March 20, 2020

Reactionary Steve Skojec of One Vader Five infamy wrote in a combox of his site on 3-6-20:

Celibacy is fundamental to the priesthood. It’s not just a discipline, and never has been, no matter what our Eastern brothers tell us. It’s a concession.

And yes, changing celibacy in the Latin Rite — which has 98.5% of the Catholics in the world — absolutely fundamentally changes the priesthood, and breaks down barriers that advances the cause of changing the institution.

St. Peter, by the way, was a widower, as far as anyone knows. There’s mention in the Scriptures of his mother in law. Never of his wife.

Of course it’s a discipline (as opposed to a dogma, or intrinsic to the priesthood). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,” they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.

1580 In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.

Skojec can’t (and therefore doesn’t) deny that Peter was married, at least in the past (based on the “mother-in-law “passages: Mk 1:29-31; Mt 8:14-15; Lk 4:38-39). He says he was a widower at the time recorded by the gospels. Maybe he was. We don’t know for sure. But he could possibly have been presently married. How do we know that? We know from the following passage, which specifically references at least some of the apostles having “left” a living wife for the sake of ministry:

Luke 18:28-30 (RSV) And Peter said, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.” [29] And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, [30] who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

We presume that in such cases the wives (and children, as the case may be), agreed with the resolve (somewhat like, for example, Billy Graham, who had to often leave his wife and family for long periods of time in order to evangelize). It’s right there in Scripture. It’s not incompatible to be married and also to be a priest or even a bishop. And there are many examples in history of that.

1 Timothy 3:1-5 The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. [2] Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, [3] no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; [5] for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?

If the intent was to talk only about widowers, or was forbidding marriage to the bishop altogether, surely the text would have made that clear. But it doesn’t. It casually assumes that a bishop would have a wife and children (just as a later passage — 3:12 — assumes about deacons). These things aren’t presented as if they were only in the past.

There were even three popes who were married during their papacies: Pope Adrian II (r. 867-872), Pope John XVII (r. 1003), and Pope Clement IV (r, 1265-1268).

Therefore, on these two biblical grounds, marriage is perfectly compatible with being a priest or a bishop or a pope. Ergo: celibacy cannot possibly be said (based on inspired revelation in Scripture) to be inherent or intrinsic or essential or “fundamental” to any of these offices (let alone be a dogma).

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Photo credit: Ogni (3-10-13).  Eastern Catholic priest from Romania with his family. [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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January 14, 2020

Christopher Altieri wrote in Catholic Herald (1-13-20):

There is not now, nor has there ever been, a proposal “to end priestly celibacy” in the Church.

There is a proposal from the [Amazon] synod fathers, now before the Holy Father, asking him to consider relaxing the very long-standing discipline currently in force for secular (roughly “diocesan”) priests in the Latin Church, which impedes married men from receiving ordination to the priesthood. . . .

Pope Francis has taken a strong position in favour of the current discipline. He even made Paul VI’s line on the subject his own: “For the Latin rite,” he offered in January of last year, “I am reminded of a phrase of St. Paul VI: ‘I prefer to give my life before changing the law of celibacy.’ This came to me and I want to say it because it is a courageous phrase,” he told journalists in response to a direct question asked in solicitation of his personal thoughts on the matter.

While the rest of Pope Francis’s answer left the possibility for some relaxation of the discipline open, he concluded his remarks by saying, “I do not say that it should be done — because I have not reflected, I have not prayed sufficiently on this — But the theology should be studied.”

Charles Collins added, in an article for Crux (1-13-20):

“Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church. Secondly, I would say that I do not agree with permitting optional celibacy, no,” Francis said on Jan. 28, 2019.

The pope then admitted possible limited exceptions, such as the Pacific Islands, before discussing more deeply one of the viri probati proposals to ordain older, “proven men” – similar to those chosen for the permanent diaconate – to provide sacraments in remote areas.

Such a possibility was endorsed by the October 2019 Amazon synod as a way to provide sacraments to a region where people might see a priest only once or twice a year.

Francis – and most of the synod fathers – have been clear that celibacy as a rule is not being questioned; but rather, they are looking at possible exceptions to the rule for pastoral necessity.

Of course, Benedict is more than familiar with this idea, since he more than any other previous pontiff has facilitated the reality of married priests in the Western Church (most of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church allow married men to be ordained.)

Benedict’s 2009 document Anglicanorum Coetibus provided for the establishment of Ordinariates to provide pastoral care for former Anglicans who had become Catholic; including their mostly married clergy. Benedict established three ordinariates – one each in the UK, North America, and Australia – all of which have a large percentage of married priests.

When Benedict made these provisions, he was not wavering on his commitment to priestly celibacy; he was establishing an exception based on pastoral need.

The above is sufficient to dispel the current tempest in a teapot. I’d rather do a survey of what Pope Francis has stated in the past on this topic. Sadly — as so often –, it will not be in accord with the secular media and much of conservative Catholic media’s jaded, distorted spin.

Secondly, it bears repeating that priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, which means that it can and may change (possibly, greatly so). It wasn’t always a strict requirement (even in the western, Latin church) — this requirement began in the 11th century — and may not always be in the future. It doesn’t take much research and study to verify this.

[Cardinal Robert Sarah oddly observed on 1-13-20: “Priestly celibacy, far from being merely an ascetical discipline, is necessary to the identity of the Church.” Really? It would follow that Eastern Catholics are not fully in line with a Catholic identity (which is ludicrous), and moreover, that the entire Church for the first ten centuries of its existence lacked necessary requirements of Catholic identity: which is grotesquely absurd. With all due respect (and I love Cdl. Sarah), I think the good Cardinal was having a bad hair day, or some frustrating equivalent ordeal, evidenced by “reasoning” like this, which is well-nigh indefensible on close examination]

Thirdly, Eastern Catholics are every bit as much Catholics as anyone else, and they allow married priests. I believe (without having actual statistics) that the great majority of Eastern Catholic priests are married.

[Cardinal Robert Sarah stated yesterday (1-13-20), according to a Catholic News Agency article: ” ‘[t]he Eastern married clergy is in crisis,’ pointing to comments by some members of these Churches noting tension between the priestly and married states, as well as the problem of divorce by priests.” Whether this is true, or how extensive the purported problem is, I have no idea. I’m merely reporting what was stated . . . ]

Fourth, there are exceptions to the rule of priestly celibacy in the west: particularly for former Anglican priests. I personally have known two married priests in the Latin rite: the late Fr. Ray Ryland, and Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Exceptions to the rule are nothing new, and as Charles Collins noted above, Pope Benedict XVI in particular encouraged them, where it was pastorally wise and helpful.

Fifth, my own position (if anyone cares to know) is identical to that of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict: I’m a strong advocate of priestly celibacy, and have defended it many times: probably as much as anyone has in recent times. At the same time, I am open to further possible rare exceptions, just as I am a supporter of married priests in the East and of the three Ordinariates that Pope Benedict established for former Anglicans: with a high percentage of married priests.

If it’s a discipline and not a dogma, why all the uproar, hysteria, and conspiratorialism? Well, I submit that it’s because of a certain paranoid, cynical reactionary or semi-reactionary mindset (spearheaded by good ol’ Taylor “Tin Foil Hat” Marshall) that has taken hold among many Catholics: accustomed to hearing the lying nonsense and hogwash about Pope Francis, week in and week out.

Even a normally sensible, rational person like Karl Keating (not strictly a reactionary in my definition: I hasten to add, and merely a “papal nitpicker”) succumbed to it, when he put up a ridiculous meme (on 10-26-19) on his Facebook page, stating, “THE REAL PLAN [:] Married priests in Amazon today, married priests everywhere tomorrow” [caps in original, italics mine]. It has received 186 likes and 25 shares, as of writing: including 25 mutual Facebook friends (or 13% of the total). I’m delighted to see that 87% of the “likers” are not on my friends’ list. That’s heartening to me (i.e., my friends online know better than to espouse such silliness), while it is disturbing that such a large number of Karl’s Facebook friends succumb to such groundless paranoia and suspicion.

What follows are the pope’s own words.

*****

Think about this: when a priest — I say a priest, but also a seminarian — when a priest or a sister lacks joy he or she is sad; you might think: “but this is a psychological problem”. No. It is true: that may be, that may be so, yes, it might. It might happen, some, poor things, fall sick…. It might be so. However in general it is not a psychological problem. Is it a problem of dissatisfaction? Well, yes! But what is at the heart of this lack of joy? It is a matter of celibacy. I will explain to you. You, seminarians, sisters, consecrate your love to Jesus, a great love. Your heart is for Jesus and this leads us to make the vow of chastity, the vow of celibacy. However the vow of chastity and the vow of celibacy do not end at the moment the vow is taken, they endure…. A journey that matures, that develops towards pastoral fatherhood, towards pastoral motherhood, and when a priest is not a father to his community, when a sister is not a mother to all those with whom she works, he or she becomes sad. This is the problem. For this reason I say to you: the root of sadness in pastoral life is precisely in the absence of fatherhood or motherhood that comes from living this consecration unsatisfactorily which on the contrary must lead us to fertility. It is impossible to imagine a priest or a sister who are not fertile: this is not Catholic! This is not Catholic! This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy. (Address, 7-6-13)

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Family life is the vocation that God inscribed into the nature of man and woman and there is another vocation which is complementary to marriage: the call to celibacy and virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the vocation that Jesus himself lived. (Address, 10-4-13; italics in original)

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Seminary formation must offer young men a serious path of intellectual and spiritual growth. May priestly holiness be authentically proposed to them, beginning with the example of priests who live out their own vocation with joy; may future priests truly learn to live the demands of priestly celibacy, . . . (Address, 3-24-14)

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I urge you to be close to your young people as they seek to establish and articulate their identity in a disorienting age. Help them to find their purpose in the challenge and joy of co-creation with God that is the vocation to married life, fulfilled in the blessing of children; or indeed in the celibate vocations to the sacred priesthood or religious life, which the Church has been given for the salvation of souls. Encourage young Catholics by living lives of virtue to experience the liberating gift of chastity as adults. (Address, 11-17-14)

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In a time of an apparent decrease in vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, it is important to speak openly about the fulfilling and joyful experience of offering one’s life to Christ. For when your Christian communities are built up by your own continued example of “living in truth and joy your priestly commitments, celibacy in chastity and detachment from material possessions” (ibid., 111), then vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life will most certainly abound. (Address, 4-24-15)

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Initial formation at the Seminary and vocational discernment are necessary. In addition to intellectual, spiritual and communal formation, particular attention must be given to their human and emotional formation, so that future priests are capable of living their commitment to celibacy, in which no compromise is acceptable. (Address, 5-15-15)

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In the seminaries, may there be no neglect of the human, intellectual and spiritual formation which ensures a true encounter with the Lord; while cultivating the pastoral devotion and emotional maturity that render seminarians fit to embrace priestly celibacy and capable of living and working in communion. (Address, 5-28-15)

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In fact, Jesus was already revealing himself as a Messiah different from their expectations, from how they imagined the Messiah, how the Messiah would be: not a powerful and glorious king, but a humble and unarmed servant; not a lord of great wealth, a sign of blessing, but a poor man with nowhere to rest his head; not a patriarch with many descendants, but a celibate man without home or nest. (Angelus, 3-12-17)

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There might only remain a few possibilities in the most remote places – I am thinking of the Pacific islands… But it is one thing to reflect on when there is pastoral necessity, there, the pastor must think of the faithful. There is a book by Father Lobinger [Bishop Fritz Lobinger, Preti per domani (Priests for Tomorrow), Emi, 2009], it is interesting – this is a matter of discussion among theologians, there’s no decision on my part. My decision is: optional celibacy before the diaconate, no. That’s something for me, something personal, I won’t do it, this remains clear. Am I “closed”? Maybe. But I don’t want to appear before God with this decision. . . .

Yes, you ask me about what Pope Benedict had done, it’s true. I had forgotten this: “Anglicanorum coetibus”, the Anglican priests who have become Catholics and keep their [married] lives, as if they were of the Eastern [rite]. At a Wednesday audience, I remember seeing many of them, with their collar, and many women with them and children holding the hands of the priests…, and they explained to me what it was. It is true: thank you for reminding me. (Press conference, 1-27-19)

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Allow me now to offer a heartfelt word of thanks to all those priests and consecrated persons who serve the Lord faithfully and totally, and who feel themselves dishonoured and discredited by the shameful conduct of some of their confreres. All of us – the Church, consecrated persons, the People of God, and even God himself – bear the effects of their infidelity. In the name of the whole Church, I thank the vast majority of priests who are not only faithful to their celibacy, but spend themselves in a ministry today made even more difficult by the scandals of few (but always too many) of their confreres. I also thank the faithful who are well aware of the goodness of their pastors and who continue to pray for them and to support them. (Address, 2-24-19)

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Related Reading:

Mandatory Celibacy of Priests & Religious (Dialogue) [1997-1998]

Why Peter’s Marriage Doesn’t Disprove Catholicism: A Dialogue [January 1999]

Clerical Celibacy: Hostile Protestant Commentary & Catholic Replies [2-21-04]

Martin Luther & Antipathy Towards Clerical Celibacy [2-21-04]

Dialogue w a Baptist on Required Clerical Celibacy [7-2-06]

Objections to Clerical Celibacy: In-Depth Dialogue [7-12-06]

Unbiblical Rejection of Priestly Celibacy (vs. Calvin #31) [9-15-09]

Clerical Celibacy: Dialogue with John Calvin [9-17-09]

Mandatory Celibacy of Catholic Priests in the Western / Latin Rite: A New (?) Argument [11-16-12]

Further Reflections on Mandatory Priestly Celibacy [8-2-14]

Forbidding Marriage? Consecrated Virginity & the Catholic “Both / And” [9-13-17]

Priestly Celibacy: Garden-Variety Objections Debunked [9-18-17]

Married Bishops (1 Tim 3) & Catholic Celibacy: Contradiction? [9-18-17; expanded on 6-20-18]

Pope Benedict Eschews Co-Authorship; Ignatius Says “No!” [1-14-20]

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Photo credit: Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife (1839), by John Bridges (1818-1854) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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June 10, 2019

This is a collection of various Facebook comments of mine in response to an earlier paper, Mandatory Priestly Celibacy: New (?) Argument. That ought to be read for background, because I made a highly specific argument regarding Eastern Orthodox priests, that has some subtle aspects to it.

