måndag 10 januari 2011

Celibacy–a Catholic Violation of Human Rights

During the last few months lay catholics have voiced demands on the Catholic Church to abolish the celibacy. A quite recent example of such initiatives was reported on 7 January in the Austrian daily newspaper “Die Presse”.

An important motivation for this emerging pressure is the growing problem of finding qualified clergymen to replace those who retire or are leaving the church for other reasons.

The idea is that the abolition of celibacy would help to attract young male heterosexual theologians to become priests, which would also – as an extra bonus - probably reduce the number of children being sexually abused by priests with abnormal sexual orientation. - Yes, it is abnormal to have sex with children – and criminal as well.

The above reasons for ceasing to demand of Catholic priests that they live in celibacy are good and valid but why not simply admit or acknowledge that even Catholic priests have a fundamental right to get married, if they so wish? Why do states that are not governed by the Pope himself, like the Holy See, allow this inhuman discrimination by one employer (the Catholic Church) of a part of its employees (the Catholic priests)?

The following is an excerpt of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948:

Article 16.1
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.

Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

And here is an excerpt from the European Convention on Human Rights which entered into force in 1953:

Article 12 – Right to marry
Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Please note the references in both documents to both “sex” and “religion”.

I repeat my question, why do states, especially those that ascribe to the principles of secularism, accept this kind of discriminatory treatment of a whole professional category?

The Catholic Church in its name of “Holy See” is an internationally recognised “state”, but how long shall other states tolerate its operation as a state-in-their-state?

One of many examples of this situation is its pre-medieval practice of mandatory celibacy for a significant part of its staff, a practice which is in overt violation of human rights and national legislation!

8 kommentarer:

David Pollock sa...

I do not see this as a human rights question since the decision to become a priest is a voluntary one and can be renounced. Lots of decisions involve conditional surrender of some rights - e.g., freedom of speech about confidential information obtained as an employee (this also applies to priests, especially regarding teh confessional!). But rights continue to exist even when not exercised, and priests have the (legal) right to marry, though it may have consequences for their employment. So they have the choice but generally choose not to do so for the sake of their vocation.

Which is not to deny that the Church might be well advised to change their rules.

Hans Christian Cars sa...

I beg to disagree.
If any other employers would forbid part of their staff to marry (for instance, for economical reasons), would it then not be appropriate and justified to invoke the human rights in order to bring these employers to comply with them and also with related national legislation?
To put anyone before the choice of staying single or losing his job is not right and it is an inhuman behaviour of the Catholic Church.
I am glad we agree that they should change their rules

Anonym sa...

I don't see why celibacy would be a violation of Human Rights. No one is forced
to be a priest.

There even seems to be a misconception about celibacy. It does not mean that
priests may not have sex.

Actually they may not, because they have to live a life of chastity, but if
they do they just confess and everything is alright.

And if they, or their partners, respectively, get a child, the church even pays
the alimony (at least in Austria).

So, in my opinion, this is not a matter about Human Rights but about the wrong
choice of profession.



Hans Christian Cars sa...

Dear Wolfgang,

Just imagine that another big employer would refuse to appoint married people to a significant number of their most high-ranking positions and threaten such staff already on board with dismissal in case they were to get married. Do you really think that such behaviours would be seen as being compliant with human rights?

You say that no one is forced to be a priest. I say that everyone has the right to get married in accordance with national legislation and that this is a human right. It says so very clearly in both human rights documents from which I have quoted.

The Catholic Church may lack in humanity, but Catholic priests are humans and have human rights. They should not need to be put before a choice of staying single or quitting their job.

Hans Christian Cars sa...

This comment was submitted by a person who chose to be anonymos:

The replacement of retired clergymen is, indeed, among the pressing dilemma of the papacy; in the area where I live younger clergies originating from Africa are common view. As we know Catholic clergymen's celibacy does not originate from scriptures, it's rather a decision of the early days' Vatican.
A clarification needs be done however, between Civil and Canonic jurisprudence; if catholic priests are asked to keep from marrying it does not mean that civil law prevents them to! As far as I know there is no civil law forbidding people to marry if they are ordained; in fact we have examples of married priests everywhere.
Cardinal Melingu is married and he leads his pastoral profession undeterred; indeed, the catholic church excommunicates clergymen falling in a "sin" and the lower hierarchies are reduced to lay status (reduced or raised?!) unless - I add - they accept to keep the companion as their "unofficial mistress".

