Married Priests


I see there is a little debate in the combox about married clergy-pro and con, and I’ve been asked for my thoughts.

Many people wish to make a case for or against married clergy from a utilitarian argument. In other words, “celibate clergy have more time for their people and are more easily deployed where the bishop needs them.” or “married clergy are better because they understand marriage and sex and children problems more and they won’t be child molesters.”
All utilitarian arguments are interesting, but specious. They are specious because as soon as you make one you find five cases that contradict your point. Are celibate priests more self sacrificial, more available for their people and more easily deployed? I can show you umpteen selfish, egotistical celibate priests who are lazy and will not be shifted from their comfortable parishes without a small explosive charge. Are married priests better at marriage etc? Let’s look at the countless marriage and family nightmares amongst our married Protestant brethren.
So the argument lies elsewhere. Shall we stand alone on the historical argument? This is stronger, but both sides can produce their books and their scholars. Yes, the earliest evidence shows mandatory celibacy to be a later discipline, but other early evidence shows that, although it wasn’t mandatory, it was from the beginning an ideal to be aimed for, and that attempts to make it mandatory were early. From history alone both sides can make a case.
It’s better if we consider the reason for the discipline, and then the fact of the discipline. The reason for the discipline is not utilitarian, but theological. Celibacy conforms the person more fully to the image of Christ and his mother, but more importantly, celibacy of the clergy and religious picture for us the marriage between Christ and his Church. As C.S.Lewis has said, “in this way all of us are feminine because all of us are called to be the bride of Christ.” The celibate priest, nun or monk shows all of us the relationship that we are called to spiritually, and will one day have in Christ in glory where “there is not giving and taking in marriage” How can this be when heaven is “the marriage supper of the Lamb?” Because there we are all married to the Lamb.
The celibate pictures this for the Church, while the married picture what this mystical marriage is all about. The two are complimentary and both are necessary.
Is it necessary that all priests are celibate? No, otherwise Eastern orders are invalid and exceptions like my own cannot be made. It is a discipline of the church, not a dogma. Can that discipline be altered? Yes. Should it be altered? Arguments go both ways. Some people think that the Eastern discipline is best, in which celibacy is still honored and kept by monks and nuns, but secular clergy may be chosen from among the married men. For many good reasons, Rome has decided to maintain the present discipline.
To those who have problems with the discipline, the church says, “Don’t kick against the church in rebellion, but neither should you conform as a mindless robot without a struggle. Live with the tension. Ask your questions. Enter the struggle. Try to understand. Seek to go deeper into the mystery. Do so with curiosity, confusion, fear and anger too if you must, but do so with love and wonder and passion for God and his holy Church.”
If others are asking the questions–even if they seem to be asking in a contentious spirit–it is not up to us to scold them and whip them into submission. Instead, we should encourage the questions, take them seriously, and seek to reply in charity.
If we do this we can’t go far wrong.  

  • Mark UK

    Another more practical consideration is the expense of a Priests family. In a secular nation where there is no support from the state for Roman Clergy, the burden for a Priests family will fall squarely on the Parish, hence the reason married ex Anglicans are given posts that command a salary (schools, prisons, hospitals etx). Small parishes or parishes with a majority of parishioners of pensionable age will be hard pressed to support a moderate or large family, even the addition of a wife to some parish accounts would be a strain. While it is incumbent on parishioners to support their priest practice does not always follow theory.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Yes, but utilitarian arguments cut both ways. One might reply that large parishes could easily support a married man (especially here in USA) and that most moderate sized parishes (or even small parishes) could support a married man if Catholics gave more seriously. That’s why the practical arguments either way don’t really cut it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04437180703648725090 The Sheepcat

    Well said, Father. I agree that the practical arguments can’t be decisive. Give us a sign of contradiction! And in that regard, I can’t help but recall a story of CourageMan‘s about a conversation he once had with a prostitute–possibly off-topic here, but I think not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15663393901552071437 Jeremy de Satgé