*****

With the data I found (from America), we see that when there is a choice to be married or to be celibate, before being ordained as a priest, 90-93% of those who are Orthodox priests chose marriage. That, to me, does not suggest a very robust appreciation of celibacy (in conjunction with the priesthood) at all. Clearly, celibacy is more highly spoken of in Scripture, as part of the evangelical counsels, yet only 10-13% of Orthodox priests (in America) choose it? I think that undervalues celibacy.

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I’m talking mostly about parish priests, not monks (where there is more agreement between Catholicism and Orthodoxy). We simply like most of our priests to be more like both Orthodox and Catholic bishops (celibate) than Orthodoxy does. If they want to bash our policy, we reply with the Bible and note that they have the same opinions regarding their bishops. So we apply it to priests, too, in the Latin Rite. Ho hum. No biggie. But because it has to do with sex, it is (as with all these issues) a big stink and never-ending controversy.

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I already knew that I lacked worldwide statistics, so the argument is tentative in that respect. I said that where we do have statistics, 90-93% of Orthodox priests are married.

[My Orthodox dialogue opponent] precisely confirmed my argument by saying, “we don’t often have celibate parish Priests.” Why is that, if celibacy is valued in Orthodoxy as much as Catholics value it (as we are told)? We agree regarding monks and bishops. Thus, the argument is about parish priests. I’m not minimizing the importance of monasticism; I’m simply taking about one particular thing.

The Catholic argument regarding parish priests would be that they have to be responsible for hundreds or thousands of people; therefore, being single would be at least as important as it is for the monk, so that undivided attention can be given to the flock.

I’m not trying to force anything. I am giving the rationale for our view, which is constantly both maligned and misunderstood. This is what apologists do. The Orthodox (and Protestants) say that we overvalue celibacy; I am replying that they undervalue it, by the looks of things. The Bible appears to put consecrated celibacy on a higher plane than marriage (the evangelical counsels).

This is why, as a western, Latin Catholic, I am glad that celibacy is required for priests, since it merges the priesthood with heroic observance of the evangelical counsels.

***

If we get the total statistics and compare all Catholic priests with all Orthodox, it is still gonna be the case that many more Orthodox priests are married. So my question is: why? Why don’t we see many more celibate Orthodox priests than we do? Why is it that marriage is encouraged in their case but forbidden to the bishops and monks? In other words, what would be the argument against an Orthodox parish priest who wants to combine the monastic ideal with his own job as shepherd of a flock?

Why do Orthodox prefer their parish priests to be married rather than celibate?

***

I support folks keeping to all legitimate Christian traditions that are not immoral (such as, e.g., allowing contraception and divorce). I am defending the Catholic view of priestly celibacy that is constantly maligned and attacked, and challenging Orthodox to defend their own views.

I say that celibate priesthood is a higher state of life, according to the notion of heroic, consecrated celibacy, in line with the idea of the “evangelical counsels.” That seems to be what East and West disagree about; yet the East applies the same criterion to their bishops and monks, so I don’t see how they can denigrate our applying it to our priests. We simply have a stricter standard there. The Orthodox should respect that, since they are stricter than we are in a number of ways (such as fasting requirements).

It seems to come down to this notion that priests somehow have less capacity monks and bishops to be celibate, as if it is (practically) impossible or undesirable for them to do so, or as if there just aren’t enough men out there called to be both celibate and priests (which is the constant, droning secular argument against us). And this is what I object to, if that is the reasoning.

***

What we’re saying is that we choose to select our priests from among those men who are called to celibacy and the evangelical counsels.

St. Paul is talking about the average person (like me!), who is not living heroically. We’re modeling our priesthood in the Latin Rites after someone like St. Paul himself (and St. Peter): who renounces riches and the married life in order to serve his flock. Paul argued that the apostles (by extension, priests) had the right to both remuneration and to be married.

He renounced both in his own case, because he was living heroically: above and beyond. So the (Latin) Catholic Church says, in effect, “yeah; that is the sort of man we prefer in a priest: so that he can give ‘undivided attention’ to God and His flock” (1 Corinthians 7).

It’s not forcing anyone to do anything (this is why we encourage those discerning a call to take many years); it’s simply a standard and a rule. The NBA does not “force” anyone to be 6’11”. It simply chooses from the men who are that tall, to be in the NBA.

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Yes, a single man doesn’t understand as well all the things involved in marriage (via empathy), but that is only one thing. And we shouldn’t overestimate the notion of having to personally experience everything in order to understand it. After all, that is one of the major fallacious pro-abortion arguments: “you’re not a woman! You can’t possibly understand or talk about abortion!” It’s not true.

The solution is not to ditch celibacy because discernment was lacking in too many cases, but to make the discernment more rigorous and strict. Nor does merely being married make a person, ipso facto, “more mature, psychologically stable, and orthodox.” (!!!) Surely anyone can see the fallacy there!

***

I also note that vocations (to celibate priesthood) are slowly increasing even now, with the constant talk of sexuality and attack on celibacy as an impossible ideal in Christianity (and supposed cause of sexual abuse and all the rest of the usual media / secular garbage).

Therefore, such heroic lives are still being formed and brought about by God, and our job is to find and encourage these people to become priests. But there will always be those who fall short. The entire human race is fallen. We should never be surprised by this. We have to especially do our best to minimize it in our clergy, because it is so scandalous when the priest falters and falls into sin.

A priest who says “I am called to celibacy and believe I am called to be a priest” is not “forced” to do anything. He is joyfully following God’s will for his life. Priests in the Latin Rite come from a very small group of men with that special call of heroic renunciation.

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Why is it that Orthodox parish priests are far more likely to be married than not? I still haven’t gotten an answer to that simple question. And why does this not show that a married parish priest is the norm rather than a celibate one? What is the reasoning there? Is there any answer to my question, besides, “well, then the priest can relate to married couples better, because he’s married”? I’m simply curious as to the reasoning: why Orthodox monks are celibate but parish priests are usually married. There must be some rationale that Orthodox and Eastern Catholics give for that. But for some reason I have the greatest difficulty in getting an answer to my simple question.

Latin Rite Catholics can give many biblical, disciplinary, and practical reasons for why we think that celibate priests are a higher calling, while at the same time not denying the validity of the married priest at all. It goes back to the evangelical counsels and the Pauline “undistracted devotion to the Lord” that the single person can give.

If anyone can direct me to a specific defense of the practice of married parish priests and why they are preferred in Eastern Christianity, I’d love to see that.

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Meanwhile, in two seconds in a Google search I can find Orthodox attacking our preference for celibate priests (this is what I have to deal with as an apologist):

The first error of the Westerners was to compel the faithful to fast on Saturdays. (I mention this seemingly small point because the least departure from Tradition can lead to a scorning of every dogma of our Faith.) Next, they convinced the faithful to despise the marriage of priests, thereby sowing in their souls the seeds of the Manichean heresy. (Except from The Encyclical Letter of Photius: 867 AD)

Photius makes no sense: if the evil, wicked “West” requires celibacy for priests, that is “Manichean,” whereas if the East requires it for monks and bishops, that’s not “anti-body” or “anti-sex” at all. The spectre of an alleged odious “anti-sex” mentality or prejudice seems to lurk behind so many critiques of our celibacy requirement, and here it is in Photius himself. Has he no knowledge of 1 Corinthians 7 or Matthew 19? Has he never heard of the evangelical counsels?

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I am arguing, “okay, imagine a situation where celibacy is not required; does a priest voluntarily choose it or does he choose marriage?” And so Orthodox priests in the US choose marriage by a 9-1 ratio. Thus I concluded, based on that, that marriage is overwhelmingly the preference, and asked why that is? Why would the actual statistics come out like that, rather than 55% married / 45% celibate, or even 66-33?

And my sheer speculation was that celibacy is difficult, and folks will choose the easier path, given the choice; hence it comes out 9-1 in favor of marriage. Thus, making celibacy mandatory is advisable, so as to preserve the special charism and vocation of celibacy.

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The late Fr. Ryland: a married priest in the Latin Rite (who was a friend of mine also), defended priestly celibacy in an article, and makes this historical statement (whether it is accurate or not, I don’t know):

The Eastern Orthodox discipline of optional celibacy (optional for priests and deacons, required for bishops), was first formulated in 692. Prior to that time, all the Eastern Churches followed the apostolic tradition of mandatory continence for both married and unmarried clergy.

But the Council of Trullo in 692 radically changed the discipline of celibacy. One of its canons did retain the prohibition of bishops, priests, and deacons marrying after ordination. It also partly preserved the apostolic tradition in requiring perpetual continence of married men who were installed in the episcopate. But it decreed that married men ordained to the diaconate and priesthood could continue their conjugal life after ordination. The council herein both explicitly and polemically rejected the clerical discipline of Rome, which is to say, the apostolic tradition.

To justify this departure, Trullo quoted the earlier canons of the Council of Carthage. That council, as we have seen, had restated the rule of perpetual continence for all married clergy by appealing to what it called the apostolic tradition. Its records were widely available. Trullo changed the wording of the Carthaginian canons so that they mandated only temporary continence for married clergy only on days when they served at the altar. (This is effectively the Old Testament law for levitical priests who served in the Temple.)

Despite this radical alteration of the Carthage council’s ruling, the Council of Trullo blithely assured all who would listen that by their decrees they were only “preserving the ancient rule and apostolic perfection and order.” 11 The Catholic Church, of course, has never recognized the Council of Trullo.

If he is correct, the Eastern practice (similar to it’s late-arriving policy on divorce and remarriage) only goes back to 692, and hence is not apostolic, and barely even patristic.

The Catholic Encyclopedia writes about the Council of Trullo:

It was attended by 215 bishops, all Orientals. . . . In the matter of celibacy the Greek prelates are not content to let the Roman Church follow its own discipline, but insist on making a rule (for the whole Church) that all clerics except bishops may continue in wedlock, while they excommunicate anyone who tries to separate a priest or deacon from his wife, and any cleric who leaves his wife because he is ordained (can. iii, vi, xii, xiii, xlviii).

Note that there was no tolerance for the Western preference for celibacy; it had to be a rule for “the whole Church” to be able to marry. Thus, the complaint (often justified) of Easterners of excessive Roman requirements and forced practices works both ways in this case. No Western bishops were even present to vote in this council! Yet they were supposedly bound to its decrees?

So we  find that at Trullo in 692 all Eastern bishops wanted to impose on the entire West the relaxation of celibacy. So it ain’t just the East wanting to observe its own traditions, but also to impose them on the West (whereas we usually hear about things the other way around: the pope imposing his will in the East). Then the obvious question to be raised would be, “why prefer a non-apostolic practice to an apostolic one?”

I’m just trying to understand rationales and to know the historical facts. If the practice can only be canonically traced to 692 then it’s not apostolic. Since it is a disciplinary and not doctrinal issue, that’s not a deal breaker altogether, but it does seem to me to be an argument for the preferability of priestly celibacy (if it has apostolic pedigree and the other practice does not).

I reiterate my own position, which is tolerant and all for observing more local traditions, while at the same time acknowledging that celibacy is a higher state of heroic renunciation and part of the evangelical counsels.

***

All we do is apply the Orthodox monastery requirements also to most parish priests. If our view doesn’t wash, then it also doesn’t among Orthodox monks. Therefore, by straightforward logic, any Orthodox argument against our celibate priests collapses, since if one estate of life is derided (celibate Catholic priests), the other corresponding one (Orthodox monks) goes with it (i.e., if we are logically consistent and making a fair, dispassionate analysis).

The Orthodox monk goes through the same conundrum that the Catholic potential priest goes through. I say that God gives the desire “to will and to do”. If He is calling one to celibacy, this doesn’t require all the anti-sex rhetoric and bloviations about how Catholics hate sex and marriage so much.

All it takes is an understanding of Jesus (some make themselves eunuchs: Matthew 19) and St. Paul (“I wish that all men were as I myself am” / “undistracted devotion” of the single man / everyone has his own calling).

Heroic renunciation of sex for the sake of the kingdom is not the same as being “against” sex. Man, if folks could just grasp that concept, I would be eternally grateful! It’s always been difficult for me to comprehend why many find it so difficult, because it was always utterly self-evident to me, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic. It’s really not hard to understand at all. But because it has to do with sex, all this silly and irrelevant and hyper-polemical junk gets bandied about.

As I’ve said over and over, I have nothing against married priests (where they are allowed by canon law). I have been friends with two in the Latin Rite (the late great Fr. Ray Ryland and Fr. Dwight Longenecker).

So as usual, it is the Orthodox frowning upon (indeed, by the looks of it, also being downright prejudiced against) distinctive Catholic practices, while we are fully tolerant of Orthodox practices; indeed, allow them among Eastern Catholics and may (for all we know) allow them again in the Latin Rite on a wider basis, since we already do in terms of dispensations for Anglicans, etc. It’s a discipline and can change.

Surveys have shown that 80% of Catholic celibate priests would stay so even if allowed to marry.

***

If we allow choice of celibacy or not for [parish] clergy [which I have said over and over is what i am talking about], it seems like the de facto norm quickly becomes marriage. This appears to be the case in Orthodoxy (from what statistics I could find), and it certainly unquestionably is in Protestantism.

