Skip to comments.More (Priestly) Celibacy, Not Less
Posted on 05/24/2005 5:05:40 PM PDT by NYer
Three Catholic issues drive critics nuts.
Articles criticizing Pope Benedict XVI keep singling out three issues: the celibacy of priests, the all-male priesthood and the prohibition of artificial contraception.
During May, our editorials will look at each of them, starting this week with celibacy, which is a little bit different from the other two. It isnt a teaching on faith or morals - the Church doesnt teach that it is impossible for a married man to be a priest. In fact, celibacy wasnt required of priests for the first millennium of the Churchs history (though most priests were, in fact, celibate).
There are even a few married priests in the Catholic Church today - in some Eastern Catholic rites, and in a few cases of Protestant ministers who converted.
That said, celibacy will probably remain a requirement for the foreseeable future. Thats because celibacy was something Christ himself wanted. In the Gospel of Mark (10:28-30) Peter complained, Lord, we have given up everything to follow you.
Christ answered, Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come (Mark 10:29-30).
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus priased those who renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven (19:12).
St. Paul pointed out that An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. (1 Corinthinans 7:32-34).
Before he became Pope Benedict, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that Christ urged celibacy so that priests would be a sign of hope. By giving up family life, the priest shows that he believes that citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven is just as real as citizenship in this world.
The married priest issue isnt about the Vatican allowing ordained men to get married - its about allowing more married men to get ordained. And, as Cardinal Ratzinger said, Celibacy is not a matter of compulsion. Someone is accepted as a priest only when he does it of his own accord.
You can see the fruit of celibacy in the life of Pope John Paul II, whose tireless service and irrepressible joy showed that there is a greater form of happiness available to men - the happiness of life in Christ.
That ideal may be beautiful, critics will argue, but isnt it naive to require that that all priests be celibate? Doesnt that just invite sex scandals?
Taken to its logical end, this is an argument not just for an end to celibacy by priests, but an end to the prohibition of sex outside of marriage. After all, we expect unmarried men who arent priests to abstain, too.
In fact, sex scandals come from a lack of sexual discipline, not from too much. The Church formally adopted the celibacy requirement in 1123 at the First Lateran Council - because married priests were involved in so many sex scandals.
A New York Times study suggested that the highest number of clerical sex offenders in the scandals of our day came out of an era in the 1960s and 70s where seminaries grew lax in the way they screened seminarians and in the way they taught about celibacy. Seminaries, trying to be hip with the times, de-emphasized sexual morality. To this day, some seminaries use professors or guest lecturers who sneer at celibacy or make light of it.
We shouldnt be surprised when the priests who came from those cultures arent properly commited to their vows. But dont blame celibacy. Blame the seminaries that stop teaching and requiring it.
Imagine the kind of married priests we would get from lax seminaries. Wed have todays scandals - as well as priests who divorce or cheat on their wives, and who abandon their children.
The celibate priesthood has also often been blamed for the vocations shortage. Critics say more men would be interested in the priesthood if we allowed them to marry.
We doubt it. A married priesthood hasnt prevented the vocations shortage that Episcopalians and Orthodox Christians are suffering. And vocations in the Church have dried up in the places where the sacrifice of the calling is downplayed, and have flourished where it is emphasized.
Is the Church naive to insist on priestly celibacy? We think its naive to idealize what a married priesthood would look like.
Defend celibacy. Dont be ashamed of it. The celibate priesthood isnt an embarrassing relic of times past. Its a promise for the future Church.
I subscribe to the Register. How do you get their articles to post? Their Web site does not appear to have these type articles.
Manual dexterity ;-D. I began my 'career' as a bi-lingual secretary - English typing at 120 wpm - on a manual typewriter. It's a lot faster on a keyboard.
"There are even a FEW married priests in the Catholic Church today - in some Eastern Catholic rites, and in a few cases of Protestant ministers who converted."
Considering that there are several thousand such priests, he must have an interesting definition of "few"!
Do you have a source for these statistics?
"Do you have a source for these statistics?"
Yes, simple mathematics.
A lot of people aren't so good at "simple" mathematics.
I don't know which is more impressive --- your typing skills or this commentary. :)
Nothing beats the time tested winning formula. Agenda for the opposite is to be treated with high suspicion.
What an absolutely astute observation! Author Roy Schoeman, a Jewish convert, has written one of the most fascinating books on this very topic. Please take a minute to read his
an then pick up a copy of his book. You won't be able to put it down.
I stray from the reservation a bit on this one.
Celibacy for priests is a practice and a tradition within the latin rite church. From what I've read, it isn't as much a practice or a tradition within the eastern rite churches, except in the U.S. and Canada.
I think there is plenty of room within the larger church for both perspectives. I think that as a practical matter it is necessary for the western church to continue with it's traditions and practices, and for the eastern church to continue with it's. I do not agree with eastern catholic priests in the U.S. and Canada needing to amend their practices to conform with the latin norm.
"A lot of people aren't so good at "simple" mathematics."
OK, let's take as an example the largest Eastern Catholic Church - the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
There are now over 3,500 parishes in the UGCC, each one with at least one priest. Their tradition is to have a married parish clergy, while the celibates are mainly monks. However, about 15% of their parish clergy are also celibate. This means that 85% of the priests are married men, therefore, the number of married priests in the UGCC is approximately:
3,500 x 85% = 2,975.
In other Eastern Catholic Churches, the proportion of married priests ranges from about 45% to 80%. There are roughly 10,000 priests in the Eastern Churches, and therefore, taking a conservative estimate of 45%, there will be a minimum of:
10,000 x 45% = 4,500
married priests in the East.
Obviously this is the Eastern tradition and so it is to be expected. In the West married priests only exist as an exception to the norm and these as a result of convert married clergy being ordained to the priesthood. These are mainly confined to the Anglophile provinces such as the US and UK and probably number no more than 800 worldwide (last figures released in UK were that 500 had taken advantage of the "Roman option").
Thus it is safe to say conservatively that there are 4,500 + 800 married priests in the Catholic Church, i.e. 5,300.
While it is a very small per centage of the approx. 400,000 Catholic priests, nevertheless I would hardly describe 5,300 as just a "few". A "few" would tend to imply a number that one could count on the fingers of two hands.
However, that is not to say that the discipline of the Latin rite should change. Ordaining celibate and homosexual men only will remain the norm in the West long after we have all gone to our reward.
Bingo! It's funny how many of the so-called "controversial" issues regarding the church really just involve people saying, "We're just upright apes, after all ... we gotta scr*w!"
Notice how in 100 years, these topics have become "controversial". It's all just a part of trying to destroy the church.
1 Tim 4:3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
"1 Tim 4:3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth."
How is this in any way relevant? The Church has never forbidden anyone to marry as long as they have been free to marry.
Neither does the above passage have any relevance to fasting which was encouraged by Jesus Christ - I suppose He was unscriptural as well, was He?