The article is behind a paywall, but a short  news item from the  Tablet (where Haldane’s piece is published) gives the gist:

A leading academic has said the Catholic Church urgently needs to overturn its centuries-old ban on ordaining married men to ease the shortage of priests and better relate to the faithful.

Writing in The Tablet this week John Haldane, Professor of philosophy at the University of St Andrews, states: “The time is overdue to admit married men to (shortened) formation and ordination.”

Professor Haldane, who is also an adviser to the Pontifical Council for Culture, likens the Church to “a vessel battered by rising waves, leaking along its length and undermanned”. He calls for greater involvement of the laity, “not in the guise of para-clerics but because of its education, expertise and experience” because “it is worse than foolish not to call able bodies to the bridge”.

However he said that men already ordained to the priesthood should not be able to marry or remarry, and added that “for reasons of exclusive commitment, only the celibate should be bishops”.


Professor Haldane has a gift for winning, persuasive argument, which is why I hope that the paywall on this piece will soon be lifted. I can’t say that I expect my friend to convince me on this matter, though.


Update: A friend sends the text of the article. Haldane attributes rising antipathy toward the Catholic faith to “the association of perversion and corruption” arising from the priestly abuse scandals:


It is self-destructive to protest that that the incidence of abuse by priests is statistically not much different to that of other groups who have contact with children. If priestly formation, sacramental service and prayer do not bear finer fruits then this only encourages the sense of gracelessness, and the possibility of Godlessness.



Thus he comes to his call for married clergy:

The time is overdue to admit married men to (shortened) formation and ordination. The faithful laity face the prospect of fewer churches and yet fewer priests. The priests themselves are service-weary and themselves often confused, anxious, and unwilling to address matters that are problematic for them personally. Whatever the challenges of securing a change, and then of implementing it, laity and clergy have a common interest in making the case not for allowing clergy to marry but for admitting the married to the clerical state. This implies two routes: celibates and married, with no opportunity for marriage or re-marriage once ordained, and, for reasons of exclusive commitment, only the celibates should be bishops.

This is not a case of simply increasing the number of clergy and nor is it an easy solution to the challenge of halting the decline,. Rather a married contingent can better resemble and reassemble the faithful and speak to it of what they know of its needs and difficulties, and speak also to the celibates now not from without but within the brotherhood of the ordained.

Even if were only for the sake of providing a compelling argument against this proposal the matter should now be addressed as the Synod of Bishops reflects on the challenge of the New Evangelisation. The crisis deepens andstill we are waiting. Let it not be said of the Synod “We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet, Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street”.


The gospel will always be held up to scorn: Its enemies will rightly disdain the imperfections of its bearers and—-because they too are imperfect—-resent its manifest goodness. While the Church’s recent problems are intolerable, such dramatic action risks worsening the situation. We are still hardly a generation from the gale unleashed by the Second Vatican Council: Orders that once toyed with heresy are only now returning to a vigorous faith; formation is only now being anchored in the text of the Council documents rather than being carried along by its spirit.

Far from consideration of married priests being “over-due,” we have yet even to return to a state stable enough that such a possibility can be helpfully aired.

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