This, in turn (without judging any individual’s call; I don’t need to, to make my argument) seems to undercut what I believe is the priority given to celibacy (as a “higher / heroic calling”) in the New Testament. If we grant that, then it becomes an argument for making it mandatory, so that celibacy can be given the place of honor that the New Testament appears to call for.

That was my exact argument. The lopsided ratio among Orthodox priests suggests to me that celibacy is being undervalued in a way that St. Paul and Jesus (who even literally talked about leaving wives and homes and everything whatever for the sake of ministry) never do.

I’m not opposed to married priests in principle: even to a possible change in the Latin Rite (though I would favor a limited one, if so); my concern is with preservation and honoring of the celibate higher calling. To be concerned for one doesn’t entail being against the other (yet it is so often perceived to be so, because folks think in “either/or” dichotomous terms).

***

It could possibly be also in Orthodoxy that some of those who are called by God to be celibate and a parish priest refrain from doing so because of the environment that is overwhelmingly making a married parish priest the norm. In this case, they are not opposing God’s will so much as being discouraged from what they believe to be His perfect will, because of the clergy situation “on the ground.”

***

(originally 8-2-14 on Facebook)

Photo credit: P-JR (7-6-14); pellegrina of a Catholic priest [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

January 25, 2019

This is an installment of a series of replies (see the Introduction and Master List) to much of Book IV (Of the Holy Catholic Church) of Institutes of the Christian Religion, by early Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564). I utilize the public domain translation of Henry Beveridge, dated 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; available online. Calvin’s words will be in blue. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

Related reading from yours truly:

Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (2010 book: 388 pages)

A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (2012 book: 178 pages)

Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” (2010 book: 187 pages; includes biblical critiques of all five points of “TULIP”)

*****

IV, 12:23-28

***

Book IV

CHAPTER 12

OF THE DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH, AND ITS PRINCIPAL USE IN CENSURES AND EXCOMMUNICATION.
*

23. Of the celibacy of priests, in which Papists place the whole force of ecclesiastical discipline. This impious tyranny refuted from Scripture. An objection of the Papists disposed of.

*

In one thing they are more than rigid and inexorable—in not permitting priests to marry. It is of no consequence to mention with what impunity whoredom prevails among them, and how, trusting to their vile celibacy, they have become callous to all kinds of iniquity. 

Here we go again with the ludicrous generalities. Sure, there was a lot of corruption in that time. But that calls for reform of the thing (the virtue of celibacy), and spiritual revival, not destruction of a practice good in and of itself, and altogether biblical (1 Corinthians 7).

The prohibition, however, clearly shows how pestiferous all traditions are, since this one has not only deprived the Church of fit and honest pastors, but has introduced a fearful sink of iniquity, and plunged many souls into the gulf of despair. 

Anyone who is not called to celibacy should avoid it, and get married. Is this not utterly obvious? Priests are not pressed into service at gunpoint, or involuntarily castrated. One wearies of the continual nonsense that is spouted by Protestants in their detestation of a wonderfully pious practice.

Certainly, when marriage was interdicted to priests, it was done with impious tyranny, not only contrary to the word of God, but contrary to all justice. 

All institutions in life have requirements. Why should the Catholic Church be any different? It’s not required of everyone; only those who wish to be priests, by God’s calling.

First, men had no title whatever to forbid what God had left free; 

Then why did Calvin rule Geneva with such a dictatorial hand, if he was so intensely concerned with personal freedom?

secondly, it is too clear to make it necessary to give any lengthened proof that God has expressly provided in his Word that this liberty shall not be infringed. I omit Paul’s injunction, in numerous passages, that a bishop be the husband of one wife; 

Sure; if a bishop is married at all. He should not be guilty of bigamy or divorce and “remarriage”! That doesn’t mean that the Church has no jurisdiction to require celibacy if she so desires.

but what could be stronger than his declaration, that in the latter days there would be impious men “forbidding to marry”? (1 Tim. 4:3) 

Catholics do not forbid anyone to marry, strictly speaking. The Church simply says that she (and not even in its entirety, as Eastern Catholics allow married priests) wishes to draw for her priests exclusively from that portion of men who are already called by God to celibacy (1 Cor 7:17), in order to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord (1 Cor 7:32, 35). The Church is not approaching a man who wants to be married and forbidding him to do so (i.e., going against his existing vocation and station in life); rather, she is receiving men who voluntarily follow the divine vocation of celibacy and who are voluntarily following a call by God to be priests.

Why this is the least bit controversial has always been a complete puzzle to me. I can only chalk it up to good old prejudice again. It’s a way to lie about and bash the Catholic Church, and it is an emotional subject, so it is used for propaganda, with little regard for reason or biblical rationale. It plays well to the crowds. It’s demagoguery, pure and simple.

Such persons he calls not only impostors, but devils. 

Yes, but Calvin simply assumes this is applying to a practice such as that of the Catholic Church, rather than pseudo-ascetic extreme sects like the Manichees and Gnostics and (later) Albigensians and suchlike. The Catholic Church is following the advice of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. If Calvin doesn’t like that, he needs to attack the Apostle Paul directly. That is his burden. Many Protestant commentaries agree with my assessment of 1 Timothy 4:3, over against Calvin’s anti-Catholic fantasies:

The ascetic tendencies indicated by these prohibitions developed earlier than these Epistles among the Essenes . . . who repudiated marriage except as a necessity for preserving the race, and allowed it only under protest and under stringent regulations . . . The prohibitions above named were imposed by the later Gnosticism of the second century. (Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980 [originally 1887], Vol. IV, 245)

See Col. 2:16, 21f., where Paul condemns the ascetic practices of the Gnostics. The Essenes, Therapeutae and other oriental sects forbade marriage. In 1 Cor. 7 Paul does not condemn marriage. (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1931, Vol. IV, 578)

The assertions of these verses are significant when studied in relation to the Gnostic and dualistic views that matter is evil and not created by God. (The Eerdmans Bible Commentary, edited by D. Guthrie et al, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 3rd edition, 1970, 1173)

We have therefore a prophecy, a sacred oracle of the Holy Spirit, intended to warn the Church from the outset against perils, and declaring that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of devils. 

We agree, and we deny that this applies to the Catholic position. Calvin — perhaps because of his rush to condemn Catholicism from top to bottom — doesn’t grasp the fundamental distinctions involved.

They think that they get finely off when they wrest this passage, and apply it to Montanus, the Tatians, the Encratites, and other ancient heretics. These (they say) alone condemned marriage; we by no means condemn it, but only deny it to the ecclesiastical order, in whom we think it not befitting. 

Much better. This approaches a position of actually understanding that which he opposes.

As if, even granting that this prophecy was primarily fulfilled in those heretics, it is not applicable also to themselves; 

But it’s not, because our position (rightly understood) is also St. Paul’s. If Calvin wants to attack it, he should, to be consistent, go after Paul too. But of course he does not. He’d rather play sophistical games.

or, as if one could listen to the childish quibble that they do not forbid marriage, because they do not forbid it to all. This is just as if a tyrant were to contend that a law is not unjust because its injustice presses only on a part of the state.

I repeat: all institutions impose rules and regulations. All organizations have entrance requirements. It is a part of life and reality. The Catholic Church has a perfect right and liberty under God to have this restriction, based on the teachings of St. Paul. I don’t think it is even arguable. This discussion is often conducted on a purely irrational, emotional plane. For those who are interested in a more biblical, reasoned approach, I offer  my own numerous papers:

Why Peter’s Marriage Doesn’t Disprove Catholicism: A Dialogue [January 1999]

Clerical Celibacy: Hostile Protestant Commentary & Catholic Replies [2-21-04]

Martin Luther & Antipathy Towards Clerical Celibacy [2-21-04]

Dialogue w a Baptist on Required Clerical Celibacy [7-2-06]

Objections to Clerical Celibacy: In-Depth Dialogue [7-12-06]

Forbidding Marriage? Consecrated Virginity & the Catholic “Both / And” [9-13-17]

Priestly Celibacy: Ancient, Biblical and Pauline [National Catholic Register, 9-18-17]

Priestly Celibacy: Garden-Variety Objections Debunked [9-18-17]

Married Bishops (1 Tim 3) & Catholic Celibacy: Contradiction? [9-18-17; expanded on 6-20-18]

24. An argument for the celibacy of priests answered.

*

They object that there ought to be some distinguishing mark between the clergy and the people; as if the Lord had not provided the ornaments in which priests ought to excel. 

St. Paul seemed to think that celibacy was a desired spiritual state, as long as one is called to it. Jesus was single. All of His disciples appear to have been also (Peter seems to have agreed with his wife to separate for the sake of ministry). We treasure celibacy and we treasure marriage (making it a sacrament, whereas Calvin and Luther removed sacramentality from it).

This is the biblical, Pauline, both/and. But Calvin has no place for Paul’s extolling of celibacy for the sake of greater service to the Lord, in his system. So which outlook is more biblical and well-rounded? Is it not utterly obvious? What would Calvin do with, for example, the following passage from the lips of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?:

Luke 18:28-20 And Peter said, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.” [29] And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, [30] who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Why should we Catholics disagree with Jesus? The Catholic Church is not even requiring this much. She doesn’t command a man to leave his wife or children or parents. Rather, she accepts men who have already felt the call or vocation of celibacy. Again, Calvin’s beef is with Jesus Himself, Who sanctioned far more of a “deprivation of liberty” or “imprisoning conscience” than the Catholic Church ever supposedly did.

Thus they charge the apostle with having disturbed the ecclesiastical order, and destroyed its ornament, when, in drawing the picture of a perfect bishop, he presumed to set down marriage among the other endowments which he required of them. 

At times there have been married bishops, because this is a disciplinary matter, not a dogmatic one. It’s neither here nor there.

I am aware of the mode in which they expound this—viz. that no one was to be appointed a bishop who had a second wife. This interpretation, I admit, is not new; but its unsoundness is plain from the immediate context, which prescribes the kind of wives whom bishops and deacons ought to have. Paul enumerates marriage among the qualities of a bishop; those men declare that, in the ecclesiastical order, marriage is an intolerable vice; and, indeed, not content with this general vituperation, they term it, in their canons, the uncleanness and pollution of the flesh (Siric. ad Episc. Hispaniar.). 

That goes too far, and is not the Catholic position. We have married priests today in the Eastern Rites, and there have been married bishops in the past. Both/and. But Calvinism and general Protestantism sure don’t have much of a tradition of single pastors, do they? They accept one-half of Paul’s teaching and not the other, and this is the problem.

Let every one consider with himself from what forge these things have come. Christ deigns so to honour marriage as to make it an image of his sacred union with the Church. What greater eulogy could be pronounced on the dignity of marriage? 

None, but it is irrelevant to the point at hand.

How, then, dare they have the effrontery to give the name of unclean and polluted to that which furnishes a bright representation of the spiritual grace of Christ?

The same way that Jesus Himself (along with Paul) does:

Matthew 19:10-12 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” [11] But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. [12] For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Obviously, then, Calvin and many Protestants are among those who can’t “receive” this plain teaching of Jesus. That’s not our problem, that they are so unwilling to accept certain parts of inspired divine revelation. We show no such reluctance and lack of faith and trust in God’s designs.

25. Another argument answered.

*

Though their prohibition is thus clearly repugnant to the word of God, 

Really? I should think that the truth is clearly quite the opposite, once all the relevant biblical data is examined, and clear thinking brought to bear, rather than irrational emotionalism and a slanderous anti-Catholic motivation.

they, however, find something in the Scriptures to defend it. The Levitical priests, as often as their ministerial course returned, behoved to keep apart from their wives, that they might be pure and immaculate in handling sacred things; and it were therefore very indecorous that our sacred things, which are more noble, and are ministered every day, should be handled by those who are married: as if the evangelical ministry were of the same character as the Levitical priesthood. These, as types, represented Christ, who, as Mediator between God and men, was, by his own spotless purity, to reconcile us to the Father. But as sinners could not in every respect exhibit a type of his holiness, that they might, however, shadow it forth by certain lineaments, they were enjoined to purify themselves beyond the manner of men when they approached the sanctuary, inasmuch as they then properly prefigured Christ appearing in the tabernacle, an image of the heavenly tribunal, as pacificators, to reconcile men to God. As ecclesiastical pastors do not sustain this character in the present day, the comparison is made in vain. Wherefore the apostle declares distinctly, without reservation, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). And the apostles showed, by their own example, that marriage is not unbefitting the holiness of any function, however excellent; for Paul declares, that they not only retained their wives, but led them about with them (1 Cor. 9:5).

Why is 1 Corinthians 7 overlooked throughout the entire section of Calvin’s wrongheaded, unbiblical rantings against celibacy? The Levitical priests offer one analogy, but Calvin neglects to see it based on sweeping bigotry: “ecclesiastical pastors do not sustain this character in the present day.” That’s supposed to be intellectually impressive?

26. Another argument answered.

*

Then how great the effrontery when, in holding forth this ornament of chastity as a matter of necessity, they throw the greatest obloquy on the primitive Church, which, while it abounded in admirable divine erudition, excelled more in holiness. For if they pay no regard to the apostles (they are sometimes wont strenuously to contemn them), 

Who is not paying attention? Calvin has ignored 1 Corinthians 7, and he has ignored the fact of Paul’s and the twelve disciples’ celibacy and separation from wives in some cases, for the sake of ministry.

what, I ask, will they make of all the ancient fathers, who, it is certain, not only tolerated marriage in the episcopal order, but also approved it? 

Nothing, as it is irrelevant: celibacy being a matter of discipline, not dogma.

They, forsooth, encouraged a foul profanation of sacred things when the mysteries of the Lord were thus irregularly performed by them. In the Council of Nice, indeed, there was some question of proclaiming celibacy: as there are never wanting little men of superstitious minds, who are always devising some novelty as a means of gaining admiration for themselves. 

