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It was certainly predictable that writers such as Gary Wills and James Carroll would use the scandal for their continuing arguments in favor of abolishing celibacy and allowing women priests. They’ve been calling for these changes for years. What would be nice is if they actually had some data to back up their constant claim that married clergy and women priests are what would rejuvenate the church–when these innovations have done nothing to prevent the complete vaporization of the Episcopal Church in this country.

What was less predictable, however, was that Pat Buchanan, William F. Buckley, William Bennett, Michael Kelly, and other conservative RCs would turn on the American hierarchy. All of these writers have called on Boston’s Cardinal Law to resign for the good of the church. What’s more interesting though is how this scandal is going to focus the attention of rank and file Catholics on how the seminaries are run and how priests are screened. Whole books could be (and have been) written on the subject.

There is certainly a need to discuss the issue of celibacy in the priesthood. But not necessarily because it should be abolished outright. Perhaps the Catholic Church in America may adopt some split-level policy, as followed in the Orthodox churches, where priests are married and work at the parish level, while celibate monks and priests run the monasteries and the hierarchy.

One thing I noticed, that no one else has mentioned in the op-ed columns yet. Married priests are going to make church maintenance much more expensive for parishioners. Churches will be closed as will parochial schools as a married clergy takes root. Why? Feeding a priest is one thing. Feeding his family and putting his children through school is something else.

There is a certain Darwinian logic to the all-male priesthood. It’s cheap. It’s highly mobile and can be redirected and redeployed at short notice. This simply cannot be done in the other churches. Celibacy may be more difficult these days but I doubt the Catholic Church will dispense with it. It’s just been too useful.

Cardinal Law must resign. But more importantly than that, as one of the abused men in the Father Geoghan case stated at a news conference, the people want to take their church back. They must start with the seminaries.

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