A cleric in Derry has argued that the Catholic Church should give priests the option to get married and consider allowing women to become priests.
Fr Paddy O’Kane also said that despite enjoying a ‘good life’ during his 45-year career, his celibacy led to loneliness and has caused him to question his faith.
Fr O’Kane made the points in his column in the Derry News.
He said: “I enjoy being a priest. I find it very fulfilling and I would encourage many young men to consider it as a vocation.
“It has been a good life. There are times I miss having a family and there are many times of loneliness and there have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair’s breadth.
“In looking back, it has been a good life, full of joy and love.
“I have laughed my way through the last 45 years of the priesthood, both at myself and with the many wonderful people I have met on the journey.
“Recently when I was leaving a home during a pastoral visit in the parish whenever the woman of the house said ‘thank you for calling Father’, her little child spoke up and asked ‘is he everybody’s father’? The mother smiled and said ‘he is’.
Fr O’Kane says that although not having a family has sometimes led to loneliness, it has also helped him to dedicate all of his time to his parishioners.
He said: “Most priests live lives of caring for others and serving their needs. Celibacy has given me the freedom to do this with total commitment, for as the prayer says ‘it is in giving that we receive’.
“I’m not against celibacy. Many priests might choose to be celibate, but for those who want to get married it should be an option.”
In fact, there are already married priests who have converted later in life from Anglicanism. Fr O’Kane says he thinks serving priests should also be able to get married – but that it will be a lot longer before the Church allows women priests.
Fr O’Kane said: “We do have married priests; the door has been opened.
“Pope Francis is aware of the fact there are many parts of the world where there is severe shortage of priests and many people are joining the Evangelical churches to have their needs met.
“What the church could do is allow priests who have left to get married to be invited back or they could ordain people from the community of good standing, whether married or not.
“There will be married priests long before women priests.”
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