Credence Characteristics and Strategic Human Capital Selection


Celibacy directly concerns only a small fraction of the people in the Catholic Church, the priests. However, it seems to enrage many people, even if they are not Catholic priests themselves or even if they are not involved at all with the Catholic Church. The arguments brought forward against celibacy are manifold. The more moderate critics of the celibate urge the Catholic Church to hire high quality human resources as priests. Living celibate is not very attractive for a wide range of individuals since it imposes significant personal opportunity costs. Additionally, it hinders the Catholic Church from adapting its internal structure to the changed social and moral standards of modern societies. As a result, the church may be increasingly unattractive for a wide range of believers with a modern respectively liberal orientation. The more fierce critics directly link celibacy to priest misconduct. Recent cases of paedophilia in U.S. catholic dioceses fuelled this second discussion and gave rise to a new wave of questions about priest celibacy. Despite the facts that there seems to be no scientific evidence whatsoever that paedophilia is related to celibacy itself and that the likelihood of paedophilia is lower among Catholic priests than among married men1, there is a widely-spread belief in society that priestly celibacy contributed to the abuse problem.2 Hence, the application of celibacy has severe drawbacks for the Catholic Church, while potential benefits are not obvious


Church Attendance Strong Belief Religious Orientation Conservative Orientation Personal Cost 
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  1. 1.
    See e.g. Jenkings (2001). For an overview of the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal see also Wikipedia (2005).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For example 75% of respondents in an ABC News poll in June 2002 thought that celibacy played a role in the paedophile scandals. See Religionlink (2005).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ratzinger (2004), p. 209.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ratzinger (2004), p. 213.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    For a broad overview about the origins and the history of celibacy see for instance Frazee (1972), Partner (1973), Denzler (2002) or Heid (2003).Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    According to a poll in 1995 96 percent of Americans believe in God, but only 71 percent in the existence of an afterlife (see Iannacone 1998, p. 1471).Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    People match with churches where ministers signal the preferred values. Finite and Stark (1989) emphasise the role of the clergy in the period 1776 to 1850, when Babtists and Methodists successfully replaced established denominations such as Episcopalians or Presbyterians in the U.S. One main reason for this success was due to a higher match between their priests and the people. They had little education, they received little pay, they spoke in the vernacular and they preached from the heart. Hence, Babtists and Methodists imposed a signal, which indicated a higher match with the people’s values.Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    Ratzinger (2004), p. 208.Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    The role of costly signals in religions has been discussed, for instance, by Sosis and Bressler (2003). They evaluate whether denominations that imposed costlier requirements from their members survived longer than less demanding denominations. Sosis and Bressler define the strictness of the rules imposed by the commune as an indicator for the overall conservativeness of the church. Such rules may be, for instance, related to the consumption of coffee or alcohol, the permitted hairstyle, the family structure or sexual behaviour respectively the application of celibacy.Google Scholar
  10. 1.
    The relevance of signalling in a very conservative religious environment has been exposed by Bermann (2000). He analyses Yeshiva attendance that signals commitment to the community of Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Higher Yeshiva attendance reduces an individual’s opportunity to earn monetary income, but it increases the opportunity to consume services (such as insurance) offered by the community. Bermann uses a club good approach. Of course such approach is of high relevance in smaller denominations with intensive social interactions. Our model does not follow the literature regarding the club good approach, since we focus on a large and international church.Google Scholar
  11. 4.
    Pratt (1964) showed that it is plausible to assume u‴>0 when u′>0. However, it is easy to show that u‴ must be negative when u describes a “disutility function” where u′<0, as described above.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    See for instance Hoge et. al. (1993), Hoge and Young (1994) and Iannaccone (1994) and Hoge et. al. (1998).Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    See for instance Schoenherr and Greeley (1974) or Fichter (1970).Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    In fact, in their data Verdieck et. al. (1988, p. 532) find a tendency of reduced disutility due to celibacy in recent years. They conclude that this finding may also be a result of the supposed increase in homosexuality among the clergy. We consider this argumentation.Google Scholar
  15. 2.
    In fact, theologically conservative denominations draw a disproportionate share of their members from among the poorer and less educated members of society (see Iannaccone 1998, p. 1470).Google Scholar
  16. 1.
    Ratzinger (2004), p. 213.Google Scholar

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