and intend to defend the law on
    ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the Magisterium of the
    Catholic Church; I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical
    teaching about the immorality of the homosexual act; I accept and
    promise to promulgate always and everywhere what the Church’s
    Magisterium teaches on contraception. So help me God and these Holy
    Scriptures which I touch with my hand.”
    So Cardinal O’Brien swore a solemn oath in order to get a red hat, and broke it just before his retirement as a kind of two fingers to the Vatican. What a piece of work.

  • Benedict Carter


  • JabbaPapa

    Accepting and defending the law on ecclesiastical celibacy does not prevent discussion of it.

    1) There are currently some thousands of married catholic priests.

    2) The Church has the ability to allow for dispensations of celibacy to be made more broadly available.

    3) The Church has in the past provided, albeit rarely, dispensations of celibacy to ordained priests.

    Attacking Cardinal O’Brien for *this* statement is just silly — there’s not a single law that he’s broken in his statement, with regard to ecclesiastical celibacy.

    Unless you can conjure up some canon law that would state that Bishops may not discuss these things in public ????

  • Benedict Carter

    Jabba, sometimes I worry about you. He has taken an oath to defend a certain thing. He tells a journalist that he would be more than happy to see the opposite. 

    Do you really fail to see the burden of responsibility he has EVEN IF he personally disagrees with the ancient discipline? 

  • daclamat

    My comment of a couple of hours ago has been lost in cyberspace. I had opined that that if 4 complaints had been made, we might expect forty more to crawl out of the woodwork. His eminence O’Brien was vociferously homophobic, winning him the title of Bigot of the Year. Such exagerated récriminations are often a symptom of a tormented personality condeming his own demons.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, let us take comfort that the apostolic Nuncio has congratulated the 4 complainants on their courage. While I’m here, I must point out that there is an amazing row going on between Georg Ganswein, the popes personal secretary,  and Clemens,the latter removed from the papal affection.  Just before he announced his resignation crafty Ratzinger appointed Georg Prefect of the Papal Household. So the new  pope will have someone running up and down the back stairs keeping his old boss informed. Forget Bertone. Ganswein is the man to  Watch. Talk about éminence grise, this is beginning to look like shades of grey

  • Benedict Carter

    You told us all this yesterday.

    His “award” was given him by Stonewall, a notorious organisation run by the demon Peter Tatchell, who is on record calling for homosexual “sex” with 14 year old youngsters to be legalised.

    The same “sex” that has put some of our Catholic clergy rightly into jail in several countries.

    One would have thought that you would have pointed this fact out but instead you use the language and thought of the secular world to insult the Cardinal who is as yet innocent of any wrong-doing.

    Receiving such an award from a group made up of hell’s storm-troopers is a great compliment to His Eminence. I only hope that his defence of marriage reflects his real views but that’s another matter.

  • daclamat

    He doesn’t actually say what kind of marriage he is in favour of. Our government has opened a range of choices, which should cater for all tastes

  • Peter

    “I further state that I accept and intend to defend the law on

    ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the Magisterium of the 
    Catholic Church

    I think you and one or two others are confused on this.

    Celibacy is not a doctrinal issue in which law and principle are one and the same.

    Consequently, he can defend the law on celibacy while at the same time question the principle of celibacy.  

    Lets be clear; he is not criticising the law on celibacy because he has vowed to uphold it, nor do his opinions undermine Church doctrine.  He remains true to the law and true to Church doctrine.

    Having said that, I don’t agree with his opinions because the Church would crumble globally in a few decades if it is made up of inward-looking married clergy with families.  

  • JabbaPapa

    To defend the opposite of the law he would need to have actively encouraged Bishops to ordain married men or to marry ordained men in defiance of it, or to take steps to do so himself, or to get himself married (as one African Archbishop attempted, some years ago) or to engage in other similar acts of active rebellion against the Holy See, the Church as a whole, and our canon laws.

    He has done none of those things — he has expressed his personal opinion that he would like to see more chances for married priests in the future, as was the case in the past.

    Not every disagreement against Church teachings is illicit — and the simple expression of a personal opinion in this matter is NOT a crime against the Church.

    He has NOT declared that he will be conducting marriage ceremonies for priests, nor any other such criminal action.

  • Jonathan West

    The John  Jay report does not support that statement. The division of victims by age and sex is given in Figure 1.4 of the report.

    Age 1-7
    Male: 203 (41%)
    Female: 287 (59%)

    Age 8-10
    Male: 992 (72%)
    Female: 393 (28%)

    Age 11-14
    Male: 4282 (85%)
    Female: 734 (15%)

    Age 15-17
    Male: 2982 (86%)
    Female: 505 (14%)

    Male: 8459 (82%)
    Female: 1919 (18%)

    The following should also be noted, from the report.

    “National incidence studies have consistently shown that in general girls are three times more likely to be abused than boys. Despite this widely accepted statistic on victim gender, recent studies of sexual abuse of minors within institutions have shown a higher percentage of male than female victims.”

    So, it would appear that the church is merely following the trend in terms of the male/female distribution of victims of abuse within institutions.

    Don’t think what you want to think until you know what you need to know.

  • AlanP

    So why did it take the Church over a millennium to realise this?  And why does the Eastern Church still not realise it?

  • JabbaPapa


    Having said that, I don’t agree with his opinions because the Church
    would crumble globally in a few decades if it is made up of
    inward-looking married clergy with families

    Well, for one man to have and to fulfill both of the Catholic Vocations of husband (and father) and priest is known to be rare, which is one reason why the dispensations of celibacy were stopped entirely for around 400 years or so.

    I do agree that the ordinary state of priestly ordination must include the Vow of Celibacy.

    I think the question is really, should married deacons who have “proven their worth” (as is said for those married Christian clergy converting to Catholicism) have the possibility of being considered as candidates for the priesthood.

  • teigitur

    Gossip is never pretty. Less so during lent.

  • AlanP

    On your last paragraph, the Church didn’t crumble during the many, many centuries before compulsory celibacy, nor has the Eastern Church crumbled.  It is also well to note that celibacy was a doctrine of the Gnostic and Manichaen heresies.

  • Cllist

    Letter to the Holy Father, Pope Bendict XVI:_
    s your final deed, blockthe following cardinals from the conclave. Tell them to stay at home:-
    1. Cardinal Pell
    2. Cardinal Mahoney
    3. Cardinal Keith O’Brien
    4. Cardinal Sean Brady

    These are tainted and shadowed with scandal and should not be there to influence the outcome. If others vote then Pope it will be a bloody disaster

  • Peter

    The Church would not be the truly global faith it is today if priests had been inward-looking family men for the last 1000 years.

    Eastern churches where priests marry are restricted to ethnic or national boundaries which proves my point above.

  • Peter

    “It is also well to note that celibacy was a doctrine of the Gnostic and Manichaen heresies.”

    So what?

  • Peter

    Only if widowed.

    Anyway, there is something not quite right about going to confession to a married man.

  • Kevin Morton

    Personally think it’s very curageous of the Cardinal to voice this view… agree with the idea just not sure about the practicalities of making it happen.

  • Kevin Morton

    excuse the typo…

  • Kevin Morton


  • Andrew

    We lost opur respect for you, cardinal Ó´Brian, readin this! In the Ctholic Herald, there is also a reporgt on the horriuble murder of a holy priest in Zanzibar. We read DAILY of murderes and persecution of christians in many parts of the world. AND YOU CARDINAL, IS PRECCUPIED WITH THE CELIBACY as the most important issue. And- only shortly before the election of a new pope!