The idea of allowing them to marry to also lower the abuse on children is not accepted by common Psychiatry who maintains, as far as I know, this disorder to originate from causes unrelated to "marriage".

In conclusion, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not infringed by civil States while it is infringed by the Vatican State (who, btw, have not subscribed to it!).

Hans Christian Cars sa...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment.
The extent to which the celibacy has a foundation in the holy scriptures may be debateable. There are some passages in the Bible that may be interpreted in that direction. The fact that no woman was amongst Jesus' twelve disciples has often been seen as an argument to exclude women from priesthood. The fact (?) that Jesus was not married may also be viewed by some as an argument in favour of imposing celibacy on Catholic priests and above.

All this is, however, or should at least be of little or no relevance to the question of forcing a significant part of the Catholic staff to stay single or otherwise face the threat of being dismissed from their jobs as priests.

The right to get married is not only a human right but also regulated in the relevant national legislation of most (if not all) countries. It is also a civil right and - in my view - national and democratically adopted laws should take priority over Catholic Canonic laws and the Islamic Shariah too for that matter.

Of course, there are no civil laws forbidding Catholic priests to get married. It is an internal ruling by the Catholic Church in clear violation of human rights, current legislation, common practice and common sense.

Hans Christian Cars sa...

This comment was provided by Vera Pegna:

Hans Christian,
I think that the point which is lacking in your reasoning on the celibacy of priests is that the Catholic church is a private body and like all private bodies it has the right to set its own membership criteria. The first one is that you cannot join unless you are a Catholic. If a declared atheist or Jew were to apply for membership they would be rejected and rightly so. Would that be a violation of religious freedom or of any human right? No, since the Catholic church is a private club with its own rules and you are not obliged to join. The same logic applies to the celibacy of priests. Nobody is obliged to become a priest (unless you are one of many children in a very poor family who lives in an underdeveloped economy where the only paid jobs are that of policeman and priest!). So, nobody is “forced to stay single” and, as far as I know, priests who break the celibacy rule do not lose their jobs but have to recite a given number of Paternosters and Ave Marias - which may be worth it!

Hans Christian Cars sa...

Dear Vera,

What I think is missing in your rebuttal is that the Catholic Church is not a “private body” but a State. It is also not a “private club” as has also been mentioned but more like a huge multinational company having its own bank, large financial operations and significant numbers of staff in numerous countries.

As an employer, the Catholic Church is - or ought to be - bound by the national legislation in each country, inter alia, with respect to prevailing labour laws, taxation, social benefits, etc. Catholic priests are employed by the Catholic Church and entitled to the same legal protection as all other employees with respect to social insurance, legally stipulated minimum number of vacation days, etc.

Thus, the church cannot refuse to pay its contributions on behalf of its employees to the social insurance or provide working conditions conform to prescribed standards.

The church cannot refuse to comply with any such regulations on the grounds that the church has its own rules. It cannot simply tell its employees that if they don’t like these rules, they can go and find work elsewhere.

Now to the question of the right to marry. This is undoubtedly a recognized “human right” printed black on white in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the European Human Rights Convention as well.

The reasons I have heard why this right should not need to be respected by the Catholic Church is that this is a ”private club” or a “private body” implying that as such it can set its own rules and apply these as they wish.

As demonstrated above, it can not do that – not regarding everything everywhere, although it does it wherever it finds it possible due to lack of resistance, invented excuses and fearful politicians.

The belief that any body, club or person by virtue of being private can set aside or violate human rights has no foundation in the UN Declaration, which ends by stating the following:

“Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein”.

If we humanists are serious about the implementation of human rights, which I believe we are, then I think we should stop searching for excuses for the Catholic Church to disregard these rights.

In my view, we should instead claim that these rights, without exception, be observed also by the Catholic Church.

Hans Christian