Mandatory Celibacy of Priests & Religious (Dialogue)

Mandatory Celibacy of Priests & Religious (Dialogue) June 29, 2018
This is a dialogue with an evangelical pastor (5-27-97), followed by clarifying remarks made in response to the questions of a Catholic friend (6-3-97), and further dialogues with several Protestants from late 1998. Words of all those besides myself are in blue.

These verses may form a rationale, but the question is what kind of rationale do they form? Since the author puts the matter on the rational level rather than a strict biblical one it would be proper to answer it using “rationale”. The verses mentioned taken as a whole do not form any rationale for a REQUIREMENT. Paul specifically says that “I wish all were as I am, BUT…”

Though he argues for the excellency of celibacy as a way of living a completely unhindered and practical devotional life, he DOES NOT argue for it as a requirement to such a life.

I think you are straining at gnats. I had no problem whatsoever with the Catholic requirement of celibacy for priests when I was a Protestant. Why do you, I wonder? Here we have a state of life that the Apostle Paul argues is very spiritually beneficial, and so the Catholic Church makes it a requirement for its priests. What I see as biblical and practical wisdom, however, you regard as legalistic and “man-made.”

That truly amazes me. Would you also balk at the requirement of many denominations for four years of seminary training? After all, the Apostles didn’t go to seminary, right? Why make it a requirement? It’s not fair! If a pastor wants to remain theologically undereducated, no man or denomination has a right to force him to learn!!!!!

In fact he purposely stops short and gives a rationale for when such a requirement could and should in fact NOT be carried out.

Exactly. The gift is not given to all, lest the world population would reduce to zero in 100 years or so.

And he specifically puts the whole matter of celibacy into the realm of “gift”.

As do we.

Meaning that while he recognizes its superior condition, he also recognizes it as something that has to be given by God. That is a far cry from a man-pronounced requirement.

Why, then, can’t the Catholic Church (in the Western Latin Rites, that is, not all the Rites) draw its priests from among this pool who have felt so called and so gifted from God? How is that “man-made,” when all we are doing is recognizing prior gifts from God? Every institution has the right to make whatever rules it deems necessary for its flourishing continuance.

Like I said, if someone wants to be a married priest, he can join one of the Eastern Rites (e.g., Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian), or go Orthodox or Anglican. Why moan and groan about the Latin Rites if one can simply go to another within the Catholic Church?

The context of this passage of scripture should also be noted. It is not found in the Pastoral Epistles, neither is it addressed to those who might be termed elders or deacons. It is written to what the Catholic would call laity.

Well, I’m not sure how relevant that is, but Paul does talk about the ministry of the Apostles in 1 Corinthians 4, and the rights of Apostles and Christian workers in 1 Corinthians 9, the Lord’s Supper in ch. 11, spiritual gifts: ch. 12-14. I think these topics apply at least as much to clergy as to laity, if not much more so. But that is beside the point of my argument anyway. The Catholic Church wants its priests to be as single-heartedly devoted to the Lord as they can be.

Since Paul says that singleness is a means to that end (1 Cor 7:32-35), we accept his wise counsel and select our priests from among the pool of those so called. If someone is called to be married (and I thank God I am!!!), they have no business pursuing the priesthood (in the Latin Rites), just as a pacifist has no business being on active military duty.

On the other hand, we often see the havoc of married pastors. In just two churches I attended as a Protestant, two pastors left their wives. Also, two elders left their wives. If my experience is indicative, the record is miserable for such “divided attention” to ministry and to family. Everyone is familiar with the terminology of “PK” and “MK” and all that that conjures up.

Not that married pastors can’t succeed. I wouldn’t say that at all (and it would contradict the Eastern Rites in my own Church). We simply think it the wiser course to require celibacy in order to avoid potential problems, and to allow the priest to be a “father” to his flock in every sense of the word, and to serve God and fellow man to the utmost. 

This is what we call the “evangelical counsels” – above and beyond the ordinary commitment. Besides, Jesus and all the Apostles were single, as far as we know (some were widowers, or perhaps allowed by wives to separate physically and/or sexually for the purposes of ministry). If this is the norm, then, in the biblical accounts, why do you knock it? Don’t you want the Catholic Church to be more biblical?