    The following is from an article I have been working on recently but as yet unfinished.”I should like to suggest that the rule on priestly celibacy be relaxed so at least to allow some married men to be ordained to the priesthood. Priestly celibacy is neither a matter of theology nor doctrine, but merely a rule of the Church – a rule that can easily be changed and indeed already has been in the case of a number of married convert Anglican clergymen.We often read of parishes valiantly doing without a priest and there was recently a rather absurd idea mooted by Dutch Dominicans suggesting laymen celebrate Mass! The trouble with either of these situations is that they are at best a compromise. Why compromise when there is such an obvious solution? Unlike much Protestant worship, Roman Catholicism is sacramental in nature; and for the sacraments we need ordained priests. It also has to be asked whether in our modern world the insistence of our priests remaining unmarried and chaste is entirely appropriate, necessary and indeed desirable.Before continuing I must emphasize that I do not wish to criticise celibacy in itself. I know of many excellent priests who live out their celibate lifestyle with joy and courage, positively embracing the sacrifice that they have freely made. I also have a great respect for the monastic tradition; and it seems to me that the celibate life is best suited to some sort of communal living.The lack of priestly vocations, however, means that many secular priests live on their own which may be the cause of much unhappiness and loneliness. There are, of course, many who struggle with the stress of celibacy and who either leave the priesthood or become embittered.In examining the vocations crisis, it must also be said that the sexual scandals have not helped the image of the priesthood; and I suspect that the Church authorities have yet properly to reflect upon this. As with many other previously automatically respected professions, scandals over the years have reduced the automatic regard people have for priests and this is entirely understandable, though a pity. It is well known that while people happily pray for vocations, even devout Catholic parents are horrified at the thought of their son becoming a priest and, as a father myself, I can entirely sympathise with this view. I suspect that if pressed on the subject many parents would say that the celibacy aspect would be at the centre of their concern – it certainly would be mine.To have married priests would, I believe, help to begin to restore not only the number of priests but respect for the priesthood itself. At first I would suggest the Church considers mature men. There may well be some permanent deacons who would wish to be considered for priestly ordination. Equally, in certain cases the gates might well be opened to those men who had previously left the priesthood to marry to return. From what I understand the Church of England does well with its non-stipendiary clergy, so the argument of cost may not necessarily be that significant.”Sorry if this is a bit wordy, Dwight, by all means delete if it takes up too much space.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08157487707154089684 Word Proclaimed

    You have made some valuable points dear priest. Wonderful thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    Has anybody known, or heard, about anyone Confirmed (and married) in the Roman Rite having any success becoming a Melkite Priest?

  • Anonymous

    I have to say this. Those kids are so cute! Julie

  • Anonymous

    The Protestants and Orthodox are not overwhelmed with vocations to priesthood or ordained ministry either–and many of them suffer from the same shortages, sometimes worse, that Catholics have. The problem is not a crisis of vocations to the priesthood; it is a crisis of vocations to the family. In families that live their faith–and are open to God’s gift of children–vocations to priesthood are raised. Another problem facing vocations in the Catholic context is the case of so many bishops and vocations directors who snuffed out vocations to the priesthood a) because the men believed what the Church taught, even in areas like human sexuality, and b) so that a shortage would give them access to the arguments that Mr. de Satge relies upon–extreme need. The situation is actually turning around right now, though not as quickly as one might wish. In traditional seminaries (see St. John Vianney below as an example) there are a lot of men discerning a call. While I’m not necessarily opposed to the ordination of older married men (whose families are raised or mostly raised), I don’t think Mr. de Satge’s argument based on need works.Out of curiosity, Fr. Longenecker, I have a question that you may ignore if you wish. I know that in the east married priests and deacons abstain from sexual intercourse the night before celebrating the divine liturgy. It bears mentioning that the divine liturgy is not celebrated daily as in the Roman Rite. I asked a diaconate director in the Latin rite about this and he said that there are no canons about this in the Latin rite, though he has suggested it as a good idea. Do any Pastoral Provision priests follow this custom? Is there any talk about it? Dave Deavel

  • Mark UK

    Dear Fr Longenecker,First of all I am nor making the case for a celibate priesthood and am fully aware of its history and tradition. That being said I love our celibate priestly tradition even though I am not called to that particular sacrament. I believe at a meeting in the UK a few years back a straw poll was taken and over 90% of the priests attending gave their preference for maintaining celibacy as the preferred priestly state. I agree that utilitarian arguments can be argued from both sides but this is not a good rule for deciding which side has the most merit or which has the deposit of truth, after all Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. -G.K. ChestertonBecause a counter argument exists does not necessarily make a bad argument good or desirable, alternatively it may be good but not desirable.The US may be able to support many large parishes, it is a very wealthy country but we are the Catholic Church and our reach and concern is worldwide (you know this with your trips to S America), there are many who are not so fortunate and we have to take the long view that it would be outside the best interest of all if we were to mandate marriage only for the parishes that could afford it. BTW one on my favourite priests is an unmarried ex Anglican, he ministers in a small northern English town and he is just an inspiration and shines with grace, I bought two copies of your book last year and gave one to him, Path to Rome and he loved it, he said he spoke to you once on the phone too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05113787163293328143 MaggieClitheroe

