Had a conversation with my officemate the other day about marriage in Roman Catholic church, and what, if any, effect it would have on the incidence of sexual abuse. If folks don't know, priests in the RCC are not allowed to marry, ever*. I believe the official stance is something like "a priest is married to the Church." The two positions came out as:
1. Allowing priests to get married might change the statistics, but it won't change sexual abuse. Allowing priests to be married will likely increase the amount of people willing to be ordained, but it won't change those who are already in the faith as molesters. If someone is sexually attracted by children, having a wife won't stop them from acting on those impulses. Pardon the unfair comparison, but it's like saying that if a gay man gets married to a woman he stops being attracted to other men. A paedophile will still be attracted to kids.
2. Allowing priests to get married would lower sexual abuse rates, but it would not increase the number of people who would become priests. While abstinence is definitely a major issue, being a priest is about more than just earthly concerns - it's an entire lifestyle. Changing only a part of that would not alter the lifestyle enough to increase applicants. As for the abuse, most of it comes from seclusion. Imagine you're under pressure to remain celibate, but still have desires. A relationship with an adult in the congregation would be admitting to your sin, and the rumors could spread. But after spending day after day, year after year, around children... things start to become more intimate. Starting a relationship with a child might seem more innocent. Most of the abuse isn't from people who sexually fantasize about children, but from people whose lack of an outlet eventually led them to pursue a forbidden relationship. If they had the chance they'd much prefer the comfort of a monogamous, accepted, relationship.
What does the board think? Is it one or the other, or a mixture of the two: would allowing priests to get married really slow the abuse of children?
(Additional food for thought; about 4% of priests have been accused of abuse, and about 80% of the cases are against young boys. However, some pro-RCC folks have said that the numbers reported by insurance companies indicate that abuse is even higher among US Protestant sects, the vast majority of which allow marriage for their clergy).
*Edit: Unless they were married and their wife died prior to them entering the priesthood.
Edited, Jun 7th 2012 4:02pm by LockeColeMA