A reader writes:

I couldn't agree with you more on the shamefulness of the Vatican's excusing sexual abuse on the grounds that it was (supposedly) gay priests who did it.  However, your statement "Celibacy is a pragmatic issue, not one of eternal truth. Ditto women priests" unhelpfully blurs a distinction that the church itself makes.  According to Catholic teaching, celibacy is a pragmatic issue, in contrast to the all-male priesthood, which is an issue of eternal truth.

 Now, the church might be wrong about the necessity of an all-male priesthood; the point is simply that Catholic doctrine understands the priesthood to be essentially male.  And that is different from how Catholic doctrine regards priestly celibacy--this the church itself understands as a pragmatic rule that could in principle be different (and which indeed was different in earlier times--unlike the priesthood, which does appear always to have been all-male).  Which makes it that much more weird that mandatory priestly celibacy is being treated as a matter of eternal truth, when the church itself teaches that it is not.

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