    Further to Mr de Satge’s comment,I’d like to note -a) I only have one son, and it is my dearest wish that, if he be called by God, he become a Priest. There are many fine examples of Priests living a celibate life, and this, if properly understood, can be a real blessing to a Priest. If more parents prayed for their children’s vocations (as we have done since he was born)and saw the wonderful value of the gift of the Priesthood, and helped their children to see that, there might be more vocations.(If he’s called to the married state, that’s ok by me too).b)I have seen Priests (very good and faithful men in their own right), who found it an immense source of irritation to live in community – it doesn’t always work!c)If devout Catholic people have lost respect for the Priesthood because of the scandals caused by some who were supposed to live a celibate life, and failed miserably, surely, given the frailty of human nature, there will come a time when a few of the married priests begin to cause scandal, by running off with the lead altar girl etc etc and all that respect will be lost again!d)It will always be appropriate for there to be an insistence on the clergy to be chaste, whether married or unmarried! We are ALL called to be chaste.e)The whole point of the permanent diaconate, as far as I’ve been told, is that it is permanent. Thus, even if a permanent deacon’s wife dies, he can not be ordained. That’s why I won’t let my husband become one (apparently the wife has to give her permission!) because I reckon if I pop my socks before him, he’ll make a good priest!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    Orthodox Church = Orthodox Church.Roman Catholic Church = Roman Catholic Church.Rule = Rule.Exception to the rule = Exception to the rule.Arguments for lifting the rule = Applied sociology.Got it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04298493682961935337 Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

    Nice explanation Fr..

  • Anonymous

    Niggle’s arguments = sophistry.N., you need to stop thinking with your emotions, and begin thinking with your reason.That’s what God intended.

  • Anonymous

    Compulsory priestly celibacy is largely a (disastrous) legacy of the (largely disastrous) counter-Reformation, which was a mis- and over-reaction to the even more disastrous alleged “reformation”.People need to purchase and read “The Banished Heart” by Dr Geoffrey Hull in regard to the above.

  • Anonymous

    A great explanation, Father, and a beautiful family. Thanks for sharing your picture! :)

  • Louise

    What’s wrong with practical arguments? Most of us live practical lives in a practical day-by-day existence, and I don’t think the practical arguements cut both ways, at least evenly. A hundred emergency situations come to mind in which a priest’s loyalty (or at least his attention) is more likely to be given to his wife and terrified children than to strangers who might need it more.My mother used to say, What you don’t laugh over, you don’t cry over. If you have no children to laugh over, you have no children to break your heart–or to compromise your reputation or the Church’s reputation. If a priest’s son and the son of the local ACLU president are busted for possession of drugs, which of them do you think will make the local headlines? How many piano recitals will a priest/dad miss because he is called out? How many times can he not be reached because he is at a piano recital? Hardly theological arguments, but in the lives of real people, just as important.The secular world may hold a grudging respect for the celibate priesthood even while it holds it in contempt, but, grudging or not, it is still respect. It would be a shame to lose that. A priest is not just another male, or even just another clergyman, indistinguishable from the Protestant preacher. Our pastor has said that he has heard confessions in the strangest places because he always wears clerics. Who, in dire spiritual need, is going to call a man away from his wife and kids? Trivial? Maybe, but life if full of trivial but unexpected circumstances.These may be trivial arguments, but, life is made up of trivia; some of it turns out to be life saving or life threatening.And where are these large parishes, pray tell, that can afford a salary to keep a family? Where I live, many priests serve two and sometimes three parishes, miles apart. And where does the assistant pastor live? That could be a cozy arrangement open for speculation.Theological arguments are good for late night discussions, but when I need a priest, I don’t to have to weigh my need against the needs of a stressed-out wife and unhappy children.

  • Anonymous

    Come on, plenty of professionals balance being on call at all hours with the demands of family. Married soldiers, airmen, sailors, doctors, ambulancemen, fire fighters, etc. and their families make huge sacrifices in order to serve others, but no one expects them to be celibate just so they can be on call 24/7. Besides, the priests I know aren’t all on call all the time. They refer sick calls to the hospital chaplain, and have a schedule so they take turns being on call at night. Furthermore, priests get far fewer emergency call outs than doctors etc. Fr. Longenecker’s right. The practical arguments don’t cut it.

