General Principles Before We Begin
Part 1: WHY PRIESTS DON'T MARRY
Part 2: THE HISTORY OF CLERICAL CELIBACY
Part 3: ANATHEMAS FROM THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
Part 4: Countering the Feminist Attack on Celibacy:
An Orthodox Catholic Response to Rent-A-Priest & Co.
Part 5: Why Celibacy? The Explanation for the Response in Part 4
Part 6: Excerpt from MENTI NOSTRAE, Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII
to the Clergy of the Entire World
Part 7: Excerpt from THE CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD, Encyclical Letter of His Holiness, Pope Pius XI,
December 20, 1935
1. Celibacy is a disciplinary requirement and not a dogmatic one. Thus, some priests have been and are permitted to marry.
2. While discipline may change, by tradition, it ought to be changed very prudently: the rule that guides discipline is the good of souls, which is the highest law in the Church. And where a discipline has over the course of the Church become more and more a part of tradition, this discipline is the norm precisely because tradition has taught us that this norm or discipline is for the good of souls. For instance, in the very earliest days of the Church, Communion in the hand was permitted, simply because the Church had as yet no experience with the abuses both Sacramentally and theologically that accompany this form of reception. When the Church saw the detriment that arose from this early practice, Communion on the tongue became normative. When, after Vatican II that norm was relaxed to permit reception in the hand, the same detriment has arisen again. Just because a discipline may change, does not mean it ought to change. In the same way, the norm of priestly celibacy developed over the first 3 centuries of the Church. Thus far, apart from the few exceptions granted, it has remained the norm and has not been changed as was the reception of Holy Communion by the faithful. The following tracts will explain why and also discuss briefly those few exceptions, the strict parameters involved and that this exception is not exactly a panacea in re vocations.
Part 1: WHY PRIESTS DON'T MARRY
THE question Why can't priests marry? is often prompted by the unexpressed idea that a despotic Church prevents them from marrying. The truth is that they make a perfectly free choice in the matter. They make this choice after a very long period of preparation and trial. The normal way of training for the priesthood as envisaged by the Council of Trent is for the candidate to enter an ecclesiastical seminary as a boy and study there for thirteen years.
Many boys remain at lay schools till they are about seventeen and then go to the seminary or ecclesiastical university for a six or seven-year course of philosophy and theology with their sister subjects. During all this time great attention is paid to their spiritual development. In prayer and devout exercises they test their resolve to dedicate themselves to the service of God in the celibate life. Some decide that this is not their vocation, and return to the life of a layman. Some retire because they are not physically or mentally robust enough. Some are sent home by their superiors as unsuitable. None are forced to remain. Indeed this is strictly forbidden by the Canon Law of the Church. Canon 971 says, "It is a crime [nefas est] to force anyone, in any way, for any reason, into the clerical state."
The vow of celibacy is taken at the ordination to the subdiaconate. The "taking of the step" at this ceremony is a dramatic moment. The candidates, dressed in albs, stand at the entrance to the sanctuary, facing the bishop, who is seated before the altar. He gives them a solemn address, at the end of which he says, "Up to now you have been free. You may still, if you choose, turn to the aims and desires of the world . . . .Think then while there is time. If you want to continue with this sacred proposal, step forward in the name of God."
They step forward with determination, completely confident that with the help of God's grace they will stand firm in a resolve that has been tested over so many years. From now on they are wedded to the Church.
What are their motives in taking this step?
The lowest motive [but a very good one] is the practical consideration that a married man must make the needs of his wife and family his first concern, whereas the ideal of the priest is to make the demands of his bishop and his people his first concern. In the marriage contract husband and wife dedicate themselves to the love and service of each other and their children. Our Lord confirmed the ancient law written in the book of Genesis, belonging to the very nature of this relationship between man and woman called marriage. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh" [Matt. 19: 5-6].
For the average man married life involves not merely working for eight hours a day for at least five days a week to earn the money to keep wife and children, but also giving most of his leisure hours to living in and for the family. He is not merely a breadwinner, but the master of a home, the support and solace of a wife and a guide, philosopher and friend to his children. Even the man who need not earn a wage to keep his family must still have his attention absorbed by it, be emotionally involved in its spiritual problems and beset with care for its physical needs. It is rare for a priest to be a man of independent means and it is rarely possible for the priest to be provided with a salary sufficient to keep a wife and children, particularly in the mission fields, in persecuted countries and in the thousands of struggling parishes where vast debts on schools and church have to be shouldered. But even if this were possible, it would still be better for the priest to be without the care of a family. St. Paul, when recommending celibacy, makes this practical point:
"But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided" [1 Cor. 7: 32-33].