St. Paul’s express teachings are superstitious novelties? That is an odd (beyond bizarre) thing for a Protestant to imply.

What was resolved? The opinion of Paphnutius was adopted, who pronounced legitimate conjugal intercourse to be chastity (Hist. Trip. Lib. 2 c. 14). The marriage of priests, therefore, continued sacred, and was neither regarded as a disgrace, nor thought to cast any stain on their ministry.

They were less conformed to the Pauline model in those days, but that doesn’t mean the Pauline model cannot be followed should the Church decide to make it normative.

27. An argument drawn from the commendation of virginity as superior to marriage. Answer.

*

In the times which succeeded, a too superstitious admiration of celibacy prevailed. Hence, ever and anon, unmeasured encomiums were pronounced on virginity, so that it became the vulgar belief that scarcely any virtue was to be compared to it. And although marriage was not condemned as impurity, yet its dignity was lessened, and its sanctity obscured; 

No; only from Calvin’s dichotomous “either/or” mentality does this follow. Catholics think in “both/and” terms.

so that he who did not refrain from it was deemed not to have a mind strong enough to aspire to perfection. 

We can strive for perfection in whatever state of life God has called us to.

Hence those canons which enacted, first, that those who had attained the priesthood should not contract marriage; and, secondly, that none should be admitted to that order but the unmarried, or those who, with the consent of their wives, renounced the marriage-bed. 

That is, just as Jesus Himself sanctioned (Luke 18:29).

These enactments, as they seemed to procure reverence for the priesthood, were, I admit, received even in ancient times with great applause. But if my opponents plead antiquity, my first answer is, that both under the apostles, and for several ages after, bishops were at liberty to have wives: that the apostles themselves, and other pastors of primitive authority who succeeded them, had no difficulty in using this liberty, and that the example of the primitive Church ought justly to have more weight than allow us to think that what was then received and used with commendation is either illicit or unbecoming. 

Scripture itself: the words of our Lord and the Apostle Paul carry as much weight in the scheme of things as the prevailing practices of the early Church (assuming for the sake of argument that it was as Calvin describes).

My second answer is, that the age, which, from an immoderate affection for virginity, began to be less favourable to marriage, did not bind a law of celibacy on the priests, as if the thing were necessary in itself, but gave a preference to the unmarried over the married. 

Hence, the Western, Latin Rites in Catholicism take one path, and the Eastern Rites another. Both/and. But Protestantism mostly teaches Only, only. Celibacy is frowned upon, especially in pastors, and this is an unbiblical, un-Pauline attitude.

My last answer is, that they did not exact this so rigidly as to make continence necessary and compulsory on those who were unfit for it. For while the strictest laws were made against fornication, it was only enacted with regard to those who contracted marriage that they should be superseded in their office.

I’m not sure what Calvin means here.

28. The subject of celibacy concluded. This error not favoured by all ancient writers.

*

Therefore, as often as the defenders of this new tyranny appeal to antiquity in defence of their celibacy, so often should we call upon them to restore the ancient chastity of their priests, to put away adulterers and whoremongers, not to allow those whom they deny an honourable and chaste use of marriage, to rush with impunity into every kind of lust, to bring back that obsolete discipline by which all licentiousness is restrained, and free the Church from the flagitious turpitude by which it has long been deformed. 

All good Christians desire such a reform in the clergy and in all Christians; indeed all men, if it were possible.

When they have conceded this, they will next require to be reminded not to represent as necessary that which, being in itself free, depends on the utility of the Church. I do not, however, speak thus as if I thought that on any condition whatever effect should be given to those canons which lay a bond of celibacy on the ecclesiastical order, but that the better-hearted may understand the effrontery of our enemies in employing the name of antiquity to defame the holy marriage of priests. In regard to the Fathers, whose writings are extant, none of them, when they spoke their own mind, with the exception of Jerome, thus malignantly detracted from the honour of marriage. 

That’s what I have been contending: Catholics think very highly of marriage!

We will be contented with a single passage from Chrysostom, because he being a special admirer of virginity, cannot be thought to be more lavish than others in praise of matrimony. Chrysostom thus speaks: “The first degree of chastity is pure virginity; the second, faithful marriage. Therefore, a chaste love of matrimony is the second species of virginity” (Chrysost. Hom. de Invent. Crucis.).

Chastity is not confined to the unmarried, because it is ultimately a state of heart and mind.

***

(originally 9-15-09)

Photo credit: Historical mixed media figure of John Calvin produced by artist/historian George S. Stuart and photographed by Peter d’Aprix: from the George S. Stuart Gallery of Historical Figures archive [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

***

August 6, 2018

Ken Temple’s words will be in blue. When he cites my words, they will be in green.
* * * * *

Paul is trying to guard against “making a rule” that one has to be single and celibate by “command force”, but rather is up to the free will and choice of the individual and that they should understand that they have the gift (charismata of celibacy – 7:7) “in order to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord”. ( 7:35) Which, it seems to me, the RCC actually violates the spirit of this passage by making celibacy a dogmatic “command force – rule” for all pastors and elders and overseers ( in the RCC system priests),

This doesn’t follow. You accept (good for you: Luther and Calvin scarcely understood this explicit Pauline teaching) that God can give some individuals the charismata of celibacy.

Now, if an institution simply states that “we want our priests to be drawn almost exclusively from that class of men who are called by God to be single, so that they can give undistracted devotion to the Lord [1 Cor 7:35],” then your objection is irrelevant, as the Church is not forcing anyone to do anything, but simply holding that its priests are required to be from this class of those already called in such a manner by God.

In other words, what sense does it make to believe that the Church “forces” men to do something that God already called them to do? This is what 95 out of a 100 Protestants never seem to grasp, because they hate the notion of celibacy so much (probably because they themselves couldn’t do it, which is also irrelevant, but is the emotional key to why they irrationally object so vociferously).

So there is anti-Catholic and contra-Catholic and emotional, personal bias (whenever sexual matters are discussed), but in the end, it is a quite simple, straightforward logical matter. The Catholic Church is following Paul’s injunctions here and not violating anyone’s “personal rights” to have sex. If they want to do so, they can get married. That is God’s plan for them. Every institution has a right to determine its internal rules of discipline and requirements for admission to its offices. This is self-evident.

Thanks! Yes, I agree to a certain degree, but your wording is carefully crafted with “almost”, and later, “who are already called” – those are the keys. It seems that many of these priests don’t know for sure about their calling, the screening process has many flaws, and still seems to go against the spirit of the passage, and I Tim. 3:2, etc.

we want our priests to be drawn almost exclusively from that class of men who are called by God to be single, so that they can give undistracted devotion to the Lord [1 Cor 7:35],

– this is OK, and I agree with the RCC position that they can make this rule if they want to, and that the priests understand it and make vows before entering into it; and I agree with the conservative orthodox RCs against those liberal Catholics and others who are arguing against the celibacy rule, and using the pedophilia as bolstering their case, because they have an agenda for homosexuality or women priests; which is what I usually see and hear on Talk shows or radio talk shows.

Still, it does seem to violate the spirit of the passage by emphasizing the freedom of choice aspect. Yes, there are life long celibates that have the gift of singleness, and some of them are ministers – John R. W. Stott, Gerald Bray (Anglicans), even Bill Gothard (Fundamentalist Baptist) had this gift. I am sure there are others. They followed the advice of the apostle Paul “in order to secure undistracted devotion” to the Lord.”

If they want to do so, they can get married.

But they cannot be ministers, elders, pastors – that is what seems wrong – making it a dogmatic rule or “discipline”. As long as monogomy and faithfulness is upheld, why not both? If one has the gift and another does not – it is a supernatural charismata – I Cor. 7:7 – it seems that both could minister in the Spirit and keep themselves from sinning in those areas, faithfulness in marriage, and celibacy for those called to that calling.

Every institution has a right to determine its internal rules of discipline and requirements for admission to its offices.

That part I agree with against the liberal arguments in favor of:

1.women’s ordination 

and

2. homosexuality

In other words, what sense does it make to believe that the Church “forces” men to do something that God already called them to do?

And that is the sticky issue, “already called them to do” – those that violate that were either never called to do that, or they sinned against their vows.

Difficult to know — its so subjective. Seems like the RCC would do better to not make it a hard and fast rule for all ministers, but uphold monogamy and faithfulness and also have celibates as ministers, but continue to stand firm against homosexuality and women’s ordination.

Why must marriage and sexuality be intrinsically joined with ordination? What have the two things to do with each other? If you say that they always must be together, then you deny Paul’s teaching on a certain “superiority” of celibacy (as Protestants overwhelmingly do). If you admit that this doesn’t have to be the case, then you have already made the crucial, central concession to our teaching on this.

Ordination and the religious life, in Catholic thinking, are precisely estates whereby the person is “married to the Lord.” It’s almost fundamental to the vocation (we do, of course, have married priests in the eastern rites and allow some married Anglican priests in: I know one personally: Fr. Ray Ryland).

The celibate priest can devote himself wholeheartedly to his parishioners and to the tasks of the priesthood. The married pastor, on the other hand, has a divided allegiance, just as Paul stated: he has to divide time between his pastoral ministry and his wife and children.

And as virtually anyone who has spent much time in Protestant environments (I was there for 32 years) knows well, “pastor’s kids” (PK’s) are notorious for their rebellion. Even Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son (now doing great work in his own right) was quite the rebel. And that is because one man can do only so much.

I know from my own experience, as a full-time apologist with a wife and four kids, that it is a very delicate balancing act. I can do that because I don’t have a whole flock to look after and shepherd. I’m just up in my library upstairs, writing. I don’t have direct responsibility for spiritual oversight of hundreds of souls. I work at home and my kids can see me anytime they want. I spend almost every evening with my wife (we usually watch a video or enjoy some music): many couples do not even do that.

So, if you add all the responsibilities of pastors to the married situation (visiting the sick and elderly and those in prison, marriages, baptisms, funerals, pastoral counseling and visitation, perhaps some evangelism or social outreach, Bible studies, prayer groups), you readily see that much of this activity takes time away from family, beyond the “9 to 5” tasks. It’s extremely difficult to balance all that.

And I observed it firsthand. The pastor of the church I attended from 1980 to 1982 is divorced. Then the assembly of God pastor at the church I went to from 1982 to 1986 got divorced. One of his associate pastors had an affair.

I went back to the same non-denominational church from 1986 to 1989. At that time, both elders (basically, assistant pastors) in the church left their wives and had affairs, eventually divorcing. Now, of course, there are many factors in divorce, but I am saying that the lifestyle and workload of a pastor or priest is such that it doesn’t blend very well with marriage, which is challenging enough in ideal circumstances.

Furthermore, the single priest or pastor can be heroic in ways that married persons usually cannot be, such as entering into very dangerous situations, where they may have to give up their life. The married person hesitates because he (rightly, naturally) thinks of his responsibility to his wife and children. This is the same principle behind the military’s extra concern for married soldiers and emphasis on drafting single men. The extraordinary devotion required of combatants does not synthesize very well with the notion of a wife and children sitting at home, worried about receiving that fateful “knock at the door” and terrible news.

In one of my papers I recalled an incident in Luther’s time where there was a plague. Luther was disgusted because Lutheran pastors were too afraid to go and minister to the suffering. That’s because (at least in part) they were married. But Luther noted and admired the heroism and selflessness of the Catholic priests, who freely went in to care for the sick, suffering, and dying (some of them dying themselves).

Priestly celibacy, then, has many practical benefits: precisely the kind of thing Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 7. Catholics believe that the willing celibate life (as a calling and gift from God) has a heroic, self-sacrificing, self-denying aspect that marriage doesn’t have, while marriage is also a sacrament and a holy and good thing. We don’t view marriage (and its moral sex) and religious celibacy as “bad” and “good” (as the stereotype would have it), but rather, as “very good” and “heroic / above and beyond the call of duty”.

In any event, everyone should lead the life that God has called them to. I’ve never had the slightest inkling that I was to be single. And I felt a very strong calling from God to do apologetics, in 1981 (which, I think, has been confirmed). The documents I have produced above [about lay apostolates] acknowledged this personal call (while many critical Protestants and Catholics have mocked my calling as either self-serving or contrary to Catholicism).

Every person must do that which God has called them to do. If they feel called to consecrated celibacy, then they may also be called to the Catholic priesthood, which treasures the heroic, practical aspects of that calling and wants to utilize them for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God.

I think a lot of the antipathy really comes down to a strong emotional revulsion at the thought of living without sex. We worship sex to such an extent in North American and European society, that we almost automatically mock and insult those who don’t do so, and who don’t think it is virtually the highest goal in life, and most important thing.

Because it would be so hard for us to abstain from sex, we assume that those who can and do are weird, abnormal, or some sort of unnatural freaks. Luther and Calvin did this, but Paul (himself single) did not at all. The Catholic view is eminently biblical, and rejects the idolatry of sex.

Secondly, I think there is the usual ambivalence towards folks who are more saintly and holy and self-sacrificing than we are. That threatens us, and so we must run it down, rather than simply admit that it is admirable that some people can live in ways which we cannot (or will not, perhaps more accurately).

Yet God gave them the ability and calling. It all goes back to Him. He gets all the glory. The celibate priest or nun or monk can be admired for going along with the calling anf not rejecting it. We are to honor and appreciate them and pray for them. I certainly do, and I get sick and tired of this endless crusade against celibacy as if it is 1) unbiblical, 2) weird and unnatural, and 3) impossible. As a happily married man, I can admire and appreciate those who have embraced the celibate life, and I will vigorously defend them and the validity and profundity of that choice and vocation till my dying day.

Why must marriage and sexuality be intrinsically joined with ordination?