If we are going to be true to the text and carry through on its implications then the proper rationale would be that the laity ought to be celibate. I doubt whether that would become an acceptable dogma.

Certainly not, because that isn’t what Paul is saying at all. He is saying that each has his own gift, and ought to pursue it, whatever it is. Some (most, of course) are called to marriage, some few to celibacy. We choose our priests from the latter group. Thus, we are not hindering God or any individual in the least, but rather, cooperating with God’s callings and purposes. There ought to be no objection to this whatsoever. You have no case!

It is a false use of this scripture to argue for something that the scripture itself is not specifically addressing, nor which the passage itself is arguing for. A simple reading of I Co. 7 reveals that Paul is arguing for the “allowance of marriage” not vice versa. The authors’ use of this passage also ignores the possible historical context of the situation as well.

I think this is a non sequitur, per my above explanations. As for historical context, the key verses 32-35 (and many others, too, I’m sure) are not written in a style which is historically contingent, but as general, universally-applicable axioms of human nature and the human condition.

The point is not that people doubt God’s power to assist someone in such a choice. The point is that St. Paul DOES NOT teach what is here claimed. He actually teaches the opposite. He says “it is better to marry then to burn”. That is hardly “undeniably teach[ing] the contrary”.

Fine. We have no problem with that. We simply choose not to have priests who are “burning” for the opposite sex. Let such men become Melkites or Orthodox if they feel called to both priesthood and marriage. We offer them that option. What’s wrong with that? We’re supposed to re-write our Tradition because a few people are disgruntled with our requirements? I say to such people: “get a life! Who are you to say what an entire Church with a claimed apostolic succession back to Christ, ought to do?”

It is exactly that one must make a choice for or against the biblical teaching that this issue should be discussed. The author has not demonstrated a biblical rationale for his position from this passage.

We are being most biblical. Where in Protestantism is the calling of celibacy celebrated and honored, since it is strongly recommended by Paul and Jesus, and was the norm among the early Apostles, not to mention the early priests and bishops? We honor both celibacy and marriage (both are sacraments – means to obtain grace). You guys seem to honor only the latter. You are just as legalistic as you claim we are by enforcing the “unwritten rule” that pastors ought always to be married.

There is an unproven assumption here and it is that the ministry is to be celibate. That has yet to be scripturally demonstrated, and it has not. The scripture in use so far does NOT speak to the issue of ministry in the sense of church leadership as distinct from laity.

John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples, the Apostles: that’s not enough “demonstration” from Scripture for you? Pretty astonishing! True, married clergy are not ruled out (which is why we don’t do that, either, as a multi-faceted Church, nor do we make this a matter of dogma) but the most honored norm was singleness.

It is good that the author acknowledges a distinction between the call to the priesthood and a call to a celibate life. The two are not automatically the same and so it does not scripturally follow that the one call leads to the other or that the other call depends on the former. This is all extra-biblical rationale up to this point.

They’re not absolutely the same; I agree. We require celibacy in the Latin Rites as a matter of spiritual, disciplinary preference, based on the biblical reasoning I have pointed out, and centuries of practical, pastoral experience. You must also understand the principle of asceticism (which many Protestants do not comprehend). I have a paper on that in my website (written by Louis Bouyer) which might be helpful for you to understand where we are coming from on this topic.

The issue under consideration is not whether sex is good or bad.The issue is whether the tradition agrees with Scripture.

I say it does, unarguably so. What does it take to convince you of that?

The point is, those vows are NOT scriptural.

Prove it! Poverty is not a scriptural principle? Were the Apostles rich men? Obedience is not scriptural? That is too obvious to even argue. Chastity, if ordained by God and given to a man as a calling and gift, is very scriptural, and we have every right to draw our priests from this category of men, just as you have a right to draw your pastors from those men who believe in sola Scriptura and sola fide.