Dollinger, the German theologian who was excommunicated in 1871 for refusing to accept the decrees of the Vatican Council on papal infallibility, appreciated this point. When "The Old Catholic Church," with which he was associated, proposed to introduce marriage of the clergy, he strongly advised against it. He wrote to a friend in England, "You in England cannot understand how completely engrained it is into our people that a priest is a man who sanctifies himself for the sake of his parishioners. He has no children of his own, in order that all the children of the parish may be his children. His people know that his small wants are supplied, and that he can devote all his time and thought to them." The flock of the married clergyman knows, "that when the interests of his family and those of his flock collide, his family must come first and his flock second. In short, he has a profession, a gewerbe, rather than a vocation. He has to earn his livelihood." [A. Plummer, in The Expositor, p. 470.]
But such considerations do not preoccupy the subdeacon when the time comes for him to take the step forward. His motives are far nobler. He has that firm and calm resolve of the knights who knelt before their liege-lord and swore to serve him, under God, and to fight evil and protect the weak. He feels the joy of the bridegroom who grasps the hand of his bride and promises to take her "to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part." His promise is more noble even than these. It is a vow in the strict sense of the word, "a promise made to God." It has in it the bravery of the knight's promise, the tenderness of the bridegroom's, but in addition the noblest aspiration of the human heart, the worship of God. It is an act of religion.
The greatest act of love of which a man is capable is to give his life in the service of another. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends" [John 15: 13]. When a man lays down his life for God, he is a martyr. Short of dying, a man can do no greater act than to dedicate his whole life to the service of God. That is the real reason for the vow of celibacy which the subdeacon takes. He may feel little emotion. It is a deliberate act of the will taken after years of consideration. But it is the most generous act of which he is capable short of martyrdom, for he gives all his future life to God. In the words of Alice Meynell he might say,
Who knows what days I answer for today?
Imitation of Christ
The main motive of the young cleric as he takes his vow of celibacy is to make himself more like to Christ, who was Himself celibate, was born of a Virgin Mother and had as foster-father the virginal Joseph. The end of all Christian living is "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, and the same for ever" [Heb. 13: 8]. They who are striving for perfection must have Christ constantly before their minds. "Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith" [Heb. 12: 1-2].
Pope Pius XI in his encyclical on the Catholic Priesthood, Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, points to the Holy Family, which stands at the very center of Christianity, to show the beauty of chastity.
"For the Divine Master showed such a high esteem for chastity, and exalted it as something beyond the common power; He Himself was the son of a Virgin Mother, florem matris virginis, and was brought up in the virgin family of Joseph and Mary; He showed love for pure souls such as the two Johns-----the Baptist and the Evangelist."
He not only gave us the example in His own life. He recommended celibacy to His followers. As well as the commandments, the observance of which is necessary for salvation, Christ gave counsels for those who wish to strive for perfection. He made a clear distinction between the two when a young man came to Him for advice on how to save his soul. "Keep the commandments," said Jesus. The young man replied, "All these have I kept from my youth; what is yet wanting to me?" Obviously this young man needed a call to something higher. Jesus gave it to him. "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven, and come follow me" [Matt. 19: 21]. There is the counsel of perfection, voluntary poverty, obviously not intended for everybody.
He gave another counsel of perfection to the Apostles. He had given the sublime doctrine of Christian marriage and the Apostles suggested that since it was so difficult it might be better not to marry. He did not entirely disagree with them. He would commend this refraining from marriage if it were for the sake of the Kingdom of God. "There are eunuchs [that is, celibates] who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven," He said [Matt. 19: 12]. But he added, let those who can understand this, do so. This counsel was not for all. He invited to continence those who would wish to dedicate themselves completely to striving to possess the Kingdom of Heaven.
St. Paul taught this doctrine, in no better way than by the example of his own life, for he imitated Christ in his celibacy. "Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ," he said [1 Cor. 11: 1]. And when discussing this very matter of celibacy he says, "For I would that all men were even as myself" [1 Cor. 7: 7].
