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New book rekindles celibacy debate

Celibacy for priests is again under the microscope with the launch of an Australian book calling for an end to the controversial practice.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Priests in Love: Australian Catholic Clergy and their Intimate Relationships is a major study chronicling the personal turmoil of 50 Catholic priests struggling to balance the demands of the church and their need for close, sexual companionship.

Author Jane Anderson, a tutor and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia's Albany Centre, spent nine years conducting interviews with the priests, some of whom had broken their celibacy vows to form sexual relationships.

The Herald says that following a "plea" in January from Australia's National Council of Priests to the Vatican to overturn a ban on married clergy, Dr Anderson's book "further questions the reasoning behind obligatory celibacy".

Dr Anderson, a practising Catholic with a PhD in anthropology, said her study of the issue reveals that priests are "looking for love and companionship like any other person".

In examining the whole culture of Catholicism, Dr Anderson said she came to the conclusion the papacy continued supporting compulsory celibacy for both theological and institutional reasons.

"They believe priests are mediators between God and mankind and that they should be above matters like sex, childbirth," she said.

Dr Anderson said she believed Catholicism could continue to provide a meaningful church life for Christians, but the way forward could only be achieved by leaving behind the "the burden of compulsory celibacy".

New book rekindles celibacy debate (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP 1/4/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Jane Anderson: Priests In Love: Roman Catholic Clergy And Their Intimate Friendships (John Garratt Bookroom)
Priests in Love: Catholic Clergy and their Intimate Friendships (Beliefnet)
Jane Anderson: Migrant Priests (SEDOS)

32 Apr 2005