In an op-ed yesterday published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Father Andrew Greeley argues that priests don’t necessarily need to get married to be happy or that marriage will stop sexual abuse of children. Though there are many things I don’t agree with Fr. Greeley about he makes some interesting points.

It is time that knee-jerk Catholic liberals give up their knee-jerk response to the sexual abuse problem. “Let priests marry, let them have legitimate sexual pleasures and then they won’t become pederasts.”

This argument, heard usually from those who would claim to be feminists, reduces the wife in a marriage to the role of satisfying a man’s sexual needs so he won’t have to victimize little or teenage boys. The recent study of schoolteachers as pederasts leaves little doubt that some married men and women will prey on students whenever they think they can get away with it. Nor are such predators necessarily gay. They might just be the kind of people who enjoy variety in their sexual partners.

He says that he’s never have been able to understand lay folk who are obsessed with the abolition of celibacy and adds that research indicates that personal and professional satisfaction among the clergy are high. He even calls them perhaps “the happiest men in America.”

He also points to studies indicating that the spouses and children of Protestant (and Greek Orthodox and rabbinic) clergy indicates that family relations are an enormous problem for many of them.

Those crusading Catholic lay leaders, far from making life easier for their parish priest by permitting them to have spouses, might consider the possibility that they would make the priest’s life even more difficult than it is.

Greeley seems to pride himself on being a contrarian but here, I believe, he makes some good points.

I’ve often wondered that if priests could marry what would be the real world ramifications. I don’t think a married man would make a very good priest. And I’m not sure a priest make a very good married man.

I believe marriage and family is a vocation. My family is at the root of everything I do. A priest can’t afford that. Just say, as a father you have a child who’s sick at home. Then a call comes in because somebody needs last rites. Do you bring the child with you to the last rites? Leave the child at home?

I think the entire question is too often handled in the world of academic theory over what was done or said in 1529 by Pope Whatchamacallit III. I often wonder if those priests who push for marriage simply don’t know what it’s like to be married or to have children.