I did not say that. I only said that both are there in Scripture: Peter and the other apostles are married (I Cor. 9:1-5), the elders/pastors/overseers are married (I Tim. 3:2, Titus 1, etc.) and Paul is single and he exhorts that for those that have the gift and you did a good job of explaining it. You are right, many people are railing against it out of emotion and selfishness, lust, and fear, etc.

a certain “superiority” of celibacy 

I agree that there is a “certain superiority” of it in terms of time and dedication and heroism, as you noted that Luther noted. The same goes for foreign missions in some contexts, but it is also a big negative in Muslim contexts, who have no box for celibacy at all.

I agree with most of what you are saying and the spirit of it, and I agree that Protestants over-reacted against it, but the RCC enforced ruling is not balanced either.

I personally think I am trying to bring the balance of both and say that both are needed and both are Scriptural.

***

(originally 7-2-06)

Photo credit: Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets. [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

August 6, 2018

“Grubb” is a friendly Baptist who frequents my blog. His words will be in blue. My older cited words will be in green.
* * * * *

Now, if an institution simply states that “we want our priests to be drawn almost exclusively from that class of men who are called by God to be single, so that they can give undistracted devotion to the Lord [1 Cor 7:35],” then your objection is irrelevant, as the Church is not forcing anyone to do anything, but simply holding that its priests are required to be from this class of those already called in such a manner by God.

In doing this, the RCC is presuming that only celibate people (except for .001%) are called to be priests. 

I don’t believe that the Eastern Catholic portion of Catholicism makes up a mere .001% of the whole. Moreover, since we accept the legitimate ordination of Orthodox priests, we clearly acknowledge that there is such a thing as a married priest (and that celibacy is not absolutely fundamental to the definition of priest). But the prevailing tradition in Catholicism is that, ideally, priests ought to be celibate, for the sake of a more undistracted devotion to the Lord and their flocks.

Either that, or they’re intentionally preventing some who have been called by God to the priesthood from fulfilling their calling. 

Not at all. Like I’ve always said: such a person is free to become a priest in the eastern Rites of Catholicism, or to become Orthodox.

The first option isn’t Biblical as Ken [Temple] has pointed out and you seemed to agree; 

We’re not preventing anyone from doing anything. It’s as if you are arguing that the military “prevents” 80-year-old women from serving in military combat, or that Major League baseball “discriminates” against myopic individuals who wish to become umpires. The fallacy here lies in your thinking, because you can’t prove that our position on this is contrary to any biblical teaching.

and the second option goes against a God-given calling. Neither of these options seems desirable.

When you fallaciously present the options in these terms, of course it is “undesirable.” But the fallacy lies in your false premises.

Every institution has a right to determine its internal rules of discipline and requirements for admission to its offices. This is self-evident.

God has given us all kinds of freedoms, but that doesn’t mean we should exercise every one of them. 

That’s correct. Sex is a wonderful freedom within the moral bounds of marriage, and there is nothing wrong with it there, but some men can willingly choose to sacrifice that freedom for the love of God, to be married to Him (Matthew 19:12).

God has given us the freedom to sin, but to embrace that freedom is unwise and hurtful. We have the freedom to make rules contrary to scripture and say the right to do so is “self-evident”, but exercising this freedom is both unwise and hurtful to the RCC.

You haven’t shown to the slightest degree that our rule of celibacy is contrary to Scripture. But we have repeatedly shown that it perfectly squares with Scripture.

As for pastors having rebellious children, my pastor has five and none of them are rebellious (the oldest is 19, the youngest is 7). 

This “PK” and “MK” thing will always necessarily be based on anecdotal evidence. But there can be trends observed. One can always produce exceptions to the rule, as with (I am presuming) your pastor. But one thing we can all agree on, I think, is that if a pastor’s job requires him to often be out of his home in hours beyond the usual daytime work hours, this will almost certainly have an adverse effect on his family, because everyone knows that less time with wives and children is not a good thing, if it is ongoing. We need not argue that.

Jethro showed leaders how to balance church life with family life when he saw Moses wearing himself out being judge over everything. 

This doesn’t support your case. Moses was doing everything, so Jethro counseled him to divide the labor up a bit. But this usually doesn’t happen with pastors. Sure they have assistants and so forth, but if they are unpaid, they do relatively little and the lion’s share of the work falls back on the pastor. If the assistant pastors or elders are paid, that is only possible if the congregation is quite large, so that funds are available, in which case the labor remains almost what it was, with each one having to deal with so many congregants. It remains, therefore, difficult for the pastor to juggle family responsibilities with pastoral ones.

The same principle applies (analogously) to much of modern-day working conditions. More and more, workers are required to either relocate (which disrupts extended family and friendship ties) or to take frequent business trips (which disrupt nuclear family life and places an undue burden on both spouses). Modern labor and working and business practices run contrary to traditional family solidarity, just as the excessive burdens and responsibilities of a married priest or pastor could and usually does.

Traditionally, families worked together (as on a farm), or the father was at least near the home, working on some trade or craft. After the Industrial Revolution, men started traveling away from home to their jobs, and the trends have continued to be almost consistently hostile to healthy, thriving marriages and family life. I think this has some part in the breakdown of family life we see today (along with many other factors; especially the Sexual Revolution).

Excessive materialism or economic mismanagement (of the larger societies and/or of individual families) have now led, oftentimes, to both parents working away from home, with infants being raised by relatively emotionally unattached daycare workers rather than their own parents, for much of the day. All of these things (including married pastors) mitigate against the ideal, most healthy family life.

He taught Moses to set up a hierarchy, and Paul confirmed that when teaching Timothy. My pastor has excellent elders who have excellent deacons, and this all makes the pastor’s job so much easier. 

If indeed they allow the pastor to be less busy after “working hours,” then this is a good solution which could work in some cases. But that still wouldn’t by any means “prove” that celibacy of the clergy is not also a worthwhile or preferable option to solve the same problems of time management and divided allegiance between flock and family.

In other words, I could argue that this is one solution to the problem, and the Catholic celibate clergy is another, and that you have no grounds to say that the Catholic Church must choose either your solution, or to combine both methods, rather than to concentrate on one (with an allowance of or preference towards the other in portions of the Church). If 1 Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19 were not in the Bible, your case would be far stronger, but since they are, you are unable to rule out our approach and discipline, let alone deem it “unbiblical.”

Yes, the stereotype of rebellious pastor’s kids exists for a reason, but I believe the reason is that many pastors try to do too much rather than allow capable elders and deacons to do their jobs.

One of the reasons for that is that Protestantism (and Catholicism also; it’s a general human tendency) tends to place too much burden on the pastor or priest and make him the guy who does all the “spiritual” work while the congregants and laypeople just sit there and benefit from that, rather than go out and participate in evangelism and charity and other necessary and worthy Christian endeavors.

Since pastors and priests are paid to do what they do, the ones who are unpaid tend to think that they don’t have to do anything, or very little of “Christian” work. This is part and parcel of the mentality of western culture that the only worthwhile work is that which is remunerated (hence, the looking down upon of, for example, housewives or home-schooling mothers, because they don’t get paid; one often hears women say, “I’m just a housewife . . .”, as if they should be ashamed of the most important work in the world: raising and discipling children). All this being the case, the “PK” phenomenon will continue to manifest itself, whereas all that is eliminated with a celibate priest or pastor.

I agree with Ken’s final comments. Celibacy is preferable if one is called to remain celibate, 

Then you concede virtually all of the argument to us. We want our clergy to come mostly from the group of people who are called by God to be celibate.

but I also believe God calls many who are married to the “priesthood” (He certainly did in the Old Testament). 

And he certainly does today: in the Eastern Catholic rites and in Orthodoxy. The question as to what ordination itself means is a different topic that I won’t dive into at this juncture.

That’s as biblical as celibacy, but to choose celibacy as the only way to the priesthood (with almost no exceptions) is unbiblical. 

I don’t see how. Neither you nor your friend Ken (or anyone else) has given any biblical verse which precludes a celibate priesthood. All you can do is rail against abuses of the system, as if that proves that the system itself is intrinsically null and void and “unbiblical.” This is standard Protestant polemical practice, but that doesn’t make it valid or legitimate as an argument, either biblically or logically.

Paul didn’t do it, 

Paul made no argument forbidding a celibate clergy. On the contrary, he wrote, “I wish that all were as I myself am” (1 Cor 7:7) and “It is well for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor 7:1) and “it is well for them to remain single as I do” (1 Cor 7:8) and “Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage” (1 Cor 7:27; cf. 1 Cor 7:28-29,32-35,40). The overall thrust of his teaching favors the superiority of singleness as a state to wholeheartedly serve God without having the stress of “worldly troubles” (7:28) or “worldly affairs” (7:33) or “anxieties” (7:32) and “interests” which are “divided” (7:34).

So the Catholic Church (western, Latin rites) adopts this teaching of Paul as the ideal for its priests. Nothing “unbiblical” in that in the slightest . . . Paul also writes many times that we ought to “imitate” him. So how is it “unbiblical” (let alone “forbidden” in some mythical Bible passage) for the Catholic Church to hold that most of its priests should imitate the Apostle Paul and follow his advice for the ideal, highest, most self-sacrificing level of service to the Lord and others?

Jesus didn’t do it, 

Jesus said, “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:12). Obviously, many Protestants cannot “receive” this inspired biblical teaching. We Catholics simply decided to select most of our priests from this class that was called by God to celibacy, and who, therefore, willingly renounced (for the sake of the kingdom and undistracted devotion) otherwise good married sexuality.

Peter didn’t do it, John didn’t do it, and none of the other Bible writers (who were writing God’s words) did it. If they didn’t, why would the RCC presume it knows better?

Peter and John taught neither that all priests should be married or that all should be single. Therefore, it is permissible to take a position that priests should be a class of men particularly devoted to the Lord and their flocks, to such a sublime degree that marriage is precluded, because it would divide that devotion, as Paul taught.

The Apostle Paul said, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” (I Tim 4:1-3)

Dave said the RCC simply draws its priests from the pool of people who have the calling of celibacy. That point is definitely contendable; how many priests would have gotten married if it was acceptable? 

This is an excellent, indeed quintessential example of the fallacies and lousy reasoning under consideration. I’m delighted that you wrote this. Here is how the above reasoning fails:

1. The RCC simply draws its priests from the pool of people who have the calling of celibacy.

2. How many priests would have gotten married if it was acceptable?

3. Hidden premise of #2: “many priests who became priests with the understanding that celibacy was a requirement and that they were called by God to celibacy were not in fact so called, because they would have gotten married if they could have.”

4. Therefore, there should be no celibate clergy.

The fallacy lies precisely in the gap between #2 (with its underlying premise #3) and #4: #1 cannot be contended against on consistently logical, biblical grounds. So what you do is try to chip away at its legitimacy by using the standard contra-Catholic Protestant polemical technique of railing against abuses and “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”:

1. Catholic priests are supposed to be from the class of people called by God to be celibate (self-understanding and institutional understanding of the ideal, most heroic nature of the priesthood).

2. But some priests entered into the celibate priesthood without this calling to celibacy.

3. Therefore, #1 is null and void.


Of course, #3 doesn’t follow as a “conclusion” at all. #2 does not cast any doubt on #1: not in the slightest. The fact that there exist some persons who abuse the understood system for their own ends, does not invalidate either the system or the biblical and spiritual rationale behind it. All it shows is that there are such unscrupulous or confused persons, or that there has been corruption in the screening process (as indeed there has been in many instances). No one claimed that either people or the Catholic promulgation of its teachings were perfect. But that casts no doubt on the principle itself; thoroughly grounded in the Bible, Tradition, and practical spiritual wisdom of 2000 years of Christianity.

Maybe not all, but definitely some would have. We know this is true, because some have left the priesthood in order to get married.

Sure, but that is irrelevant as a factor in critiquing the system, as just shown. By this “reasoning,” I could just as well argue that Protestantism is disproven because thousands (like myself) have connverted to Catholicism. That proves nothing in and of itself; one has to make the case against Protestantism (or Catholicism, on the flip side) on other grounds besides simply stating that “thousands have found it wanting and have left.”

Dave also said that the RCC doesn’t forbid anyone to get married, but in a sense they really do. If a RC priest wants to get married, he must choose between the priesthood and marriage. 

That’s not true. He can become ordained as a married man in the Eastern Rites. At best, you could only say that he must choose between different liturgies. But since they are all fully Catholic, he doesn’t have to choose between the priesthood and marriage.

And if he chooses to remain a priest, he’s forbidden to get married even though he may want to.

If he wants to get married, then he obviously didn’t belong to a class of men who are supposed to be called to celibacy by God (or is in a temporary struggle of accepting his call, etc.). Again, that casts into doubt either his own discernment or the screening process by which he became a (celibate) priest, not priestly celibacy itself.

They can play word games and play around with semantics, but the simple truth is men and women are forbidden to get married if they want to be a RC priest or Nun 

But that is not adding anything, because you are saying, “If a person is called by God to be celibate, then they are ‘forbidden’ to marry.” Well, yes, in a sense this is true, but it is a truism: the second clause of the second contains nothing that is not already implied in the first part. Celibacy entails no marriage. If that is deemed as “prohibition” or “forbidding” then so be it. But it forms no objection to the thing itself.

We don’t normally talk that way about anything else. For example, we don’t say that “Michael Jordan was forbidden to be a football player because God gave him the extraordinary talents he had to become the greatest basketball player of all time.” I don’t say that “I was forbidden to be celibate because I got married.” Such statements are non sequiturs. They may work on a polemical, slogan-like, propagandistic level, but not on a logical, real life level. Jordan was “called” to be a basketball player; I was called to be married. Each person is to follow his own calling (1 Cor 7:7b,17,20,24,38 ). If they mess up in this on an individual level, that doesn’t make the callings themselves invalid.

and are forbidden to get married if they’re already a RC priest or Nun.

