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Archbishop speaks out against celibacy for priests

The President of the Scottish Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Keith O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has said he has "no problems with celibacy withering away".

Peter Kearney, the chief spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, affirmed the Archbishop's stance in an interview with The Scotsman: "It's a rule that's in place because the view of the Church is that we benefit from it. It could change. If it was felt we ever reached the point where it [celibacy] is working against the interests of the Church ... people could validly say, 'Well, let's consider a change'."

However, on Sunday night, Archbishop O'Brien issued a joint statement with Glasgow Archbishop Mario Conti expressing "entire" agreement with the present discipline of celibacy.

It read: "While no-one would suggest that clerical celibacy is an unchangeable discipline, we believe it has an enormous value. Celibacy enables the priest to be completely free to give himself to God and his people."

Archbishop O'Brien's original comments were published in a Sunday newspaper.

He said: "There is no great theological argument against celibacy ending, nor any theological problem with it ending at all. The loss of celibacy would give great liberty to priests to exercise their God-given gift of love and sex rather than feeling they must be celibate all their lives. It would not cause me any great worry if it was to go."

The Scotsman

23 Apr 2002