If the Roman Catholic church is The True Church, then there is nowhere within it in which a man may be married and in official ministry in the same sense that the Bible allows for. Therefore the Catholic church DOES in fact compel those who sense a call to the ministry to be celibate. And that compulsion is contradictory to scripture which allows it.

No, you are simply wrong. The “Eastern Rites” is part of the Catholic Church. We have married priests in the Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian and other Eastern liturgies. The tradition in the east was to allow married priests, but still require bishops to be celibate. We even allow special cases of married priests in the Latin Rites (e.g., Anglican priests who convert). I have personally met a married priest with several children. He is in his 70s and converted from Anglicanism. Since his children are raised, he was allowed to become a Catholic priest, even in the Latin, Western Rites.

However the argument given here seems to be an allowance that the Catholic church is NOT The True Church, but others are also. If that is so then we agree to a point with the argument given. However, having been called a heretic by recent Catholic converts from Protestantism, who now are apologists for that faith, for not being in the Catholic church, I know that is not the intention of the above statement. Within the framework of Catholic thought, this tradition contradicts scripture.

This is a whole ‘nother subject. I have a paper in my website on this which I edited, too, by Karl Adam. Suffice it to say that we regard Protestants as Christians and part of the Church in some sense. “Heretic” means, literally, “pick and choose.” Where Protestants contradict apostolic Tradition, they are heretical, where they agree with it (and there is considerable commonality), they are orthodox.

No institution can create rules that contradict scripture and maintain that they are scriptural. Any institution can do whatever they want, but when they claim the practise is biblical it is incumbent that they prove so.

We (and I in this paper and this letter) have done so. Strange for you as a Protestant to talk about contradicting Scripture, when your formal principle, sola Scriptura, is absolutely unbiblical, and is often contradicted by clear scriptural teaching, and the document upon which this teaching rests is not determined by itself, but rather, by Catholic Church Tradition, which you must incoherently accept in order to maintain the pretense of sola Scriptura in the first place. The whole system is illogical, self-defeating, and circular. It certainly is less “biblical” than our system.

It has yet to be shown where these clear recommendations specifically refering to the ministry are.

The example of Jesus and the Apostles. But they don’t have to be spelled out that specifically, since we are applying a general ascetic principle.

The argument against unrestrained sex belongs to a different discussion. Celibacy is not about unrestrained sex, or even restrained, it is about NO sex. But biblically the issue goes beyond mere sex.

But liberal Catholics and Protestants sure make it an issue about sex, don’t they? And the so-called “Reformers” sure were eager to get married and break their sacred vows, weren’t they? Sorry; I find that far more than coincidental.

IN CONCLUSION: the author has failed to prove the point. His argument is much more with those of his own faith.

How so?

I have been repeatedly challenged to find one tradition that condradicts scripture. This one does. What is the contradiction? The scripture ALLOWS for married ministers, the RC church FORBIDS it. That is contradictory.

If it were true, it would be, but since it isn’t true, it ain’t!

So what is right, the scripture or the tradition?

Both; they are of a piece. This is not a matter of dogma, however, but of discipline, like meat on Fridays.

Two mutually exclusive things cannot both be true.

Correct. We agree on that much!

Either ministers are free to marry or they are not. Or perhaps they could be free to marry but not have sex. The point is that here is a case in which the two collide and tradition carries the weight of authority over the scripture. Sure there is development of scripture, but this development seems to fall under the censure of the Lord who said you make void the Word of God by your tradition.

Your argument fails because you have neglected to make crucial distinctions, and especially since it is based on a gross factual error (that there are no married Catholic priests). The bottom line is that we have every right as a (spiritual) institution to choose amongst those who have already been called to celibacy by God for our priests. There is nothing “forced,” “unnatural,” “unethical,” “illogical” or “unbiblical” about that in the least. And with that, I rest my case.

Thanks for writing. I disagree strongly, but I commend you for your effort, and for taking the time to interact with my viewpoint. 

* * *

It is true that nowhere in the New Testament do we find deacons, priests or bishops who are required to be celibate. I agree with our Protestant friend that in the N.T. one cannot find a requirement of celibacy for anyone.