Yes; if they had not that calling, then they had no business voluntarily entering into such a life. If I want to be a composer, I have to have the ability to understand and compose music. If I cannot do the latter, I have no business claiming to be a “composer.” But just because I can’t do this, doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as a composer, or that those who have no ability to compose should enter into that class and be called “composers” alongside the others who truly are called, based on talent from God and their own cooperation in cultivating their gift.

If a woman wants to get married, she is obviously not a nun, in the commonly-understood sense of the word. So, then, if she is a nun, she shouldn’t or wouldn’t want to get married; otherwise she has no business being there (just like Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music). That’s why these callings have long discerning and “trial” periods so the person can be absolutely sure of their calling. But there are things such as Third-Order Franciscans, where married or lay persons can participate in the monastic life to some extent.

If a man is called to the priesthood and celibacy, the RCC acknowledges he has a calling to the priesthood (I know there are more requirements than that), but if his calling to celibacy was only for a season, the RCC then says his calling to the priesthood was only temporary too. 

That’s correct. The gift of celibacy is a lifelong calling. Temporary celibacy is more or less the single state of one who will eventually be married, or abstentions in times of illness or necessary separation, etc. That’s not a calling’ rather it is a difficult situation which goes against one’s calling; therefore it is heroic to some degree if carried out.

They force him to either give up his calling to the priesthood or to remain celibate. So either they’re forbidding him to get married, or they’re forbidding him from fulfilling his calling to the priesthood. Which is it?

This forms no argument whatsoever against the celibate priesthood. All it shows is that the person was incorrect in his discernment of his calling.

I agree it’s better to stay single for the reasons Jesus and Paul mentioned, but I also agree it’s better to get married than burn with lust as Paul stated.

Of course; if you are called to be married. If you are not, then you are the sort of person whom the Catholic Church will choose to become one of its priests in the western, Latin rites.

***

It’s true, I attend a Southern Baptist church and agree with most of their theology; but I believe when we call ourselves anything but Christian, we’re getting away from Christianity. When I was RC, I called myself a Christian, and when I left the RCC, I still called/call myself a Christian. You may call me Baptist (and I won’t mind too much), but I will always call myself a Christian. Just wanted to state my position on that.

* * * * *

We’re not preventing anyone from doing anything. It’s as if you are arguing that the military “prevents” 80-year-old women from serving in military combat

The military DOES prevent 80 year old women from serving .

Exactly. Every institution has rules for admission into its offices. 80-year old women can’t serve in combat. This is common sense; no one would dispute its wisdom. This was an exaggerated comparison to make a point. The Catholic Church simply says that priests in its Latin Rite must be celibate. That doesn’t amount to preventing anyone from getting married. But one thing excludes another. If one wants to get married, one cannot be a priest in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Life is like that.

The fallacy here lies in your thinking, because you can’t prove that our position on this is contrary to any biblical teaching.

I quoted I Tim 4:1-5, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

But we’re not forbidding anyone to marry! This is what you don’t get. Anyone can get married if they like. The Church has no power (in a legal sense of compulsion) to forbid any individual from getting married if they feel they should get married. But such a person would obviously not be called by God to be celibate. This passage was referring to sects like the Gnostics who didn’t like marriage at all, and so prohibited it. It doesn’t rule out such a thing as a voluntarily celibate priest; so this is irrelevant to the discussion.

For instance, Eerdmans Bible Commentary states, regarding this passage: “The assertions of these verses are significant when studied in relation to the Gnostic and dualistic views that matter is evil and not created by God.” Bingo!

Protestant Bible scholar James D. G. Dunn (Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 2nd edition, 1990, 21-282) asserts that Paul was often contending against “a kind of Jewish Christian gnosis”; a “syncretistic teaching” which incorporated “characteristically gnostic ideas.” He gives a host of passages where Paul was dealing with this false teaching, devoting seven pages to this problem (e.g., in the pastoral epistles alone: 1 Tim 1:3 f., 1:19 f., 4:3,7, 6:20; 2 Tim 2:16 f., 3:5; Titus 1:13 f., 3:9 f.).

You may dislike and reject a lot of things about Catholicism, but to my knowledge you have not criticized us as pseudo-Gnostic anti-materialists. If not, then using this passage completely misses the mark because it attacks a position which is not at all our own.

When you fallaciously present the options in these terms, of course it is “undesirable.” But the fallacy lies in your false premises.

I’m not fallaciously presenting the options. I’m specifically addressing people who would like to remain Roman Catholic and become a married priest. 

That’s as senseless as saying that “I want to remain Orthodox and also believe in the supreme headship of the pope and include the filioque in the creed.” Or it’s like asserting, “I am a good Calvinist but I reject four parts of TULIP.” The two don’t go together. The individual does not determine the rules of the institution. He either accepts those or he does not. But to sit there and say, “I want thus and so and if I don’t get it in this particular community, then I will complain about how unfair and unjust it is!” is nonsense. That’s why I made my misunderstood remark about, “if they insist on getting married, then they can be Orthodox.”

What I was driving at is that there are groups out there who will conform with what such a person insists upon in their own case. It was a protest against individuals who think their views are supreme no matter what the Church they attend think. This is why they stay somewhere and try to change or subvert the teaching of the group, rather than admit that it will not be changed in the near future (priestly celibacy [in the Latin, western Rite] actually could change, unlike dogma – something like papal infallibility — , but it is exceedingly unlikely, because it is an 800-year disciplinary practice).

Such an attitude is almost of the essence of theological liberalism: the insistence upon getting one’s own way, and to Hades with the prevailing traditions and teachings of the group one is trying so vigorously to change (read, “corrupt” in most instances). It stinks to high heaven. So there is a sense in which one wants to exclaim, “if you don’t like what we teach, stop your incessant bellyaching and go somewhere else.” It’s a matter of intellectual honesty. When I no longer believed in the central Protestant distinctives, I was honest enough to convert to Catholicism, rather than stay and try to “Catholicize” Protestantism.

Maybe I didn’t state this clearly up front, but that’s what I’m addressing. And for anyone who fits into this category, the RCC forbids them to get married or to fulfill their calling. Can a man who wants to be a married priest in the RCC do so without exceptional circumstances?

No; unless he is Eastern Catholic. Are you saying that an institution has no inherent right to determine its own rules and qualifications?

That’s correct. Sex is a wonderful freedom within the moral bounds of marriage, and there is nothing wrong with it there, but some men can willingly choose to sacrifice that freedom for the love of God, to be married to Him (Matthew 19:12).

Agreed. But that’s different than forbidding one to be a married priest.

So you’re saying that Catholicism must allow married priests and can’t possibly take a view that they want priests to be from that class of celibates who are devoted to the Lord with far less distractions (as Paul teaches), or those who make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom, as our Lord Jesus teaches? It’s absolutely forbidden for us to apply that particular Pauline recommendation? It’s impossible for us to have priests imitate the celibacy of Jesus and Paul and many other disciples? What Bible verse do you suggest to support that contention? We’ve already seen how you have misused one above, which had nothing to do with our topic.

You haven’t shown to the slightest degree that our rule of celibacy is contrary to Scripture. But we have repeatedly shown that it perfectly squares with Scripture.

I’ve shown you I Tim 4:1-5, but you ignored it. 

I did because it had nothing to do with the subject. But I proved above that it didn’t. Now what will you do with it; just claim that the Bible scholars are wrong about it, and you are right?

I’ll show you I Tim 3 below; will you ignore it as well?

No; I’ll show that it doesn’t support your contention, either.

This doesn’t support your case. Moses was doing everything, so Jethro counseled him to divide the labor up a bit. But this usually doesn’t happen with pastors.

But it should; and when it does (as in my church) Pastor’s kids turn out great.

In some cases, yes, if the labor is truly split up so that the pastor isn’t run ragged with work and stress. But that doesn’t disprove the fact that a celibate priest or pastor can devote himself wholly to God and his flock. It is still the ideal.

Sure they have assistants and so forth, but if they are unpaid, they do relatively little and the lion’s share of the work falls back on the pastor. If the assistant pastors or elders are paid, that is only possible if the congregation is quite large, so that funds are available, in which case the labor remains almost what it was, with each one having to deal with so many congregants. It remains, therefore, difficult for the pastor to juggle family responsibilities with pastoral ones.

When my church was very small and only had one paid pastor, the elders and other men of the church stepped up and served so our pastor didn’t get worn out. That’s part of why he’s still there 14 years later even though the average Protestant church’s pastor moves on after three years.

He taught Moses to set up a hierarchy, and Paul confirmed that when teaching Timothy. My pastor has excellent elders who have excellent deacons, and this all makes the pastor’s job so much easier.

This is well and good, but again, it doesn’t prove that unmarried pastors and priests cannot be singularly devoted, as Paul teaches. We want those types of men: the heroic types.

If indeed they allow the pastor to be less busy after “working hours,” then this is a good solution which could work in some cases. But that still wouldn’t by any means “prove” that celibacy of the clergy is not also a worthwhile or preferable option to solve the same problems of time management and divided allegience between flock and family.

I don’t disagree that a celibate pastor can be the better solution, as he can devote more time and energy without taking away from his family.

Case closed then! All you can say is that the Catholic Church has no right to make this the binding rule for all her priests in the Latin Rite. But since you have no Bible verse which teaches this, your case collapses. Nor is there any verse which requires all pastors and priests to be married (which seems to be almost the unspoken rule among Protestants). Failing that, it is perfectly permissible for the Catholic Church to make celibacy a rule.

In other words, I could argue that this is one solution to the problem, and the Catholic celibate clergy is another, and that you have no grounds to say that the Catholic Church must choose either your solution, or to combine both methods, rather than to concentrate on one (with an allowance of or preference towards the other in portions of the Church). If 1 Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19 were not in the Bible, your case would be far stronger, but since they are, you are unable to rule out our approach and discipline, let alone deem it “unbiblical.”

And if I Tim 4:1-5 and all the references in Timothy to elders and bishops (pastors/priests) being men of but one wife and having their family under control weren’t in the Bible, your case would be much stronger.

These men weren’t required to be married. This is the point. Paul is teaching that if such men were married, they should only have one wife (some think this means that if their wife dies, they shouldn’t remarry), and if such men have a family, it should be controlled. None of that rules out the celibacy requirement. Obviously, if Paul wished that all were like himself, then making this a rule could not be contrary to his teaching or will. He didn’t say, “I wish all priests/pastors were married, unlike myself,” did he? Therefore, there is no one requirement taught in the Bible. Marriage is permissible, and so is celibacy, but the latter is taught as preferable for those engaged in spiritual work, so we follow that strain of thought.

One of the reasons for that is that Protestantism (and Catholicism also; it’s a general human tendency) tends to place too much burden on the pastor or priest and make him the guy who does all the “spiritual” work while the congregants and laypeople just sit there and benefit from that, rather than go out and participate in evangelism and charity and other necessary and worthy Christian endeavors.

Since pastors and priests are paid to do what they do, the ones who are unpaid tend to think that they don’t have to do anything, or very little of “Christian” work. … All this being the case, the “PK” phenomenon will continue to manifest itself, whereas all that is eliminated with a celibate priest or pastor.

I agree completely with you on this (hey, we finally agree ). Pastors and priests who do everything rob the church body of the glory of serving God selflessly. They ruin the patriarchy of the church, because all the men think, “No need to do Bible study with my children, the paid youth pastor or Sunday school teacher will do it”, or “No need for me to cut the grass or clean the toilets at church, the pastor or his wife will do it (or the priest and the nuns will do it).” While celibate priests may avoid having rebellious children, he may actually be increasing the problem of doing too much. Since the celibate priest has more time and does more, he may rob the Body of serving in those areas when he does it all himself; whereas a good pastor will be forced to delegate that work in order to spend time with his family. Paul said, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” (I Cor 12:14-15) Should the “head” be doing the walking? No, the head should be doing the thinking and leading and let the feet do the walking. But if a celibate priest does a lot of the work the other parts of the Body should do, he’s robbing them of their purpose and glory even though he’s also getting all the “head” stuff done between 9 and 5.

I agree, too, and it is nice for a change. I am involved in lay ministry myself. The trouble is, lots of folks on your side claim that my work is illegitimate, and/or that it is specifically impermissible within a Catholic framework. Of course, that is not true, as I proved recently, by citing popes. So I am trying to do some of the work that tended to be left almost exclusively to priests and nuns in the past, while meeting opposition from some Catholics and Protestants alike. This proves that the severe clergy/laity dichotomy is very much with us (in both camps) and a continuing problem to overcome.

I agree with Ken’s final comments. Celibacy is preferable if one is called to remain celibate,

Then you concede virtually all of the argument to us. We want our clergy to come mostly from the group of people who are called by God to be celibate.

Not so, I believe a married priest is preferable to a celibate priest, IF the priest isn’t called to be celibate. 

But that is a truism, and adds nothing to the discussion whatsoever. Of course one who isn’t called to be celibate should get married, but that is beside the point.

But the RCC’s position (not the EO church’s position) is that if you aren’t called to be celibate, you’re not called to be a priest in our church. You can go to one of the other “branches”, but not here.

Eastern Catholicism is not a “branch” of the Catholic Church, but fully as Catholic as the Latin, Western Rite. That’s why it is better to call us the Catholic Church, rather than Roman Catholic, because you are , in effect, excluding the Eastern Catholics, as if they aren’t part of the Church.

I don’t see how. Neither you nor your friend Ken (or anyone else) has given any biblical verse which precludes a celibate priesthood. All you can do is rail against abuses of the system, as if that proves that the system itself is intrinsically null and void and “unbiblical.” This is standard Protestant polemical practice, but that doesn’t make it valid or legitimate as an argument, either biblically or logically.

I Tim 4:3, 

That’s already been dealt with and disposed of as any kind of support for your argument.