Like his Master he knew the excellence of marriage, but taught also the greater excellence of celibacy, even apart from the practical considerations of which he speaks in verse 32-33 of the same chapter already quoted above. He says it is a virtuous thing [kalon in Greek] to remain single for spiritual motives. He knows that this is not for everybody. "Everyone has his proper gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that." Moreover he tells those who have difficulty in remaining continent that it is better for them to marry. "But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt." Yet he says, "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows; it is good for them if they so continue, even as I" [1 Cor. 7: 8].
There is in this the important element of self-denial, which plays such a vital part in the spiritual life. It is good for the spirit to go against the demands of the appetites that it might be free to "seek the things that are above" [Col. 3: 1]. Even on the natural level, the whole world admires the explorer or the mountaineer who suffers great physical hardships in the pursuit of knowledge or the service of his fellow men; and the men who do these things know how refining to the spirit are the hardships they endure. There is this natural refining element in acts of self-denial, but when performed by the Christian for spiritual motives they also make reparation for sins and help to identify the sufferer with Christ who suffered on the Cross.
All the three great vows of religion, voluntary poverty, perpetual chastity and entire obedience, are performed for this ascetical purpose. They aim to control the appetites in their three most clamorous desires which are the cause of so many and so great sins. These desires are God-given and are for the benefit of the human race, but because they are so powerful they can sweep the soul away into excesses which can destroy it. Hence they are the three gateways at which the devil attacks most. They are the sexual desire, the desire for property and the desire for liberty. They are good when exercised according to reason, but when uncontrolled lead to the lust, avarice and mad pride which have destroyed not only many men, but whole civilizations. These vices make a man hard, cruel, destructive. In them St. John finds the whole summary of the opposition to Christ. "For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life" [1 John 2: 16]. The Christian who desires perfection gains complete mastery of self at these very places where the Devil attacks strongest. Many renounce lawful pleasure in sex, in property and in liberty in the three vows of the religious life. Some take all three vows, some two or one. But all take them to learn self-mastery "for the kingdom of Heaven" [Matt. 19: 12].
But the main purpose of the vow of celibacy is the positive one of advancing in the spiritual life. Priests and nuns seek to renounce all earthly love that they may be free to rise more speedily to the perfect love of God. Human love may hold us down to the earth: "For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also" [Matt. 6: 21].
Many people object that celibacy is wrong because it is unnatural. Sometimes the suggestion behind this objection is that it is impossible for priests to keep their vows. This is an affront to the millions of decent laymen who practice self-control while remaining unmarried. Moreover marriage does not remove all temptation to sexual abuse, as an hour spent in a divorce court or in reading the more lurid of our Sunday papers will show. It is often harder for the married to keep God's law than the celibate.
Sometimes the suggestion is that such unnatural self-control leads to frustration and loss of emotional balance. This is equally unrealistic. Frustration is the result of encouraging desires which are not properly satisfied. The libertine is frustrated, for happiness is not to be found in unbridled pleasure alone. Lovers are frustrated if fear and caution in the marriage act render them incapable of the full giving of self which love demands. But nuns and priests who are true to their high vocations are not frustrated, for they keep their thoughts chaste so that passions are not roused and yet allow their hearts to expand in love of God and those in their care. The nun gives a mother's love to those in her care, and the priest is aptly called "father" by his spiritual children. If there are frustrated nuns and priests they are the ones who have ceased to live the spiritual life of prayer. The true holy religious has a heart warm with love of God and his fellow men.
Another objection is that unmarried priests have not the
necessary to give advice on moral problems. The doctor of medicine
diseases he has never had, using the accumulated knowledge of the
acquired in his studies. The priest acquires similar knowledge of human
nature in years of study of moral theology and philosophy. But he can
with greater authority than the doctor, because he has the guidance of
a Divinely inspired Church. Moreover his work in the confessional and
visiting his people gives him a unique knowledge of human nature in
and the problems not merely of one but of hundreds of families. It is a
psychological fact that married people confide in him with greater
precisely because he is celibate.
There were large numbers of devout Jews who lived celibate lives about the time of Christ. The reverence shown to John the Baptist shows how much such men were respected. The early Christians, most of whom were Jews, inherited this tradition. But they gained an added respect for celibacy from the example of Jesus and some of the noblest of his followers, such as St. John the Evangelist and St. Paul, and possibly many other of the disciples. It would be strange indeed if in that community of ardent lovers of Christ there were not many who followed His example and His counsel of perfection and dedicated themselves to His service in the celibate state. Priests surely must have given a lead in this matter. Marriage was not forbidden to them.
