Clergy Celibacy: Back-and-Forth with Lucas Banzoli

Clergy Celibacy: Back-and-Forth with Lucas Banzoli November 16, 2022

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian non-theist (who denies that Jesus is God) and non-Christian (falsely claiming to be “evangelical”) so-called “apologist”: who writes quite a bit in opposition to the Catholic Church and Catholic doctrine. He has a Master’s degree in theology, a degree and postgraduate work in history, a license in letters, and is a history teacher, author of 25 books, as well as blogmaster (but now inactive) for six blogs. He’s active on YouTube.

This is my 43rd refutation of Banzoli’s writings. Since 5-25-22 he hadn’t written one  word in reply, until he responded on 11-12-22 to Part 5 of my series on souls, and now, a second time. Why? It’s because he thinks my articles are “without exception poor, superficial and weak” and that my “objective” was “not to refute anything, but to exhaust [my] opponent.” He claims that “only a severely cognitively impaired person would be inclined to take” my articles “seriously.” He didn’t “waste time reading” 37 of my 40 replies (three articles are his proof of the worthlessness of all of my 4,000+ articles and 51 books). He also denied that I have a “job” and claimed that I don’t “work.” I disposed of these and other slanderous insults on my Facebook page on 11-13-22 and again on 11-15-22. Even so, Banzoli thought that replying to me was so “entertaining” that he resolved to “make a point of rebutting” my articles “one by one.” 

I use RSV for the Bible passages (including ones that Banzoli cites) unless otherwise indicated. Google Translate is utilized to render Lucas’ Portugese into English. Occasionally I slightly modify clearly inadequate translations, so that his words will read more smoothly and meaningfully in English. His words will be in blue.

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I’m replying to Banzoli’s article, “A hilária tentativa de Dave Armstrong de encontrar o celibato obrigatório do clero na Bíblia” [Dave Armstrong’s Hilarious Attempt to Find Mandatory Clergy Celibacy in the Bible] (11-15-22), which in turn was a response to my article: On Whether Required Celibacy is “Biblical” (9-24-22). My past words cited will be in green.

[T]he Church . . .  imposes mandatory celibacy as a condition to the priesthood – something that simply does not exist in the Bible . And the biggest problem is not even that it “does not exist” in the Bible, but that it explicitly clashes with it .

The principles that lie behind the requirement certainly are in the Bible. Therefore, our requirement doesn’t clash with the Bible at all. It is agreeing with the portion of it that expresses exactly how we think about the issue. Banzoli started by citing these words of mine that sum up the biblical principle in play:

The Catholic Church (Latin or western rite; not all portions of the Church) has this requirement. But in so doing it simply chooses for its priests men who have already been called by God to celibacy (and to the priesthood). In that sense it isn’t forcing them to do anything. By this reasoning, one would have to say that God “forced” them by calling them to that lifestyle in the first place. But they had the free will to follow that call or not, just as I did to follow my calling as an apologist. It wasn’t “mandatory” that I did so. I chose to follow and pursue what I believe God has called me to, and for which he gave me various gifts (“let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him”: 1 Cor 7:17).

I wrote:

But Lucas presupposes something that is — upon reflection — not true at all: the impermissibility of an institution or organization to draw up rules for its members, for whatever reason it sees fit and helpful. If someone wants to play in the NBA, they will have to have the ability to shoot baskets or play good defense. This rules out many people from the outset. A baseball umpire or a bus driver can’t be blind. A major league pitcher has to be able to throw fast (much faster than the average person). A person in the military (on the battlefield) has to be healthy and physically fit. A kindergarten teacher has to like small children. A gardener can’t have severe allergies. A talk show host has to like to talk. Etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Banzoli’s “answer” to this (which is no answer at all but merely a “blow off”) is:

It’s hard to know if Dave really missed the point or if he’s just playing dumb with his “illustrations ad infinitum “. The problem is not that the Church has its own rules; the problem is that these rules clash directly with Scripture.

The rule obviously does not clash with Scripture at all, because it teaches that there is such a thing as a person who is called to celibacy by God (1 Cor 7:17 + 9:32-35; Mt 19:12). Since the model exists, we are not contradicting Scripture in choosing to follow this very high and self-sacrificing in the case of our priests. Banzoli himself conceded that not all priests must marry. Therefore, no contradiction exists between our policy and the Bible. We simply want the men whom Paul describes as being “anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (1 Cor 9:32) and those who have an “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 9:35). Sounds like the perfect folks to guard over a flock to me!

Dave prefers to continue deceiving people into believing that there is “biblical evidence” for Catholicism, while rejecting the Bible at the earliest opportunity. 

Right. The apostle Paul taught that “revilers” will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:10). Banzoli is already in danger of hellfire by denying that Jesus is God, and in so doing, becoming an apostate from the Christian faith. He needs a lot of prayer, and I strongly urge my readers to keep him in their prayers: to extend that basic Christian charity to this deluded, highly confused non-believer and heretic. But I don’t deny his sincerity (as he does, mine). He’s just sincerely wrong again and again.

But if obligatory celibacy (in the sense already explained above) were just as obvious, why was it not imposed neither in the OT law of God, nor by Jesus, nor by the apostles?