I Tim 3:2a “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife,” 

As I mentioned with regard to 1 Tim 4:3, this has more to do with not remarrying, or not committing polygamy. Hence, Eerdmans Bible Commentary:

‘Married only once’ seems more likely to be the meaning here than the husband of one wife, i.e., not practising polygamy. Cf. 5:9. It doubtless means a man free, as many converts to the faith were not, from all unsatisfactory sexual history or associations.

So I would argue that Paul is thinking more of what to avoid (sexual sin) rather than what to positively do (marriage as absolute requirement). He is saying, in effect, I believe, “married bishops are permitted, provided that they don’t remarry or have more than one wife.” But note the difference between the following two propositions:

1. Married bishops are permitted.
2. All bishops must be married [or] one is prohibited from requiring celibacy.

It is not by any means certain that this verse or the others you cite are asserting #2. They certainly are allowing #1 (which is why the Catholic Church has acknowledged married priests and bishops in the past and in the Eastern Rites presently). You keep citing Eastern Orthodoxy against our rule. Yet the Orthodox require single bishops. So even they are not following this advice (1 Tim 3:2, regarding bishops) strictly, in the sense of requirement. If it is an absolute thing: “you can never have a rule requiring celibacy,” then they have violated it in the case of bishops, just as we supposedly have for priests and bishops (and popes). An Orthodox expert on About.com [link now defunct] answered a similar question in much the same way I have:

Question

In 1 Timothy 3:1-8 St Paul states that a bishop must be blameless, the HUSBAND of one WIFE. How can the Orthodox faith go against scripture and make a law that bishops cannot be married? I know the reason behind the decision, their children inheriting the land of the Church, but that does not justify going against accepted scripture. Please explain this to me.

Answer

In the first place, the Scriptures to not determine Church law, they record some aspects of it. The Church predates the Christian Canon of Scripture. The authority of the Scriptures rests in the Church – not the other way around.

In the second place, I think the inheritence thing is a red herring. The decision to limit the Episcopacy to celibate men was based more on their position as Target#1 during times of persecution. Read the lives of the early Bishops (2nd-4th cent.) and see how many of them died of natural causes. There were times when accepting election to the Episcopacy was a virtual suicide mission.

Later, when the Church decided to limit the number of Bishops, rather than have a Bishop over every local congregation, the job became too much to impose on a family man. And that’s about where we are today.

My own Bishop is 80 years old, looks after a diocese which covers 13 states across the south and south east U.S., and lives out of a suitcase most of the year.

But we do have an early tradition of a married Episcopacy, and could return to that practice if the Church deemed it wise to do so.

The old, well-known Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary (from 1864) is interesting here. First it claims with the obligatory polemic against Catholicism, that the passage is “confuting the celibacy of Rome’s priesthood.” But it goes on to say that the meaning “must” be that “candidates for the episcopate or presbytery were better to have been married only once.” Thus, Paul is dealing primarily with the issue of remarriage as a disqualifier, rather than marriage as a necessary qualifier for the episcopate.

This verse is compared to 1 Tim 5:9: “wife of one husband” (referring to widows). Then this commentary adds: “Hence the stress that is laid in the context on the repute in which the candidate for orders is held among those over whom he is to preside (Titus 1:16).” It continues a bit later: “It is implied here also, that he who has a wife and virtuous family, is to be preferred to a bachelor . . .”

First of all, note that celibate priests/pastors are not ruled out (they are only said to be less preferred). Yet in any event, one must compare Scripture with Scripture. This is the same Paul writing, who stated in 1 Corinthians 7:7: “I wish that all were as myself am” and “the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (7:32-34). So we prefer priests whose interests aren’t divided. This is straight Pauline teaching. It’s great advice, so we heed it.

He can’t be saying two things at once: 1) marriage is preferable (1 Tim 3:2), and 2) celibacy is preferable (1 Cor 7:7,32-34). It doesn’t make sense for him to be teaching that celibacy is preferable for all men except those who are ordained, in which case marriage is to be preferred. Therefore, the most reasonable way to synthesize these two passages is to hold that he is simply teaching that if a bishop is married, it should be to one wife. He should have a good reputation in sexual and family matters (if he has a family). But of course a celibate can also have a good sexual reputation (which is said to be the emphasis in the passage, according to both of the commentaries above), if he has not engaged in unlawful sex and has remained chaste.

If anything, Paul seemingly teaches that celibacy is to be preferred, but above all, he teaches that all should follow their divine calling, whatever it is (7:7,17,20). We simply choose our priests from the category of people whom God called to celibacy. This is thoroughly biblical, sensible, spiritually-minded, practical, reasonable, and it is not forbidden.

I Tim 3:4 “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect,” and I Tim 3:12 “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” One of these addresses priests/pastors, the other deacons and lay pastors. This is scripture, not railing.

The analysis above applies to these passages, too.

Paul made no argument forbidding a celibate clergy.

But when he gave requirements for the clergy, he listed being the husband of one wife. Why would he do that if he wanted an all celibate priesthood?

I think he was emphasizing that if a married man was admitted, he should have a good moral reputation (one wife, good family, not a bigamist or polygamist). He is not saying that one mustbe married. As soon as you allow that this is the case, then you cannot make a case against celibacy as an allowable and indeed even a preferred option. Both are allowed (i.e., as moral options), but that does not preclude an institution making a celibacy requirement because it prefers that state of affairs, and from choosing among those previously called to celibacy by God.

So the Catholic Church (western, Latin rites) adopts this teaching of Paul as the ideal for its priests. Nothing “unbiblical” in that in the slightest . . . Paul also writes many times that we ought to “imitate” him. So how is it “unbiblical” (let alone “forbidden” in some mythical Bible passage) for the Catholic Church to hold that most of its priests should imitate the Apostle Paul and follow his advice for the ideal, highest, most self-sacrificing level of service to the Lord and others?

Are you saying I Tim 3 and I Tim 4 are mythical?

I gave my explanation for those. Now it would be nice if you would answer my important question, instead of asking a silly one that you already knew my answer to anyway.

Peter and John taught neither that all priests should be married or that all should be single. Therefore, it is permissible to take a position that priests should be a class of men particularly devoted to the Lord and their flocks, to such a sublime degree that marriage is precluded, because it would divide that devotion, as Paul taught.

But this violates I Tim 4:3 (remember, I’m speaking solely to the RCC not EO or any other Orthodox churches)

1 Timothy 4:3 is addressing Gnostics who forbid marriage altogether. You say you aren’t addressing the Orthodox, but they forbid their bishops to marry, which you would say is directly contrary to 1 Timothy 3:2 (Gk., episkopos / “bishop”).

You showed where you believe my logic failed but refused to address the scripture. Your defense said:

1. The RCC simply draws its priests from the pool of people who have the calling of celibacy.

2. How many priests would have gotten married if it was acceptable?

3. Hidden premise of #2: “many priests who became priests with the understanding that celibacy was a requirement and that they were called by God to celibacy were not in fact so called, because they would have gotten married if they could have.”

4. Therefore, there should be no celibate clergy.

The fallacy lies precisely in the gap between #2 (with its underlying premise #3) and #4: #1 cannot be contended against on consistently logical, biblical grounds.

It can if you don’t throw out I Tim 3 & 4. 

I don’t have to throw anything out, as shown. As always, I have sought to interpret all of the relevant scriptural data (both the material about celibacy and that concerning bishops who are married) in a harmonious fashion. Internal consistency doesn’t yet prove truthfulness, yet we know that internal inconsistency definitely contains falsehood.

Do you doubt that many who would like to be RC priests and some who ARE RC priests want to get married? 

No; you can always find people who want to go against the beliefs of the group they are in, or who want to change those teachings according to their own whims and beliefs, rather than accept the authority of a tradition given to them (or who don’t properly discern their own calling). But Catholicism is not an individualistic, sectarian system. It is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, with teachings handed down since His time, and not able to be changed. In this instance, it is a disciplinary teaching, which can change (and has done so in the past), but there is no sign of that happening soon. So Catholics must accept that this is the status quo.

The faithful Catholic accepts the wisdom of the Mind of the Church and its tradition. If someone wants “pick-and-choose” or “cafeteria” Christianity, they can join any number of Protestant denominations which are more than happy to allow them that option (all the way up to practicing homosexual priests, feminism, free divorce, uncontrolled legal abortion, etc.).

If you don’t doubt it (and I don’t see how you could), then #3 is a fact not a hidden premise.

It is a “fact” in the sense above, but it has no bearing on the question at hand. All it is, is an example of what I was disputing: this foolish, wrongheaded notion that corruptions and exceptions to the rule disprove the rule itself. They do not. That’s the fallacy of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But that is the classic Protestant method, isn’t it? If you don’t like the Church because some or many of its members are corrupt (as in the 16th century), then ditch it and start a new one (as if that is possible; there is only one Church [very explicit in Paul], and it has been continuous since apostolic times). Start from scratch. To Hades with Tradition; we can start right now and reinvent the wheel.

Suppose it was his own poor discernment and not an intentional misleading. Now he’s forbidden to marry, or he’s forced to resign being a priest. This brings us back to the RCC either forbidding a man to be married or denying him his calling.

Anomalies and difficult particular situations do not disprove a rule, either. Every “rule” or legal system (or scientific hypothesis or theory, etc.) has those. This is backwards reasoning (if indeed it can be called “reasoning” at all):

 

“Because some men have poor discernment and incorrectly determine that they are called to celibacy when in fact they were not; therefore, the celibacy requirement is invalid and should be thrown out because it forbids marriage to such people who blew it when the time came to make a choice for their life’s work.”

But that is not adding anything, because you are saying, “If a person is called by God to be celibate, then they are ‘forbidden’ to marry.” Well, yes, in a sense this is true, but it is a truism: the second clause of the second contains nothing that is not already implied in the first part. Celibacy entails no marriage. If that is deemed as “prohibition” or “forbidding” then so be it. But it forms no objection to the thing itself.

And if they’re “forbidding” a man to get married, then they’re violating I Tim 4:3.

Now we’re starting to go round in circles, which so often happens in “large and lumpy” debates like this one . . . if all you can do is repeat yourself (in this instance, using a verse which is irrelevant, as shown), then please just skip over the comment and wait till you do have something new to say.

We don’t normally talk that way about anything else. For example, we don’t say that “Michael Jordan was forbidden to be a football player because God gave him the extraordinary talents he had to become the greatest basketball player of all time.” I don’t say that “I was forbidden to be celibate because I got married.” Such statements are non sequiturs. They may work on a polemical, slogan-like, propagandistic level, but not on a logical, real life level. Jordan was “called” to be a basketball player; I was called to be married. Each person is to follow his own calling (1 Cor 7:7b,17,20,24,38 ). If they mess up in this on an individual level, that doesn’t make the callings themselves invalid.

Suppose one is called to be married AND a priest (one can have more than one calling after all). If each person is to follow his calling(s), he can’t stay in the RCC and fulfill them both. 

That’s not true; he is free to do both in Eastern Catholicism. You can’t equate “Roman Catholicism” with the entire Catholic Church and then deny that Eastern Catholicism is also a portion of that same Church. That’s how you use the term (so that your statement above is plainly false), but there are about 22 rites of the Catholic Church. The Roman, Latin rite is the largest, but not the only one. So here, as so often, we have a diversity within a larger unity, such as in our orders and different liturgical traditions. But we don’t see much of a tradition of clerical celibacy among Protestants, do we? Protestants have to be legalistic on this, so that it is an unspoken rule that pastors have to be married. How many single Baptist pastors do you know?

The RCC is either saying these two callings don’t coexist, or we’re going to forbid someone from fulfilling one of them.

They don’t coexist in the Latin rite, that’s correct.

Why didn’t Jesus, Paul, Peter, or any of the other NT writers forbid the clergy to be married?

Because it is a matter of spiritual discipline, not dogma. Therefore, the matter was left open.

Indeed, Jesus chose the Apostles, and most of them were married. 

How many do you claim were married, and on what basis? But for some of them at least (including Peter), it was said that they left their families and wives to become disciples. This may have been a temporary situation, but there was still that separation between family and ministry, which, it seems, shouldn’t be there at all if you are correct.

Not only so, but Paul makes rules for married pastors. And Peter, the one you claim was the first Pope, was married!!

Wow! I must convert back to Protestantism, then. So what?! See my paper: “Dialogue on Peter’s Marriage, and Why it Doesn’t Disprove Catholicism.”

Does the RCC know better than all of them?

No, the “RCC” uses it’s God-ordained, biblically based authority to apply all of the biblical teaching in the way that it sees fit for the most spiritually-fruitful priesthood.

Obviously the Bible allows for celibate clergy, but it also obviously allows for married clergy. 

Married clergy are permitted. That doesn’t mean that marriage is a necessary precondition for ordination, nor that a church cannot require celibacy if it so chooses.

To deny that violates I Tim 3 and 4. And to disallow it rejects a portion of the Bible.

Sheer nonsense, as I believe I have shown.

Nowhere is a priest/pastor specifically encouraged to remain celibate. 

This is untrue, since Paul says, “I wish all men were as I myself am” and teaches that singleness allows undistracted devotion to the Lord (1 Cor 7). Since priests are part of the category of men, they are included in this great wisdom; in fact, one could argue that the “devotion to the Lord” aspect would particularly apply to priests and other clergymen, since their calling is specifically directed towards spiritual thngs and serving the Lord in a capacity above and beyond what most laity can do.

Paul says he wished ALL men were like him not just members of the clergy. 

Exactly! Thank you. But you have now contradicted yourself, since you just asserted that priests were never encouraged to be celibate, yet now you recognize that the clergy is part of “all men.” This is a direct contradiction. So I ask you again: why are we not allowed to simply apply this wish as our own desire for our priests? Why is that not permitted? We can’t imitate Paul in this regard, when he says repeatedly to imitate him? Now, he talked about married bishops elsewhere, but as I argued, you have to harmonize the two things somehow. I have done my best to do so. You may disagree, but at least I have an internally consistent, (I think) plausible explanation which incorporates both elements of Paul’s teaching.

