An Irish priest has lamented that the Catholic Church’s theology of sexuality is “well past its sell-by date”.

Driving the news

Well-known and respected writer, columnist and broadcaster Passionist Brian D’Arcy made the comments December 17 in an interview with The Tablet to celebrate his fifty years of ordination this week.

D’Arcy, a clerical abuse survivor, directed his criticisms particularly at the Church’s discipline of compulsory celibacy for its priests, which he denounced as “illogical” and “damaging”.

The Church justifies its imposition of perfect continence for its ministers on the basis of that continence being a gift to the faithful of priests’ whole lives, emotional and affective dimensions included.

But D’Arcy deplored that logic of ‘gift’ as senseless, because “a compulsory gift” is a contradiction in terms, he said.

Go deeper

Though priest D’Arcy admitted he could see value in celibacy, he also said having a partner to share one’s life with is “a very maturing thing”.

The priest lamented that he has seen the loneliness of celibacy take its toll on his friends and fellow priests, some of whom have now left the ministry to marry.

“I saw how hard life was for them before they left the priesthood and I’ve seen what fantastic people they are now, both spiritually and socially and within their families, and I just ask why did we lose those gifts over celibacy”, D’Arcy observed.

Why it matters

With regard to the 2012 Vatican censure he received for his repeated support for the abolition of compulsory priestly celibacy and the reintroduction of married priests, D’Arcy told The Tablet “nothing has changed”.

“I just ignore it and I hope they keep ignoring it too”, he said of the Pope Benedict-era imposition that he submit to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith authorities all his articles for vetting before publication.

“There has been no public pardon or anything like that, but I am taking my own freedom”, D’Arcy insisted.

The priest also referred in his Tablet interview to the legacy of the 2010-2012 Vatican investigation of the Irish Church.

That probe is apparently beginning to bear new fruit now with an apparent restructuration of the number of dioceses in the country, as confirmed last week by nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo.

Though the Vatican concluded, in its Apostolic Visitations, that the problem of the Irish Church was liberalism, D’Arcy said the real trouble was clericalism, elitism and “a misuse of power”, both ecclesiastically and socially.

“The biggest programme that has yet to be undertaken by the Irish Church is the absolute criminal and sinful misuse of power in the affairs of the state and of the country”, the priest concluded.

Next on Novena:

For Irish priest, “the clerical Church is dying and it’s not such a tragedy”

Irish priest dismisses ‘no’ to women’s ordination: “Jesus didn’t ordain black people either”

Nuncio in Ireland foreshadows cut in number of dioceses

Novena exclusive: Danail Hristov, author and researcher: “Celibacy: a godsend or a life-undermining practice?”