- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — The former seminary president who sparked a national debate on the effect of homosexuals entering the Roman Catholic priesthood is now taking up another sensitive issue, adding his voice to those advocating an end to mandatory celibacy.

“Celibacy used to go with priesthood as fish went with Fridays,” said the Rev. Donald Cozzens. “Over the past 40 to 50 years, I would argue that more and more Catholics are questioning the need to link celibacy with priesthood.”

In “Freeing Celibacy,” Father Cozzens suggests there may be a way through the problem by allowing celibacy as an option but dropping it as a requirement.

Although he is taking on an institution that measures change over centuries, Father Cozzens — a celibate priest himself — thinks the time is right for a rethinking of celibacy.

He points to the brief stir Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes created last year by saying the Vatican should reconsider its ban on allowing priests to marry, and the crusade to change the policy by excommunicated — and married — former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia.

“There are a number of factors that are coming together that really beg for this question to be discussed or urge us to review mandatory celibacy,” said Father Cozzens, interviewed in his office at John Carroll University in this Cleveland suburb.

There were about 42,000 active priests nationwide in 2005, a 29 percent decline from 1965, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. About 3,200 parishes were without a resident priest in 2005, compared with 549 in 1965.

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