Does the RCC have the right to make celibacy a condition for being RC? 

No; that would hardly be possible, since it would deny the dcalling of marriage, which is the state of life for the overwhelming majority of people.

It would give everyone the same benefits it gives the clergy. If the RCC can select clergy from the pool of celibates, why not select all its members from the pool of celibates? 

Because of the above reason. Priests are a special, small class of people, set apart for service to the Lord and their flocks. They are called to heroic self-sacrifice.

Do they have that authority? If not, why not?

It’s a ridiculous question in the first place. If this is your idea of a reductio ad absurdum (one of my favorite techniques in argument) it is failing. The Church cannot call someone to celibacy if they are not called to it by God.

If they want a church that can serve God wholeheartedly without the distractions of a family, that’s the way to go.

Singleness does have that advantage, yes. But we are not Gnostics. We don’t denigrate marriage; we only honor the self-sacrifice of a celibate priest, nun, or monk.

Anyplace celibacy is discussed in the NT, it isn’t specifically addressing the clergy. In fact, it’s not even addressing the clergy in a round about way. Jesus and Paul are simply saying, a man can better serve God without the distractions of a family.

Though granting that the passages do not “specifically” address clergy, this is not entirely true, in a larger sense, as already explained: being interested in “the affairs of the Lord” (1 Cor 7:32) is quite obviously relevant to the work of the priesthood or of the nun or monk or pastor. A man who can “better serve God” (your words) sounds like exactly the kind of man we need as a clergyman. I’ll take a priest who can “better serve God” any day over one who can “serve God less wholeheartedly.”

You are also wrong (in this larger sense of straightforward indirect application) with regard to Matthew 19:12 where Jesus refers to those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Those who are serving the kingdom of heaven sound a lot like members of the clergy, whose job it is to make known the ways of the Lord and to help people to get to heaven. So to assert that neither passage has anything to do with clergy / priests / pastors is, in my opinion, stretching credulity beyond the breaking point.

* * *

Thanks for the friendly debate. I think we have both presented vigorous defenses for our positions, so that this is a good resource for folks of any persuasion to work through this issue and better understand the rationale given by both schools of thought. That is what I seek to do in every dialogue, so I again thank you, and greatly appreciate your input, as is the case with all my dialogue partners (particularly also Ken Temple, as of late).

***

(originally 7-7-06)

Photo credit: Senlay (4-30-15) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons license]

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June 30, 2018

In Catholic (and biblical) ascetic spirituality, or what are called “the evangelical counsels,” a person may voluntarily (sometimes heroically) renounce something for the kingdom of God. Some biblical examples are the prophets, John the Baptist, and the disciples.

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 that not everyone can meet (if you’re five feet tall, chances are you’re not going to take up basketball; if you weigh 125 pounds, you won’t be a linebacker in football, etc.). The priesthood is no different.

Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, made many absurd and outrageous (and slanderous) statements about the Catholic clergy and Catholic rules; for example:

The sum of it all is that pope, devil, and his church hate the estate of matrimony, as Daniel says [17:37]; therefore he wants to bring it into such disgrace that a married man cannot fill a priest’s office. That is as much as to say that marriage is harlotry, sin, impure, and rejected by God; and although they say, at the same time, that it is holy and a sacrament, that is a lie of their false hearts, for if they seriously considered it holy, and a sacrament, they would not forbid the priests to marry. Because they do forbid them, they must consider it unclean, and a sin, as they plainly say . . .

[T]he noises made by monks and nuns and priests are not prayers or praises to God. They do not understand it and learn nothing from it; they do it like hard labor, for the belly’s sake, and seek thereby no improvement of life, no progress in holiness, no doing of God’s will. (On the Councils and the Churches, 1539; in C. M. Jacobs, translator, Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Co. and the Castle Press, 1930; reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982, six volumes; from Vol. 5, 284, 286)

Elsewhere, however, when Luther is not in one of his notorious polemical, condemnatory moods, he acknowledges that, indeed, there is a category of men (albeit very small) called to celibacy, referring, in The Estate of Marriage (1522) to the eunuchs referred to by Jesus in Matthew 19:12, and those who are “especially called by God, like Jeremiah”. Like many other of his positions, this one may have become more “anti” and “polemical” over time.

***

(originally 2-21-04)

Photo credit: Martin Luther as Monk. Engraving by Lucas Cranach. 1520. Photograph by Paul T. McCain. June 2006. Eisenach, Germany. [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license]

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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).

Yes.

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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June 28, 2018

Classic examples of how Catholicism is often criticized with a sort of “rapidfire” / “gotcha!” mentality . . .

*****

[Comments of “morganB” will be in blue; those of “Trinidad” in green]

***

morganB provided us with the following rapid-fire questions (as if mere quantity of objections somehow proves the intended target less plausible):

Globally applied man-made rules frequently clash with how God made us… everyone is unique. Everyone has a unique libido.

Yep. That’s why Paul says that men should “lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him” (1 Cor 7:17). Latin Rite Catholicism chooses its priests from the group of men who are called by God to celibacy (1 Cor 7:32-35). He describes marriage as doing “well” (7:38) and celibacy “better” (7:38). Latin Rite Catholicism prefers the Pauline “better” state for its priests, which is following the advice of the Great Apostle in inspired revelation. Sorry to be so biblical!

Moreover, the celibacy requirement is not “globally applied” in the first place. It’s applied to those (a very tiny number of all humanity or all Catholics) who wish to become priests in the Latin Rite: who are already called to celibacy and the priesthood by God (1 Cor 7:17).

When God made Eve did he look for Adam to be celibate?

No. Non sequitur . . .

It is said that St. Peter had a wife.

Yes he did. And it’s said that St. Paul and Jesus didn’t. This is another non sequitur that I just wrote about.

I feel that celibacy is unnatural.

For you and I it is; not for all men, as Jesus said (Matthew 19:10-12). You err in extrapolating merely your own opinion and feelings to the entire human race. Not everyone has to (or wants to) be like you. You go get married (if you aren’t already). Let priests follow their calling from God.

A priest can’t be married because he is unable to attend to his flock?

It’s not an absolute; simply a matter of practicality and wisdom; no divided interest, as Paul notes.

If that was true how is it explained when the church accepts married clergy as converts?

By the saying, “there’s always an exception to the rule.”

How do other faiths deal with this?

They usually don’t. But because we take all of relevant Scripture into consideration, we do.

A prime example of how difficult it is… if a young priest meets a beautiful woman at a church function and falls madly in love, how does he proceed?

He gets away from her and prays for strength to resist temptations that might lead to what is contrary to morality and his vows.

Psychologically, it may be damaging for him to remain celibate.

In extreme cases, he can be released from his priestly duties and laicized.

One doesn’t construct rules and policies (or decide against them) based on hard cases or extreme cases. The lunacy of that mentality is what eventually brought us abortion on demand, for any reason whatever.

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If there are married priests in the Catholic church regardless of rite then this entire attempt to prove celibacy is better than marriage for priests is so much “sound and fury signifying nothing.” If the point made in the article is correct then the Eastern Churches are a scandal to the rest of the Church failing to follow the ideal laid down in scripture, tradition, and practice or so the author believes.

This doesn’t follow at all. It’s a discipline, not a dogma, and can change, and did change in the Latin Rite. It simply didn’t change in Eastern Catholicism. We in Western Catholicism believe, following Paul, that sacrificial renunciation of sex and marriage is a heroic sanctity (in our priests) not required of everyone, by God (by calling).

The Eastern Church has simply chosen not to make that a requirement for her priests (just as the West used to not do so). They believe, following Paul (1 Tim 3:2) that priests can be married, like bishops (in Paul’s time) could be. That’s not a “scandal” at all. It’s simply a disciplinary choice that is different from Latin Catholicism. But even in the East, bishops must be celibate, so they have followed that course, but in a more limited fashion. They require celibacy of bishops; the West requires it for bishops and priests.

People are so often hung up on anything to do with sex. They have to think in rigid either/or categories: “if marriage is good, then celibacy must be bad” or “if celibacy is the ideal, then marriage must be bad, and sex wicked and evil.” None of that is the scriptural or Catholic view.

St. Paul describes marriage and singleness as “well” and “better” (1 Cor 7:38): not “bad” and “good” or “good” and “bad.”

Eastern Catholicism also has aspects of renunciation: just in different ways. For example, it has a more rigid requirement of fasting before receiving the Holy Eucharist.

The Catholic Church is big enough to have disciplinary and liturgical diversity without having to play the child’s game of fallaciously assuming that one way must be superior to the other. East and West prefer different liturgies; likewise, they can prefer different disciplines regarding priests’ manner of life. Much ado about nothing . . .

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(originally 9-18-17 on Facebook)

Photo credit: Two Catholic priests in Siena, Italy. Photograph by Leila Heim 558DC (9-28-11) [Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 license]

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June 20, 2018

This was an exchange (presently expanded) with a critic of my article at National Catholic Register: “Priestly Celibacy: Ancient, Biblical and Pauline” (9-18-17).

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“Paul & Timothy” posted:

Celibacy is a beautiful gift, and properly exhorted by St. Paul.

However, there is 1 Timothy 3, 2-5 also pertaining to holy orders that makes me question the requirement that only those who make a promise of celibacy can be ordained to the priesthood and episcopacy:

A bishop must be… married only once… He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the Church of God.

I find it interesting how few Catholics know 1 Timothy 3 … and are shocked when they read it, and how we seem to be “selective” interpreting or “advocating” celibacy as the only norm. Does not understanding Sacred Scripture properly requires reading all of Scripture to interpret it fully?

I replied:

I’m quite familiar with it. It’s no more of a problem for the Catholic position than Peter’s marriage was. Celibacy was not mandated as required in the apostolic Church, but it soon came to be very widely. The Church at first followed Paul’s position expressed in 1 Timothy 3, then (in the West) opted for preferring his position on celibacy for the purpose of singlehearted devotion to the Lord without divided loyalties, as expressed in 1 Corinthians 7 (as part of your recommended “reading all of Scripture”), and his wish that all men would be as he is (celibate).

The latter is a higher, more heroic calling (involving the evangelical counsels), and the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church decided that’s what she wanted for her priests and bishops.

Navarre Bible Commentary states concerning this passage:

“The husband of one wife”: this is also a requirement of”elders” (cf. Tit 1:6) and “deacons” (1 Tim 3:12); it does not mean that the person is under an obligation to marry, but he must not have married more than once. From the context it clearly does not mean that candidates are forbidden to be polygamous (polygamy is forbidden to everyone); the condition that one be married only once ensures that candidates will be very respectable, exemplary people; in the culture of the time second marriages, except in special circumstances, were looked at askance, among Gentiles as well as Jews.

In the apostolic age celibacy was not a requirement for those who presided over the early Christian communities. However, it very soon became customary to require celibacy. “In Christian antiquity the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers testify to the ‘spread through the East and the West of the voluntary practice of celibacy by sacred ministers because of its profound suitability for their total dedication to the service of Christ and his Church. The Church of the West, from the beginning of the fourth century, strengthened, spread, and approved this practice by means of various provincial councils and through the Supreme Pontiffs” (Paul VI, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, 35–36).

From then on all priests of the Latin rite were required to be celibate. Celibacy is appropriate to the priesthood for many reasons: “By preserving virginity or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven priests are consecrated in a new and excellent way to Christ. They more readily cling to him with undivided heart and dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and of men. They are less encumbered in their service of his kingdom and of the task of heavenly regeneration. In this way they become better fitted for a broader acceptance of fatherhood in Christ” (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 16).

Catholic apologist Tim Staples commented upon the same passage as follows:

Even the Evangelical scripture scholar Dr. Ralph Earle, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, says that St. Paul in 1 Timothy 3 is not requiring bishops to be married. In stating his reasons, he first offers the most ancient position—which we know as Catholics to be apostolic in origin and found in written form in the late second century—that would say this text is placing a limitation on the number of marriages a bishop could have in his lifetime. He could only have been married once. This is the position of the Catholic Church today. If a man has been married more than once, even if licitly, he cannot be admitted to the episcopacy. . . .

In that same Bible commentary, this time commenting on Titus 1:6, which makes to both elders and bishops the same prohibition against multiple marriages, another Evangelical scholar, Dr. D. Edmond Hiebert, adds, “If Paul had meant that the elder must be married, the reading would have been ‘a’ not ‘one’ wife.” I would go further and say it would most likely simply say, “The bishop must be married.” The term one indicates that he is limiting the number, not mandating marriage.

Of course, you must know that celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, and thus can change and has changed in history. And you must know that Eastern Catholics are fully as Catholic as Western ones, and that they allow married priests. And you may or may not know that even in the Latin Rite exceptions are made for some priests, such as those received from Anglicanism. Hence, the late Fr. Ray Ryland and Fr. Dwight Longenecker (still with us) were both ordained in the Latin Rite as married men.

That’s why this supposed “zinger” or “gotcha” comment of yours is much ado about nothing; proves nothing whatever of what you seem to think it proves.

Related reading:

Clerical Celibacy: Hostile Protestant Commentary & Catholic Replies [2-21-04]

Clerical Celibacy: Dialogue with John Calvin [9-17-09]

Mandatory Celibacy of Catholic Priests in the Western / Latin Rite: A New (?) Argument [11-16-12]

Forbidding Marriage? Consecrated Virginity & the Catholic “Both / And” [9-13-17]

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(9-18-17; expanded on 6-20-18)

Photo credit: St. Athanasius (296-373): icon from Sozopol, Bulgaria, end of 17 century [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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