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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?
One of Africa's best-known Catholic priests, the Zambian archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, is to be excommunicated from the church after getting married.

His wife is a South Korean woman and they were married in New York at a ceremony presided over by the Reverend Moon of the Unification Church.

The Zambian Catholic Bishops' Conference has condemned his marriage as a betrayal. But there are increasing calls from Catholics across the world that the celibacy of the priesthood should be ended.

Should priests be allowed to marry? and if so, should they be allowed to marry people of other religions?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

There are lots of priests out there who do not conform to this particular Church edict

Mary Oling, Uganda/ USA
The question is probably irrelevant because there are lots of priests out there who do not conform to this particular Church edict. I am a Catholic and attended Catholic elementary and high schools in Uganda. It was common knowledge at these institutions that priests and nuns are engaged in considerable hanky-panky. The Church should accept this fact and stop defending the indefensible.
Mary Oling, Uganda/ USA

Catholic priests will eventually have to be allowed to marry if the church is realistic about the role that a priest has to play as shepherd in the Catholic community and to ensure vocation and continuity of the church.
Sudhan Thomas, USA

If the Catholic Church laws do not allow priests to get married then those men who desire to marry should not join priesthood at all. No one is forced into the priesthood and so when one makes up his mind to be a priest, he should understand properly what he is signing up for. If a priest feels that time has come for him to marry he should quietly quit the vocation and do as his heart desires. Maybe the church has no right to ex-communicate anyone from his faith because we are all entitled to freedom of worship.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya

If you made a wrong decision you are free to leave

Cyprian Kambili, Malawian in the UK
Some people these days are under the mistaken expectation that the Catholic Church should be run like some sort of western democratic state; where anything goes as long as there is no harm to anyone. That is entirely wrong. The church must not become permissive and allow every human inclination to have its sway. It must stick to its principles that throughout the ages have made its what it is and preserved the faith as handed down to the first pope; St. Peter and the other apostles. Celibacy must remain and no Catholic priest should be allowed to marry. After all nobody is coaxed into priesthood and if you made a wrong decision you are free to leave; Jesus our Lord does not compel any person to follow him. You can say no if you know that you cannot remain celibate.
Cyprian Kambili, Malawian in the UK

As a Catholic, this doctrine of the church is one of those I am not particularly comfortable with. True, the priests know what the church's position is on this before they enter, and there is also the argument that the pressures of marriage and family would distract priests from concentrating on God's work. However, does the Bible not say it is better to marry than to burn with passion? That said, I think the church was right in excommunicating the priest, because as the rule stands, they are not supposed to, and he has in any case taken a vow of celibacy, even if he did not agree with church doctrine.
Rodney Nkrumah Boateng, Ghanaian living in the UK

The Roman Catholic Church's insistence on celibacy for its priests has no root in either Scripture or the Church's tradition itself. Celibacy among Diocesan clergy is a relatively new invention in terms of the Church's history. Married priests rooted in the realities of family life and full partnership with another human person would greatly enhance the Church's work and mandate.
N, West Africa

I am originally from Nigeria and have a twin brother who is a Catholic priest. I admire the sacrifice my twin brother made and believe that it should remain that way. The missionary is a spiritual soldier and will fight better if he has no wife and children to worry about. I support the celibacy of the priesthood. Those who cannot stand the heat should get out of the kitchen
Peter Okoli, USA

It is not a force or chance but a choice

W Napp, Belgium
The priesthood and marriage are two different vocations, and cannot be combined. No one is forcing any person to be a priest, and no one is mandated to be a priest. If you can't take the heat, get out. I went to a Catholic seminary, and I know I wouldn't make it, so I left gracefully. I never regret my decision, and would never regret it and I do respect people who have chosen to abide by the Catholic principle. Like I said it is not a force or chance but a choice.
W Napp, Belgium

Whether Catholic priest should be married or not should be left to those that follow the Catholic Church and its true followers. The Catholic Church in its Vatican II, has already approved that any priest who wants to marry and have family, can do so without any question, but he should give up his service. So what is the concern? Please leave the Catholic church to run its own affairs, as it is the only faith out there which is following the footsteps of Christ, without media or political interference? This is why I am a Catholic. The Catholic Church has principle dogma and the truth behind it. Polls, public opinion and media interference should stay away from the Catholic Church.
Abraha G Slassie, Canada

Unmarried priesthood in the Catholic Church has led to a host of dubious activities and harrowing confessions and stories from both priests and lay people in the Catholic Church. All should be allowed to marry openly so as to avoid the shame and disgrace the Church is experiencing.
Samuel Mulbah Sondah, USA

Priests must not be allowed to marry because they have deliberately chosen that vocation with full knowledge of its restrictions. If they want to marry then they should not become priests but may remain as Catholics. If celibacy is too difficult for them then priesthood was never their calling. Same goes for nuns, by the way!!
Lisa Kay, England

Priests should marry given the fact that a life of celibacy makes them feel they are missing something. They watch clergies of other denominations get married. I had wanted to be a priest and I think more people will get into priesthood if that doctrine in Catholic Church is changed.
Kenneth Chinkwo, South Africa

Priests should not and never be allowed to marry

Osman, Malawi
Marriage is another vocation as well as priesthood. They both have different demands which should never be combined. Ever imagined that a priest is married and has a child who is seriously sick, would that priest be able to say mass, let alone offer sacraments? I repeat, priesthood does not go well with marriage.
Osman, Malawi

It is high time Catholic priests married, because the world can accommodate them as married but practising Catholicism.
Mali Yamungu, Uganda