Technically speaking, yes (to the last sentence), but in terms of being obedient to a calling from God, Matthew 19:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:7, 20 come very close to being a “requirement.”

I would not even pretend that Paul had the Latin Rite practice in mind. The only thing one can say is that he saw a great value in celibacy.

Yes, I agree. That’s why I grounded my overall argument in the framework of a general asceticism, not just priestly discipline.

So, is the requirement unbiblical? In one sense the answer is yes. It runs counter to what we find in the Bible.

In a very strict sense (which I would consider too strict). Seminary education isn’t “biblical” either, but that doesn’t stop most brands of Christians from requiring it (which is why I used that example as an analogy).

I think you realize this to some extent because you defend the Latin church practice by citing the Eastern Catholic churches.

Well, if we allow marriage in a portion of our Church, then we do allow it, and much of the force of his argument is therefore neutralized. Remember, he claimed that nowhere in the Catholic Church were there married priests, and he didn’t acknowledge the contrary matter of fact in his reply.

In other words, you seem to be saying, “yes, the Latins do this, but the East does not so the Catholic Church allows married priests like the Bible.” I think this is avoiding the question. The question is can the Church require celibate priests?

I disagree. It is a matter of definition. If we allow an option, then it isn’t a strict requirement after all, on a Church-wide level. Granted, one must go to another Rite to be a married priest, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. The Trappists don’t talk. So a blabbermouth obviously won’t be called (or feel called) to become a Trappist monk! Any institution (not just a Christian body) can require any discipline which it sees as beneficial to itself (provided, of course, that such a rule is not immoral — and this certainly isn’t).

It does not matter if they make exceptions. The question is the existence of the requirement not the exceptions or variations between East and West.

They can require it because it is a choice to select those men who are able to exercise “undistracted devotion to the Lord.” It is a matter of practical wisdom. As Paul says, marriage is good, but celibacy is better. And that is the rationale behind the Western tradition on this (which the East also accepts, but only requires at the level of bishop – we are just stricter, that’s all).

Could the Church eventually require all priests, East and West to be celibate? Yes, the Church could to this.

Absolutely: it being a matter of discipline.

So, saying that there are married priests in the Catholic Church does not address the issue at all. It does show, however, that celibacy is not intrinsic to the priesthood.

I again disagree with the first sentence and agree with the second.

Now, is the Latin rite wrong in requiring celibacy of priests? Is the East wrong in allowing married men to be priests? The answer is “no” to both of these questions.

That’s right. The difference would be along the lines of pastoral and practical wisdom (perhaps even “custom”), and prudence. Our Church is big enough to contain these different approaches.

I would approach the whole thing this way. First, neither Jesus nor the Apostles set down any specific teaching regarding the question of married/celibate priests.

Except for the “calling” argument made above, and their own example, for whatever that is worth.

Your Protestant friend realizes this, but having a sola Scriptura mentality, he wrongly concludes that the Latin practice is “unbiblical” (i.e. because it is not in the Bible).


Second, could Paul or the Apostles have required celibacy? Certainly, because Jesus gave them the authority (i.e. to loose and bind). Like it or not, this authority has been given to their successors.

This is where your argument is very good, and if I had used it in my reply, it would have strengthened my point considerably.

It is as “simple” as this:

1. There is no Biblical teaching concerning married/celibate priests. Jesus left the particular question of married/celibate priests up to the Church.
2. Jesus gave authority to the Apostles, and they to their successors gave the same authority.
3. The Catholic Church has among its members the successors to the Apostles.
4. The Church, therefore, can require celibate priests.

Excellent. This cleverly shifts the focus of the dispute from sex to Church authority, and I should have realized that myself. I disagree, however, with one minor point (see below).

I mean really, Jesus never said that we must allow priests to marry or allow married men to be ordained. No one in the Bible talks about it.

No: 1 Corinthians 9:5 refers to married clergy (apostles), as do 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 (bishops and deacons).

The Bible does say that the Apostles have the authority to loose and bind. So, the Church is exercising this authority when it requires a priest to be celibate. The Church’s authority is limited but the requirement of celibacy falls within that limit.

