Letter: Must Roman Catholic priests always be celibate?

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Sir: All the evidence from Catholic countries shows that enforced celibacy reduces the quality of pastoral care, because priests are too distanced from the everyday concerns and lives of ordinary people.

Moreover, everyone knows that many priests do not keep their vows. The "Perpetua" described in Manzoni's classic The Promessi Sposi is still alive and sexually active in thousands of priests' homes in Italy, living as so-called "housekeepers".

Enforced celibacy, however, has dangerous social consequences. In Spain, Italy and Ireland, frustrated priests, unable to form normal sexual relationships, resort to prostitutes, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sometimes constructive rape of vulnerable women - and boys.

The Right Rev Hugh Lindsay (Another View, 5 July) surely cannot defend a rule that is honoured more in the breach than in compliance, and when the consequences are so harmful to the victims.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Owen

Pentridge Dorset

5 July