The topic of celibacy of priests is once again a hot news item, and it seems a great shame that so many on both sides of the progressive-conservative . divide within Catholicism have fallen into their expected tribal positions and have spent so much time getting themselves worked up over whether or not Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI really should be billed as “co-author” with Cardinal Sarah or not.

Surely if the topic is worth discussing it it worth discussing and we should be able to hear experienced, learned wise and spiritual guidance from many different sources–not least a theologian and priest of Benedict XVI’s standing. Likewise, we should listen to the voices who are asking for a wider permission for older married men to be ordained and ask real questions about their requests and be open to such a change. Instead, it seems the two tribes have hunkered down behind their respective fortifications and resorted to weak argumentation, special pleading, ignoring the other side and even manipulation and deceitfulness.

Some years ago a progressive religious publisher was in discussion with me about writing a book on the subject of married priests. So I set out what I thought was a pretty good proposal for a book in which I considered the arguments on both sides both theological and practical. My conclusion was going to be that we should retain the status quo, but it mightn’t be a bad idea to open up to the ordination of older married men in some circumstances.

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