Indeed it is clear that in the first three centuries at least married candidates for sacred orders were accepted. The Church contented herself with showing that self-control in the priest was to be expected by insisting on the prescriptions given by St. Paul to Timothy and Titus that if the bishop or priest were married, he should at least be "a husband of one wife" [1 Tim. 3: 2; Tit. 1: 6], that is, a man who had not married a second time after the death of his first wife.
But gradually as more and more Christians, and among them more and more priests, sought perfection in the vow of celibacy, this began to be expected if not demanded of the good priest. Many married priests, particularly bishops, lived in the brother-and-sister relationship with their wives, or by mutual agreement separated from them. [St. Peter did from the beginning of his Apostleship.-----Pauly Fongemie]
Tertullian, a Christian lawyer and theologian, writing about the year A.D. 200, gives us valuable evidence. A widow had asked him if she should marry again. In his book An Exhortation to Chastity he urges her not to, and points to the large number of priests who gave her good example in this matter.
"How many of them we see in sacred orders who have chosen continence, who have preferred to be married to God, who have re-established the honor of their flesh, and although sons of time, have consecrated themselves for eternity, mortifying in themselves the concupiscence of desire, and all that is excluded from Paradise" [De Exhortatione Castitatis, chapter 13].
For the first three centuries then, there was no law which insisted that priests should not marry. But the ideal set up by Christ was widely followed among the clergy.
The Law of the Church
The first recorded law insisting on the celibacy of the clergy is Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira about the year 305, which forbids bishops, priests and deacons to marry. Obviously this law does not suddenly appear "out of the blue," but is the result of a widespread earlier practice.
This high regard for celibacy of the clergy was not confined to the West. St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis at the end of the fourth century, goes even further than the Council of Elvira, and extends the law to apply to subdeacons as well as priests and deacons.
"The Church does not on any account admit a man living in the wedded state and having children, even though he have only one wife, to the orders of deacon, priest, bishop or subdeacon, but only him whose wife be dead or who would abstain from the use of marriage; this is done in those places especially where the ecclesiastical canons are accurately followed" [Adversus Haer. Panarion. 59, 4].
He hints that the law was often not observed; but there is no doubt that he regarded it as a law.
The Eastern Church
The end of the fourth century marks a divergence in the practice of the Eastern and Western parts of the Church. In the East the rulings of the Apostolic Constitutions, a collection of treatises on discipline, worship and doctrine gathered together in the fourth century, give us laws which are still the observance of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eastern practice is thus summarized by the historian Hefele.
"(a) That the candidates for Holy Orders are dismissed from episcopal seminaries shortly before being ordained deacons, in order that they may marry [their partners being in fact mostly daughters of clergymen] and after their marriage return to the seminaries in order to take the higher orders; (b) that as priests they still continue the marriages thus contracted, but may not remarry on the death of their wife; and (c) that the Greek bishops, who may not continue their married life, are commonly not chosen out of the ranks of the married secular clergy, but from amongst the monks" [Beitrage zur Kirchengesch., Vol. I, p. 139].
In fact the celibate priests in the Eastern Orthodox Churches have always been far more highly respected and influential with the people than the married clergy.
When various groups of Eastern Christians have returned to communion with the Holy See, they have been allowed to keep their ancient customs in this matter. But the proportion of subdeacons who take the vow of celibacy is constantly increasing, and the day may come when celibacy will be a universal law for them too. [In fact, vocations are down here, too, despite the permission to marry before ordination. ------Pauly Fongemie]
Advance in the West
In the Western Church we find that from the beginning of the fourth century onwards laws insisting on celibacy grew in number and severity. By the end of the fourth century it was quite clear that it was the law of the Church as far as the West was concerned that all in Major Orders [meaning from the subdeaconate onward] were bound to celibacy. Pope Siricius, writing to Spain in A.D. 385 and indicating that what he said was intended for the whole of the West, states the law clearly and appeals to Sacred Scripture to confirm it. The Synod of Carthage in A.D. 390 says that this had been a unwritten law in the Church since the days of the Apostles. "What the Apostles taught, and the early Church preserved, let us too observe" [Canon 3]. Innocent I [A.D. 402-417] excommunicated priests who lived as married men. Leo the Great [A.D. 440-461] repeated this penalty. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine at the beginning of the fifth century taught that the married state was inconsistent with the sacred office of the priest. St. Jerome, who lived at the same time, was vehement in his condemnation of married priests and bishops.