It didn’t have to be. The model on which it is based is in Holy Scripture: in people like Jeremiah, John the Baptist, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and even our Lord Jesus. Let me ask him a question in return: if “faith alone” is supposedly a “pillar” of biblical belief, why is it never taught anywhere in Scripture, and why is it condemned in at least one place?:

James 2:24, 26 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. . . . [26] . . . faith apart from works is dead.

And why is sola Scriptura (i.e., the Bible as the only infallible norm and standard of doctrine and theology) never taught anywhere in the Bible (while it is contradicted all over the place. I wrote a book listing 100 of them)? But heroic celibacy for the sake of undistracted devotion to the Lord and service towards others is a perfectly biblical principle, without question, and beyond all argument. We choose to take Paul’s and Jesus’ wise advice concerning it and to follow it, in the case of our priests in the Latin, western rite. Eastern Catholics, however, who are just as much Catholics as anyone else, chose to not require it, just as even the Latin Church did for some 1,000 years before it changed its disciplinary requirements.

Dave is literally calling God, Jesus and the apostles imbeciles for not realizing something so obvious,

They didn’t have to “realize” anything. They taught that God has a calling / vocation for every believer, that they must follow (1 Cor 7:17; Mt 19:12). Most of us get married; a small class follows the celibate life, with its spiritual advantages for their particular calling. Both are in God’s will. If it had been an ironclad requirement and “dogma” for all, then there would have been no married Christian workers: like priests in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, or deacons in western Catholicism, or apologists like myself, or all the married catechists and teachers in Catholic schools. God has a plan for each individual life.

it’s as if the Roman Catholic authorities had more insight into celibacy as a condition of the priesthood than God Himself

Nonsense. Jesus is God, and He taught the principle involved here in Matthew 19:12. But of course, since Banzoli denies that He is God, this example wouldn’t count for him. Paul reiterates it and explains it in depth in 1 Corinthians 9. We haven’t invented anything. We’re following the celibacy model personally exemplified by Jeremiah, John the Baptist (likely also Elijah, Elisha, and Daniel), St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. And Paul often stressed that his followers should imitate him, and even wrote (in the context of discussing marriage and singleness):

1 Corinthians 7:7-9 I wish that all were as I myself am. . . . [8] To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. [9] But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.

God allows it, but the Catholic Church does not, 

That’s not true. We do in Eastern Catholicism. And we also do in exceptions made for a few priests even in the western rite: particularly those who converted from Anglicanism and were priests there (and married). I myself have known two of these men. The Catholic Church reasoned that Paul was an excellent model to follow; took his own advice, followed his own preference, and wanted her priests to be like he was, and to “remain single”; following also the models of Jeremiah, John the Baptist (likely also Elijah, Elisha, and Daniel), the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I think it was an excellent choice, based upon superb and unsurpassed biblical models, including the model of the God-Man Himself: God the Son, Jesus Christ.

The problem is when a priest is forced to be one thing or another, as if the opposite were a sin

We never said the opposite was a sin (while Banzoli almost implies that our celibacy requirement is a sin). It’s the distinction between “very good” and “better” or “heroic self-sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom.”

Dave knows I’m not saying it’s mandatory to have a wife and children, 

Great! Then this entire discussion has now been rendered null and void . . . If marriage isn’t mandatory for clergy, then there is such a thing as chosen celibacy, and all the Catholic Church does is acknowledge that this class of people already exists, by God’s express will, and that it is an excellent “pool” from which to draw our priests.

When Peter says that “we have left our homes and followed you” (Luke 18:28), the meaning is not that “we have left our wives and children”, as Dave claims, but that he has prioritized Jesus over family ties.

It’s not me saying or inventing this, but our Lord Jesus:

Mark 10:19-20 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, [30] who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Peter makes it more clear what was being discussed, by saying, “we have left everything and followed you” (Mk 10:28). So Jesus comforts His disciples by noting that anyone who left any and all family members and/or properties for the sake of the gospel would later receive a “hundredfold” for doing so. In other words, they would later be rewarded for what they were now voluntarily depriving themselves of.

What’s really stupid is that Banzoli cites Luke 18:28 and denies that it is also about (or potentially about) children, despite the fact that Jesus interpreted the passage in the next verse, where He talked about those (like His disciples) who had “left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God”. So Banzoli interprets the Bible according to his own preconceived notions (up to and including denying that Jesus is God). I interpret it with the wonderful help of people like, oh, how about Jesus?

the intended meaning is that we should prioritize Jesus above everyone else

Exactly! And so we are saying that, for the priest, service to Jesus and the flock is prioritized above having a wife and family, per Paul’s wise advice (part of infallible, inspired Scripture) in 1 Corinthians 7.

Dave read[s] the Bible like a 6-year-old reads a Marvel comic. There is not the slightest interest in capturing the meaning of the texts, 

Right. Whatever you say . . .

it shows the extent to which Rome is willing to destroy families in order to sustain mandatory celibacy.

Mark 10:19-20 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, [30] who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.”

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

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Summary: Brazilian Christological heretic Lucas Banzoli mightily tried to rail against required celibacy for Catholic priests. But biblically speaking, he fired all blanks.


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