“I am a Catholic priest. That, to me, is a great joy. I am not permitted to marry. That, to me, is a great mistake.”

So begins an impassioned attack on the celibacy requirement from a priest, writing under the pseudonym Stephen Nash, in the March 12 Saturday Evening Post. The same week that Nash’s gnashing of teeth hit the newsstands, the London Observer came up with an educated guess on the worldwide scope of the celibacy revolt. The newspaper says the Vatican has gotten at least 10,000 requests in the past few years from priests who want to renounce their vows and become laymen. Almost all of them want to get married.

Meanwhile, two other rebels in the American priesthood are coming upon rough days. Right-winger Gommar DePauw of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement was barred from celebrating Mass at the University of Notre Dame and from a meeting in Detroit, because of his jurisdictional dispute with Baltimore’s Lawrence Cardinal Shehan.

And left-winger William DuBay, who has criticized James Francis Cardinal McIntyre and wants to form a labor union for priests, has been given yet another job transfer and barred from some priestly functions.

The celibacy question cuts to the heart of church authority and tradition. It is so touchy Pope Paul specifically declared it out of bounds for Vatican II discussion. Mindful of mounting priestly requests to marry, the Pope recently urged self-control.

Nash contends that “there is no theological necessity, no doctrinal or spiritual insistence on celibacy. Only the discipline of the Church has made celibacy the mark of the priesthood in the West.” It may have been important in “the age of political religion and monastic corruption” such as that which spurred the Reformation, he says, but ...

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