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Vatican must change or face wipe-out

Hook in the west

Hook in the west
George Hook

A key aspect to attaining personal contentment, I believe, is predicated on a commitment to follow the heart. There are few substitutes to the joy that comes from trusting an instinct through to it’s conclusion and then taking a moment to revel in the outcome. It is one of the most wonderful things about being a human being.
As people, we often seek out happiness by allowing our natural inclinations to guide us. And because we are all individuals, with different tastes and preferences, each person’s desires are subjective and unique.
To deprive a person of a natural path to fulfilment is to interfere to the point of cruelty. Deliberately preventing someone from following their heart, or gut instinct, is akin to forcing them to be someone they are not. If true happiness can only come from being comfortable in one’s own skin, an emphasis must be placed on allowing people the freedom to pick and choose the path they wish to follow.
The Catholic Church has been guilty of clinging on to a policy of restriction and restraint among priests for centuries. The traditions of celibacy and solitude that remain prerequisites to joining the priesthood are as archaic and out-of-touch as the shady origins from whence they came.
In a steadfast and deliberate refusal to bend from the past, the Catholic Church continues to deny priests the opportunity to develop and forge relationships outside of their commitment to Christ. And with this archaic and anti-social attitude, there is a heavy price being paid.    
The numbers of new priests seeking to be ordained in Ireland is plummeting to catastrophic levels, with recent figures highlighting just one male priest under the age of forty in the Dublin diocese. Ireland is currently the lowest in Europe for recruiting new priests.

Out of touch
Last week, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he was ‘somewhat unhappy about an atmosphere that was growing’ at the national seminary in Maynooth, where allegations emerged of gay sexual activity and other incidents of misconduct. Dr Martin described the atmosphere as ‘poisonous’ and has taken the decision to send the men under his remit to study at the Irish College in Rome.
Dr Martin’s comments are typical of a church that has lost touch with modern life. The notion that the Catholic Church should somehow be absolved from reforming its ideals to include acceptance of gay men is ridiculous. And this latest move will only entrench the stance of those that feel the Vatican is slipping further and further away from relevance.  
The realities of modern life differ vastly from the present ideologies of the Catholic Church. Quite frankly, I find it abnormal and inhumane that all priests are forced to remain celibate and alone for the majority of their lives and the repercussions of this are already being felt across the world.
There should be nothing so sacrosanct as to deprive a person of the opportunity to experience love with another human being. We all seek out companionship and love; it is a fundamental part of what makes us human. Why should priests be any different from the rest of society?
I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for some priests to bury their natural instincts and spurn the chance of entering into a relationship with another person. Those of us lucky to have found true love will attest to the wonderful nature of companionship and romantic love. Is it reasonable to expect priests to go through life alone and without someone to share their lives?

Change needed
The Catholic Church must realise the gravity of the current situation. The declining numbers of men willing to join the priesthood in Ireland should be sending off alarm bells in the Vatican, but this latest move by Archbishop Martin has only served to anger the people the church should be looking to target.
With the current average age profile of Irish priests soaring into the sixties and seventies, it won’t be long before the Catholic Church is faced with a serious crisis. By that stage, however, it may already be too late.
If I was a younger man with a strong vocation or calling to become a priest, I’m quite certain that the current rules that prevent priests from marrying, or having sexual relationships, would be enough to deter me from even considering pursuing a path in the seminary. There must be hundreds of men out there facing a similar struggle.
Either the Vatican changes its approach on this issue or it faces a wipe-out. The world is constantly evolving and reforming to meet the realities of the people within it. Isn’t it about time the Vatican recognised its own failings and did something to address them?