Marriage is no betrayal. I would rather consider it as a good testing ground for priesthood. Let's give the Catholic priest a chance to marry. If he couldn't manage his family in an exemplary manner, then how do we expect him to help others spiritually ?
Eskinder, Ethiopia

I believe some people cannot really lead celibate lives no matter how much they pray

Mbonyiwe Phiri, Zambia
I am a Catholic and I have, over the years, felt that Catholic priests should be allowed to marry. That way they will avoid such temptations as homosexuality and committing adultery with other people's wives. I believe some people cannot really lead celibate lives no matter how much they pray, even if they have taken vows for that. I strongly condemn what Milingo has done - to marry while still a priest. He should have quit and married someone sharing his own faith and not in a cult. The scriptures have come to pass: St. Paul says in 1 Timothy Chapter 4 verse 1: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." That is exactly what Milingo has done by marrying into a cult.
Mbonyiwe Phiri, Zambia

God gave us free will to choose. They chose that way of life knowing all the rules that go with it. If they find that they cannot abide by the rules anymore, then they are free to leave instead of dragging the whole institution down.
Nansalo, Uganda

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a priest marrying the traditional way

Clarence Varnie, United States
A closer look at the Scriptures will reveal that the Catholic Church's enforced practice of celibacy is non-scriptural. Even some of the apostles, whom the Church refers to as Saints were married. Jesus did not condemn marriage, nor did he command his apostles/disciples not to marry. Over the years, the practice of celibacy by the Catholic Church has proven to be far from practical. The result is an alarming rise in homosexuality, adultery, and child abuse amongst Catholic priests. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a priest marrying the traditional way - a man and a woman.
Clarence Varnie, United States

They should be allowed to marry because many of them are dying of HIV-related illnesses. In our diocese, 5 priests have died in the past 8 months, all of them after a long illness. This is so due to the fact that they are not allowed to have a partner. The argument that is advanced for celibacy, ie following the footsteps of Jesus does not hold water. Jesus used to heal the sick by praying for them, why does the Catholic Church victimise those priests who have Christ's ability to heal the sick?
Brian Sitima-Ndau, Malawi

Catholicism and other forms of religion that have invaded the African continent should be gradually got rid of. These religions are suppressive and serve powers outside the continent. Africans must take responsibility for their own lives and destinies! Catholicism preaches marriage and creation but does not allow their priests to marry and have kids - it's hypocrisy. In the same way that inter-religious marriage is permitted for lay Catholics it should be permitted for Catholic priests too.
Anthony, Norway

Anyone who is a priest, knows the rules before becoming one

Dolores Atwood, Nigerian living in Canada
Nobody is forced to be a priest. Anyone who is a priest, knows the rules before becoming one, that is why we have other churches. If you like to be a married minister, you can choose from the many other good churches out there. It doesn't have be the Catholic Church, it's all a matter of choice. Not everyone is called to marry. Is anything wrong if we have some few people in this world who want to dedicate their lives to the service of GOD? Those who choose to marry should do so like me, and those who choose to be a priest should remain so.
Dolores Atwood, Nigerian living in Canada

When God created man in the beautiful Garden of Eden, He realised the need for a companion and helpmeet for him. He therefore created Eve to suit this purpose. As such, marriage is from God and Adam himself acknowledges God's will in this union of souls, when he utters, at the sight of Eve, that "Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone thou art". This statement is now part of the marriage vow. It is thus preposterous to distort this natural order of things in the name of religion, when the Bible itself teaches that man is a combination of both the spiritual and the natural. Let celibacy be abolished in Catholic churches!
Ernest Cole, The Gambia/Sierra Leone

I think the Church of Rome is right for most of its doctrine. But they should avoid the secret adultery by the priesthood which is commonly practised. Therefore they must allow the priest to marry and have family and children who the Lord Jesus Christ loved so much. Generally I admire the Catholic Church very much.
Loremo Kamanda, Sudan/United States

Certainly, it is in accordance with nature to have partners. However, there were those people who opted to remain single (celibate), though few, in Africa or otherwise, for a cause they knew best. The Bible (in Mt) talks of those of us who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom. Consequently, I believe that celibacy is a way of living which is voluntary to whoever believes he can live like so. If not why join the club? It doesn't mean that by being celibate one has access to heavenly ticket, but rather it is a way chosen freely by those who like it.
Mutisya Bonie, Kenya

Why does the Catholic Church try to confuse between religious duties and laws of nature?

Rina Meleby, Sudanese in Canada
The Catholic Church and other religious denominations of similar doctrine(s) must acknowledge the fact that human beings are not made to contradict nature. Heterosexuality is a natural phenomenon across living organisms, of which human beings form part. It's neither a sin nor a crime to have a partner; so why does the Catholic Church try to confuse between religious duties and laws of nature? Bishop Milingo is living proof that some of the Catholic doctrines and practices simply don't hold, even before God whom they claim to serve.
Rina Meleby, Sudanese in Canada

The Catholic Church should cease its operations in Africa. It just does not fit in with African culture. Africans knew God before the church entered the continent.
Waweru, Kenya/ UK

I am convinced that the archbishop's wise decision to marry in his old age, is a opportunity for our entire church to forget about achieving holiness from celibacy. It's unfortunate that only the old guys go to Rome to discuss this issue, while the young ones are left behind. Allowing priests to marry is re-instating their justice. Let's have a referendum in the Catholic Church on this issue, because it seems the Holy Spirit that should inspire those old guards in Rome has taken leave...or left the matter for us all. I long to see the day when my parish priest will be free to marry.
Komanda Ikara, Uganda

See also:

27 May 01 | Americas
Archbishop marries in Moon ceremony
24 Nov 00 | Europe
Vatican lays down exorcism law
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