Agreed. But of course a sola scriptura Protestant would refer to the verses I just said and say that the Bible does cite married clergy, but doesn’t require celibacy, and they would say those considerations overrule any power derived from “binding and loosing.” But this is a very good point which I will incorporate into my future discussions on this topic.

* * * 

It appears that Zwingli did indeed have a “fornication problem” from c. 1518 to c. 1524. I would point out that this was the very period when Zwingli was discovering “justification by faith”; was just beginning to serve as a spiritual leader; and was struggling desperately with the celibacy of the priesthood. This is a problem that many Catholic priests have TODAY — principally because their vows are in clear violation of Paul’s teaching in such Scriptures as 1 Cor. 7:2 and 1 Tim. 3:2 (note that the RCC would have to insert “not” after “must”). Thus, I see Zwingli’s sins as having bearing on Roman-Catholic celibacy more than Protestant doctrine – but, hey, I’m biased – I acknowledge this.

This is ridiculous. Your blame is entirely misdirected. If the man couldn’t keep his pants on in the company of women, he didn’t have to ever become a priest. He should have become a President (ok, ok . . . ). That’s pretty stupid — to enter the celibate priesthood, knowing that you have a pronounced desire for women, isn’t it? The desire isn’t necessarily wrong — it is just designed to be fulfilled in marriage, not in the priesthood of the Latin Rites! But you want to blame the ascetic, celibacy principle itself for Zwingli’s sin, which is absurd. Your argument would hold only if Catholicism required celibacy for all its members. But it doesn’t. It decided that celibacy was the best route to go for the priests. No one forced Zwingli to become a priest . . .

Let me answer briefly your two verses. 1 Corinthians 7:2 cannot possibly be taken as an absolute, because if so, it would contradict Paul’s own teaching in the same chapter – even the verse right before it (7:1, 25-26, 27b, 28b, 32). 7:2 is clearly a proverbial statement, which allows for contradiction (therefore, celibacy doesn’t “violate” it). So you are guilty of gross neglect of context and cross-referencing in your use of this verse. Shame on you!

1 Timothy 3:2 is saying that if a bishop is married, it should be once, so as not to violate the Church’s rule of indissoluble matrimony. Celibacy was an honored state of life from the beginning. Jesus, the disciples, and Paul all were single (or left their families in order to serve Christ). This was already a norm for clergy. There were married bishops in the early days, as this is a matter of Church “discipline” as opposed to “dogma.” Discipline can be changed. Later, the Church thought it best to make celibacy a requirement (largely due to historically-scandalous situations). This was a long and noble tradition, and an eminently biblical one.

But even in a Christian tradition like Orthodoxy, where priests are allowed to marry (as they are also in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church), the bishops are required to be celibate. It is only meant for those who feel themselves called to that state by God. You want to knock celibacy. We take the explicitly-stated biblical view that everyone should fulfill their own calling, whether single or married. We simply choose our priests from among the pool of the celibate — as called by God. It’s not forcing anyone to do anything. Rather, it honors and respects God’s own choices. I’ve always regarded this issue as a no-brainer (as a Protestant, too). But it seems that any issue involving sex has to be controversial in our day and age.

People like Zwingli and Luther mock and despise God’s calling, and vows, by breaking them and exercising their own wills over against God’s calling for them. This is grave sin – not to be taken lightly at all. A vow in the Bible and in Christianity is an extremely serious undertaking (and a voluntary one – which is the whole point).

Why does “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” mean that Jesus is sanctioning celibacy as an ordinance for priests?

He isn’t doing that — not directly. I contend that celibacy is not only possible (contra Luther), but that some are positively called to it. Jesus was acknowledging that the teaching was difficult, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s one of His “hard sayings.”

So to me this verse could still be “merely describing this state of affairs”, but not specific only to priests.

I didn’t say it pertained to priests alone. But Jesus obviously accepted the normalcy of celibacy in some cases, as all His disciples were either single or abstaining from marital relations by (presumably) mutual consent (e.g., Peter). I was starting to build my case by anticipating hostile premises, which often affect this particular discussion. The assumption (in our sex-crazed society) is often that celibacy is impossible. Such a view is blatantly, radically unbiblical.