  • Anonymous

    I’m always amused at the use of anonymity on blogs–it nearly always accompanies broad and sweeping statements that are hard to defend.I’ll second the approval of practical arguments. The mention of military and police officers as examples for priests always makes me a little nervous. These types of professions have enormous divorce rates; I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about recommending them as examples. But in the first place, military, police, and medical careers are not states in life, but jobs. The priesthood is a supernatural calling for one’s life.Fr. Longenecker or any other priests: did you have any thoughts on the question of abstinence around celebrations at the altar?Dave Deavel

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I didn’t say the practical arguments were useless, just that they couldn’t carry the day.

  • Louise

    Father, maybe practical considerations don’t carry the day when one is chatting over late drinks (OK with me, BTW) or early coffee, but for the individual Catholic, they can’t hold a candle to the day-to-day living of the faith. Theological arguments are fine when all is bright and sunny, but if one needs absolution in a hurry (for example, when one’s plane is heading into a sky scraper or the side of a mountain), the practical consideration of a priest’s not having to comfort his own terrified wife or child surely carries the day. A man should not have to make such a choice. Maybe because I’m older and have long since learned to expect the unexpected–and it may not be great. (Sorry, didn’t mean to beat a dead horse.)

  • Anonymous

    Louise said: Theological arguments are fine when all is bright and sunny, but if one needs absolution in a hurry (for example, when one’s plane is heading into a sky scraper or the side of a mountain), the practical consideration of a priest’s not having to comfort his own terrified wife or child surely carries the day. What matters is the will of Christ, which was that his priests could be married. THAT is the definitive, and indeed only rational, consideration.Also, Louise, you forget that priests have other family members than wives or children. What if a celibate priest’s mother, or nieces and nephews were the ones on the plane flying into the skyscraper??I’ll tell you – the priest’s family would take priority over everyone else. That is the law of God.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15663393901552071437 Jeremy de Satgé

    Thank you for those who commented upon my draft article – most useful to have this sort of feedback. Clearly the practical arguments swing both ways and I am not suggesting that having married priests would in itself solve the vocations problem!What I think the Church needs to address is whether continuing to insist on a celibate priesthood is really necessary and appropriate. My strong feeling is that it isn’t. Obviously, the church already admits this as Fr. Dwight is a priest!I do have difficulty, however, with the idea that a call to chastity is necessarily a higher vocation. I do not see the reason in this and I think it unjust…

  • Anonymous

    Mr. de Satge,As a married man with children I can give you a very easy explanation as to why celibate chastity is a higher calling. Marriage and children are good things. Deliberate renunciation of such good things for the sake of the kingdom is objectively a higher calling. In the kingdom of heaven the sweepstakes winners are those who give up more, not less. Of course with human freedom not every celibate is himself objectively holier than the married, but that depends upon the human response to God’s call.Dave Deavel

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    So I’m sophist. I’m not arguing so much from emotion though. And if there is emotion, it’s consequential. My problem is this: it is that people are said to be “insisting” on continuing to keep celibacy, and that for some reason the lifting of it is to attain the “original ground”. Who are the ones on the defense here? What about the sacrament of confession? Christ breathed on the apostles and said to go forgive people their sins and that whatever they bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever sins are retained shall be retained in heaven. He literally handed over the keys to them. My point is this: notice there is no mention of “the sacrament of confession” by Christ scripturally. But, and here is the kicker, how can the apostles “retain” and “loose” when they don’t know what sorts of things they are retaining or loosing? The fact of having to literally confess your sins is so self-evident, that there is no argument. The rule of celibacy is along similar lines. Yes, yes, quite different, but similar in this aspect of symbolical “unfolding” through time, which also tells us there is a beginning and an end to time, of tradition. There’s much much more to said about this which I have not the capability to say, but I also have other problems here. To those who so adequately make argument for lifting of celibacy who I don’t doubt have good intentions, are you aware of those rather sinister figures within the church who would gladly help you to bring it about but whose intentions are rather different? There are those who use your same arguments, not those arguments alone or in the same way but with much additional stuff that they are careful with whom they share it with, for the purposes of 1: covering the fact they want to pursue their own indulgences (a rather innocent sort of evil in comparison with pride) and of 2: that not only do they wish to throw off the “yoke” which their lack of love misperceives as hateful to bear, but they, in their perveting power of pride, wish to turn it into something which they are being liberated and liberating others from. They wish to stand above the wreckage of their own making and declare that it is “nothing sacred”.

