A former trainee priest, who left his vocation because of celibacy rules, has said former Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly, should have spoken out against the ban on marriage years ago.
The ancient clerical vow of celibacy has forced many good men to decide against joining the priesthood, former bishop Edward Daly said yesterday.
Allowing marriage would help ease the problems facing the Catholic Church, he claimed in his memoirs, A Troubled See.
But it comes too late for Colin Parkhill, who was forced to quit the priesthood after six years of studying and just months away from being ordained.
Mr Parkhill — now married to Orlaith and living in Derry with their three children — says he still considers himself a priest and is angry the church he loves is happy to let good men walk away because they are “normal”.
“While I am glad Bishop Daly has spoken out now, I would far rather he did it when he was still in ministry and was in a position where he would have to be listened to,” said Mr Parkhill.
“Furthermore, despite all the difficulties the church has, I would still want to be a priest but I wasn't allowed to stay because I am a normal man.”
The vow dates back to the 11th
century and was introduced, in part, to make sure clergy committed themselves to God alone.
“There needs to be a serious change in the way priests are trained and the nonsense that is celibacy needs to be shelved.”
Mr Parkhill began studying for the priesthood in 1988. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1993 when he began serving in St Eugene's parish in Derry, just months away from his final ordination. It was then he realised he had a hard choice to make.
“I didn't come to this conclusion in a single day but after six months of torture where I wasn't sleeping, wasn't eating and had knots in my stomach. But eventually I rang and asked for an appointment to speak with the bishop. This was in 1993 and then Bishop Daly had just retired and Bishop Lagan was administrator so it was him I told I felt I had to go because I realised I could not be celibate.
“All he said was, ‘I thought you would have made a really good priest'. Then he gave me £200 which he said was for diesel and that was that, I was out and on my own.
“If a priest is seeing a woman, he is shown the door but the past has shown us that if a priest is abusing children he is protected and hidden.
“When you look at how few priests we have in our Diocese you would think they would want to keep the ones they have.”
Former bishop of Derry Edward Daly: “There is certainly an important and enduring place for celibate priesthood. But I believe that there should also be a place in the modern Catholic Church for married priesthood and for men who do not wish to commit themselves to celibacy.”
SF welcomes call to end celibacy
The call to end celibacy for Catholic priests has been welcomed by Sinn Fein. Bishop Edward Daly, the former Bishop of Derry, made the call in a new book about his life. Dr Daly says he believes the celibacy rule is driving men away from the church. His comments have been welcomed by Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly who said: “Maybe the Vatican will move on it in the next 50 years.”