This is a matter of discipline, not doctrine, so both celibacy and marriage are acceptable. It is a question of what we would regard as (like Paul) “good and better” as opposed to “good and bad.” Marriage is very good. Celibacy is even better, especially if one devotes all the attention that would have been diverted to a mate, towards God. There are many days when I wish I was single. But I guess the “grass is always greener,” you know . . . Yet my single days were very difficult for me.

But, if I am correct, and there is a superior quality to celibate priests than these others that are married priest . . .

In Paul’s sense, and a pragmatic sense, which is not implying that marriage is bad. In Catholic ascetic spirituality, or what are called “the evangelical counsels,” a person may voluntarily (sometimes heroically) renounce something for the kingdom of God. That principle is even found in Protestantism to some extent (e.g., giving monetary donations to the point of sacrifice). It is certainly biblical (the prophets, John the Baptist, the disciples, etc.). Jesus called for the rich young ruler to give up his riches. He wasn’t implying that riches per se were bad. He knew such an action was that particular man’s calling in life. Likewise with sex and marriage.

I still have a problem with the possibility that this could squelch the true call of God on a man’s life.

It just means he can’t be a priest in the western, Latin rites. He can be a deacon, or an apologist like I am, or a teacher of some sort. There are many callings and roles to fill. Not everyone can be a Marine, or a Green Beret, or a Rhodes scholar, or an NBA all-star. Those are things that call for qualifications which not everyone can meet (if you’re 5’1″, chances are you ain’t gonna take up basketball). So is the priesthood.

My view of priests is of course prejudiced by my own knowledge of ministers, I equate them as the same.

It is not by any means clear to me that a married clergy is a preferable or superior state of affairs. Most pastors end up forsaking time with their families, and are workaholics (as are many men). Go talk to some pastor’s wives if you doubt this! Take a survey! I used to observe this firsthand all the time when I was an evangelical (e.g., the “PK” phenomena). I even had a phrase for it: “Busy Pastor Syndrome.” I can see in my own life that I have to carefully balance stuff like this, my family life, time alone with my wife, and (once in a blue moon) pure leisure and relaxation for myself. I can’t imagine having this family and shepherding a flock of so many hundred people. Being single in that situation makes all the sense in the world to me.

But the passage in question deals with regular folks: lay persons. No mention of bishops, elders or any church leaders in mentioned in the passage or the surrounding passages. To yank it out of context and apply it to them is a faulty hermeneutical procedure.

No; this is silly, because the passage applies to everyone. It doesn’t have to refer specifically to priests for our argument to be valid. Priests and bishops, being people, therefore part of everyone, “fall under” these injunctions as well. These scriptures form our rationale as to why we deem celibacy a preferable state for priests.

But Scripture does not make celibacy a requirement for those holding leadership positions.

This is true. Otherwise we couldn’t have married priests in our Eastern rites, could we? There are even some married priests in the Western rites, by special dispensation (e.g., some Anglican convert priests). I myself have met a married Catholic priest in the Western rites (he is an Anglican convert). Oftentimes, these are older men, so that they are no longer raising children (also true in his case).

I find that forbidding them to marry is contrary to scripture and for the RCC to continue to force their leaders to do so on a supposedly scriptural basis is inviting them to temptation.

But you have already admitted that as an institution we have the right to enforce our own guidelines. I agree with you that it is not an absolute requirement. So in my opinion your case has collapsed of its own weight. The temptation arises when a person takes a vow of celibacy when in fact God (long before he considers the vocation of the priesthood) has not called him to that state. Of course, anyone could give in to temptation by foolishly placing himself in an occasion of sin, but I would argue that that is the fault of the individual, not the rule of celibacy itself. Let’s be clear as to where the blame should be directed. All we’re doing is following Paul’s spiritual advice with regard to undistracted devotion to the Lord, and adopting it as a principle for our priests (and that only in the Latin rites). There is nothing wrong, improper, unbiblical, or illogical about that in the least.