  • Anonymous

    Talking about rather sinister figures, the most sinister of all was the one responsible for imposing celibacy as a “law”, Satan.The “law” is premised on error, viz., that the sexual act is a source of impurity. This is diabilical, manichean, cathar pride disguised as piety. I don’t have the precise reference at hand, but a book I’ve lent somebody cites the exact words of the council fathers at Lateran II in regard to the abovementioned fallacious motive for imposing the law.This sort of nonsense in the church is always the by-product of an outbreak of neo-platonism. Most of the church fathers were tainted by it, being grounded in the philosophy of Plato. However, it is not as philosophers – thank God – that the church looks towards the fathers.The next notorious outbreak of this intellectual disease was around the time of St Gregory VII, who, although a monk, had no intent of proscribing clerical marriage before it was suggested to him by St Peter Damian, a man whose combination of training, termperate and rejection by his own mother as a child, led to a most unfortnate attitude towards marriage and women, however skilled he might have been as a papal legate and dogmatic theologian. It is extremely ironic to note that this saint was raised, in the absence of his mother, by a married priest and his wife. This was Peter’s own elder brother (a prominent archdeacon) and sister-in-law, who saw to it that his little brother received the best education thn available. How was this repaid? Read the accounts of the murders, mayhem and sacrileges perpetrated by enthusiastic peasants in the upheaval caused by Peter’s ill-advised “reform”. I have no doubt that, saint though he was, Peter Damian experienced a particularly harsh purgatory for this.The next outbreak occurred after the fall of Constantinople and the consequent arrival in western Europe of many more Greek texts, including many of the works of Plato. One result was the tridentine attempt to enforce celibacy universally via the seminary system. Another was the emergence of Jansenism. The effects of this last instalment of error are with us to the present day: directly in the traditionalist and neo-conservative seminaries, fostering this spirituality, and indirectly through modernism, in as much as it was a reaction to the foregoing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    Okay, first I am pretty ignorant of such history, but I would be very careful if I were you about the conclusion you draw from all that, concerning the rule of celibacy. Like Chesterton says in Orthodoxy, how people in observing the shape of things and being right about what they think something is all about and its shape, until they observe further and get to the very last point, and just where they think they would be totally right, and justifiably so, suddenly they find they are quite wrong.I won’t disagree about the sexual wounds, for they are very real, but you are wrong in concluding that abstinence, celibacy, is one and the same with it, merely because it abstains from it.To clarify my question about the sinister figures, what I meant was, are you aware of those people who will gladly use you and your wonderful arguments for lifting celibacy (I used “them helping you” ironically) as a means of attaining to some pretty nasty aims and goals for the church? That is to say, for these particular people a decreed lifting of the celibacy rule would be “small beer”, but necessary small beer as part of a wider scheme. This may sound like conspiracy theory stuff, but it’s real. We’re talking major schism here, as in a major breaking from the pope and lots of betrayals and fathers betraying sons and sons betraying fathers and so forth. Of course such a scenario wouldn’t be solely over the celibacy rule, or its being lifted, but that would possibly be a step in its direction, part of some general softening, or hardening as the case may be.The question is there not for the sake of making an argument for keeping celibacy, but I pose it merely as a question. Are you aware of such enemies?

  • Anonymous

    “That is to say, for these particular people a decreed lifting of the celibacy rule would be “small beer”, but necessary small beer as part of a wider scheme.”If you’re thinking of the Women’s Ordination Crowd, forget it. That will never get off the ground. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis has put that issue beyond doubt. No bishop would dare to attempt such a thing. Among other problems it would cause, would be the futher alienation of the orthodox.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    No, not that. Simply put, there are people who want to tear down the entire church. And these particular people are not in the secular/atheistic culture. They are in the church. They are ones who love to have constantly revolving around them the notion, in an array of forms, that it’s all politics in the church. They love in private conversation to reduce every thing which is held sacred or anything weighted with transcendent significance, to the level of historic bartering and/or accident. They will take any and all issues that stand against or threaten to stand against some rule or authority, like so many disposable items, that will help them further their own unspoken rebellion against Holy Mother Church. And to gain a majority of people, much deceived, in their favour.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110491371985845560 kentuckyliz

