On Clerical Sterility, a Modest Proposal
My proposal to the Catholic Church is that they change their counterproductive policy of clerical celibacy to the far more useful policy of clerical sterility. Let priests and nuns marry, but there must be vasectomies or tubal ligations for all priests, nuns and their spouses. They may marry but not have children; this will give them personal experience with married life, but will prevent nepotism.
Permitting clerical marriages will help solve the Church’s recruitment problem; and probably will help with the sex-scandals problem. More important, clerical sterility will prevent what celibacy was intended to prevent; the rise of a priestly caste.
For what is the Church to do with a priest’s son? Let his father sell off Church property for him? That would be bad enough; but worse if the priest’s son follows in his father’s footsteps; and worse still if the grandson does the same; for that would be a priestly caste. Like all aristocracies, a priestly caste rises, then rules, then falls. Sooner or later the line breeds an idiot, and anything connected with the line fails.
In a Pope-less religion such as Islam or Judaism or Protestantism, the fall of a priestly family does little harm, for competing families step in; but the Church has only one Papacy, whose ruin it can’t allow.
The Church took the most drastic step possible about priest’s sons; it forbade them to exist. This ensures that the hierarchy must recruit its entire replacement, every generation. Nepotism solved! At the time they did not have safe and reliable sterilization techniques, so instead they mandated celibacy. This has worked as well as you might expect.
Clerical sterility, as opposed to clerical celibacy, has all the benefits of the old system (no priestly castes) and none of its defects (sexual alienation, recruitment shortfalls). It is safe and simple; less a reform than a tweak. An operation is surer than a vow.