But it is still a mandatory condition if you feel led to be a priest. Thats what is hard for me to understand, as I think (in my humble opinion) it might keep some from being priest that are actually and truly called to do so. It is tantamount to saying God only allows celibacy when called into His service. If this is based on Biblical foundation, I don’t see it in OT or NT…..

As I said, there are many ways to serve God. In the Catholic Church, married people can be deacons, religious instructors, professors, lay apologists like myself, writers, missionaries, priests in the Eastern Rites, even a monk (e.g., 3rd-Order Franciscans). Paul lists many qualifications for deacons and bishops. I could just as easily argue that he is excluding people from ministry, too, by being so “exclusionary.”

I don’t see why a person who can’t (for whatever reason) be celibate, and in knowing this they get married, are then as a result not able to formally serve God or be called to formally serve God. (formally serve = religious)

So you’re saying that a religious institution doesn’t have the right to set up qualifications and requirements for its pastoral offices? That would be a tough case to make. After all, the homosexuals are clamoring about being excluded from, e.g., marriage. They claim it isn’t fair that society doesn’t accept their beliefs, and doesn’t allow them to marry like everyone else. In this instance even the secular state recognizes that it can set certain moral and legal boundaries for its institutions. Pastors can’t be homosexual in conservative Christian denominations. The homosexual who feels called would argue that he is being unfairly excluded, because the denomination he desires to be ordained in won’t allow him to exercise what he feels to be his call, based on mere sexual issues.

But if you can’t be a priest unless you are celibate, that is a law of the Catholic Church, right?

In the Western, Latin rites.

So is it only church law?

Yep; as a matter of “discipline.” Just as we require the vows of poverty and obedience.

Or does the Catholic Church make it a law because they see it is a law from God?

We see it as a spiritually beneficial state for both priests and parishes, based on Paul’s teaching, already stated.

So it is a Catholic tradition of the western sect for their priests, based on what Jesus and Paul said for everyone. Not a Biblical law / ordinance of God, but a criteria requirement of the Catholic Church itself for its priests. Is that right?

Precisely. Very good. :-)

* * * 
Furthermore, are you suggesting that a Catholic desiring the priesthood should only proceed if celibacy comes “easy” to him???

No, but he has to be called to it. There are ways to try to determine that.

Your comments on 1 Timothy 3:2 demonstrate that in practice Catholic “tradition” in fact sometimes supersedes the Scriptures. I have corrected you with this verse, yet you are in effect telling me that this particular passage is NOT “useful for correction” — because the RCC has decreed otherwise.

No; I am saying that it proves too much (before I even need to get to the Catholic Tradition). A strict application of it would mean that all bishops have to be married, and that would be historically absurd, because the majority view on bishops in the early Church was for them to be celibate. It would mean that a widower would have to cease being a bishop, if he absolutely has to have a wife. But of course that is taking it too far. As soon as the verse admits any exception, your argument against us crumbles. You would be denying all single men the opportunity to serve God as a bishop. And this is precisely the argument made against us – that we are unfairly excluding married men from the call to the priesthood.

The RCC has erected walls where the Scriptures erected none — in fact, where the Scriptures specifically demonstrate there ARE NONE.

I have carefully and painstakingly made my case – from Scripture, as I always attempt to do (especially in a Protestant setting). You can disagree with it, and that’s fine, but I vehemently refuse to accept the characterization that “NO” Scripture can be brought to bear in our favor on this point. That is simply not true. Almost all the disciples, Jesus, and Paul were single men, yet we catch misery for applying the same requirement to our priests. Flat-out amazing . . .

This is why Scripture made provision for those who take a “foolish” vow. In short, the Reformers were tricked. Yes, tricked! But they discovered in Scripture that they were in fact at liberty to marry and that celibacy was an unbiblical requirement for bishops/pastors.

I see. This is the sort of argument you make, yet you vigorously fault mine, when I have provided all sorts of Scripture, and direct deductions from Scripture? C’mon! You are capable of so much more than this . . .


(originally 5-27-97, 6-3-97, and late 1998)

Photo credit: Head of a Franciscan Friar (1617), by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


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