    Why would Catholics give more generously to support a priest’s family, regardless of parish size, age, and income? He should be out there supporting his own family. Paul wasn’t even married and he was a tentmaker.Single, chaste-celibate priesthood is a powerful sign that we are not animals. Male sexuality and its compulsions does not rule the earth. The Catholic priest is the last holdout against the utter paganization of our culture, and its concomitant hypersexualization. A Catholic priest shows up the ridiculousness of “prostitots.”The Eastern rites of the church frown upon conversions for the purpose of becoming a priest while married. They pretty much discern against it.Anon 3:28, abstaining from sex before Divine Liturgy, and therefore not having Divine Liturgy available daily in fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:1; that treats sex as something ritually unclean like the Old Covenant. That is a Judaizing attitude. The controversies in Scripture about food and circumcision applies here. God made sex and it is holy; his first command to man and woman is “be fruitful and multiply.” Sexual consummation is what makes the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony indissoluble. To treat something so holy as something so dirty disgusts me. My parents were happy and healthy Christians and called It “celebrating the sacrament.” That was a great attitude to model.Sex is dirty/ritually unclean, and we have to have married priests, but you can’t boink before Divine Liturgy, so sorry, people, no daily Mass. Because our priests have to boink. That is SO wrongheaded on so many levels.The celibacy of religious persons is in the Bible — in the words of Jesus, eunuchs for the kingdom of God. St Paul strongly recommends staying single for an undivided heart for the service of the Lord in 1 Cor 7.Sorry Fr D but I could never go to confession with a married priest.When Jesus promised the Apostles the Holy Spirit, he said they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Greek for witnesses is martyrion. Martyrs! Yet what does experience show us? Married priests cave in the face of pressure from hostile secular authority. In Russia, the Orthodox priests were coerced using their wives and children as hostages. Comply or we’ll murder your family. So the priests became agents of the state and started reporting confessions to the party and so forth. To this day, ROCOR refuses to be in union with the ROCIR because of this issue and they think it’s still going on. When the persecutions come, the natural attachments of wife and children lead married priests to compromise their priesthood and refuse martyrdom.Fr D, if the rapidly paganizing American power structure threatened you with the murder of your wife and children if you didn’t kowtow to their wishes and compromise your priesthood, what would you do? Let them kill your wife and children? Can you really make someone else’s martyrdom decision for them?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110491371985845560 kentuckyliz

    Here’s how the Catholic church can have a married priesthood: let them become Anglican priests first, then use the Pastoral Provision!Problem solved.

  • http://openid.aol.com/sneakierbiscuit sneakierbiscuit

    I take exception to the argument that a celibate vocation is a “higher calling” than a marital vocation, because it involves renouncing a good (spouse/children) for the sake of the Kingdom. I am aware that Aquinas delineated a hierarchy of vocations, but then said (and I paraphrase *liberally*)that these were only in the abstract, as application to the ‘real world’ could not be made – that is, people in real life are not made holier than others by having a “higher vocation.”So, the relative “highness” of the holiness of vocations it is not applicable life in the world. It is for our current purposes some hierarchy of holiness in the abstract. Even so, I find I do not agree even with this limited sense. There are many who have given up goods (eg. monastic life) because they have been called to the vocation of marriage. They give up a celibate good for the sake of the Kingdom, because God wants for them to have a spouse/children. As a married woman who for years prior to marriage discerned a dear desire for religious life, I can say that I consider religious life (including permanent renunciation of genital sexual activity) a great good indeed. For me, it was a great sacrifice to accept that God was urging me to the sacrament of matrimony. I am joyful in this sacrifice and in my matrimonial vocation, although it is hard – very hard. I am doing it for the Kingdom of Heaven, in helping to build it here on earth, and in anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven after I die. Those who voluntarily renounce the goods of marriage for the chastity of religious life or celibacy of the priesthood are indeed pursuing a high vocation. And those who voluntarily renounce religious/priestly goods for the chastity of married life are too pursuing a high vocation. Can one really weigh these “competing” goods and say which is worth more, so the voluntary renunciation of one can be worth more than the other? It seems to me that God wants perfect holiness for each of His children, and wills for them the vocation within which their most holiness can be achieved. Each will entail renunciation of truly good things. Measuring the respective “highness” of callings according to what one must “give up” seems to me a most unsatisfactory way of viewing vocations.


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