Priests and Celibacy

Priests and Celibacy October 7, 2016

Here is an interesting article sent to me by a former student. It is written by a psychologist who had a 30-year career counseling priests who had lapsed from their celibacy vows:

I have never understood the celibacy requirement. Was Jesus celibate? We have zero evidence one way or another. It would seem highly unusual for a 30-year old man never to have had sexual relations. Who knows? Paul said, (I Corinthians 7:1) “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Paul was celibate and wishes that all men had his self-control (I Corinthians 7:7), but he concedes, “It is better to marry than to burn.” While this is not exactly what you would call a ringing endorsement of the blessed state of matrimony, it certainly is not a disparagement. Indeed, elsewhere, at I Timothy 3:2 Paul says that a bishop should be the husband of one wife. So a scriptural justification for the celibacy requirement seems to be lacking. My guess is that a strong element of asceticism entered into Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries. This was the time when the most admired figures in Christendom were deranged fanatics like St. Simeon Stylites, who engaged in outrageous mortifications of the flesh. St. Anthony supposedly would throw himself naked into thorn bushes when Satan would tempt him with visions of voluptuous women. As I say, inordinate admiration was directed at those who engaged in atrocious acts of self-torture.  The Late Roman Empire was a very, very strange society. Some of its bizarre obsessions seem to have had considerable influence on Christian doctrine and practice.

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