The law was one thing, the observance of it another. Breach of the law was very common. We find the same St. Jerome saying, "The world is full of clerics, who having been married before their Baptism and become widowers, have married again after their Baptism, and I do not speak of priests and deacons, I speak of bishops: the number of them so great that it is greater than the number of the Fathers of the Council of Rimini" [Letter 59, Ad Oceanum]. There were about three hundred bishops at that Council. But here the Saint is exaggerating probably in his indignation. The fact that he says this with astonishment, indeed horror, shows that he regarded celibacy as the normal and commendable thing.
The history of this matter shows us the Church, from the fifth to the eleventh centuries, trying by legislation growing more and more insistent and strict, to enforce the law. Always the saintly souls upheld it and earnestly preached the observance of it. But in times of decadence, the breach of it was almost as common as the observance.
In fact we might say that here we have a thermometer by which to tell the spiritual temperature of any age. In the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries there was much laxity. In the ninth the great reforms of Charlemagne tried to restore primitive strictness of life. There was decadence again in the tenth century, when many priests married openly in Germany and Gaul and lived openly with their wives. But it must be noticed that although such marriages were against the law and were strongly condemned by authority, the Church had not declared them invalid.
In the eleventh century five great popes in succession campaigned against incontinence among the clergy with great severity. Chief among them was Hildebrand, Gregory VII. He was utterly convinced that the universal observance of this law was essential if purity of Christian living was to be maintained. Under his pontificate many synods, such as those of Bruges in 1031, Rouen in 1073 and Winchester in 1076 [under Lanfranc], while recognizing the validity of marriages already contracted, absolutely forbade those in Major Orders to marry. Indeed Gregory VII forbade the people . . . to attend the Mass of a married priest.
Pope Calixtus II carried the war against marriage of the clergy further. The first Lateran Council convoked by him in 1123 declared marriages contracted by those in Major Orders after their ordination to be invalid. This fixed the law of the Western part of the Church once and for all. All popes repeated the prohibition of Calixtus, particularly against the Lollard and Lutheran attacks of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The custom of priests marrying died hard in England. In the fifteenth century it was being rigorously suppressed by the bishops. In the sixteenth a statute of Henry VIII declared it felony in England to defend marriage of the clergy as permissible by the law of God. The great reforming Council of Trent in 1545 not merely repeated the law most firmly, but marked the beginning of a universal observance of it throughout the Western Church. Its institution of ecclesiastical seminaries for the training of the clergy was a most vital contributory cause of the general reform in this matter.
That so many men are not merely prepared to dedicate
themselves to the
service of God and their people in the celibate state, but also
up to their high calling with such amazing fidelity, is perhaps the
glory of the Catholic Church today.
From the Doctrine of the Sacrament of Matrimony . . .
. . . Can. 8. If anyone says that the Church errs when she declares that for many reasons a separation may take place between husband and wife with regard to bed and with regard to cohabitation for a determinate or indeterminate period, let him be anathema.
Can. 9. If anyone says that clerics constituted in sacred orders or regulars who have made solemn profession of chastity can contract marriage, and that the one contracted is valid notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law or the vow, and that the contrary is nothing else than a condemnation of marriage, and that all who feel that they have not the gift of chastity, even though they have made such a vow, can contract marriage, let him be anathema, since God does not refuse that gift to those who ask for it rightly, neither does he suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able. [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 13]
Can. 10. If anyone says that the married state excels the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is better and happier to be united in matrimony than to remain in virginity or celibacy [Matt. 19: 11 f.; 1 Cor. 7: 25 f., 38, 40; c. 12, C. XXXII, q. 1; c. 9, C. XXXIII, q. 5; c. 16, X De sponsal. IV, 1.], let him be anathema.
Can. 11I. If anyone says that the prohibition of the solemnization of marriages at certain times of the year is a tyrannical superstition derived from the superstition of the heathen, or condemns the blessings and other ceremonies which the Church makes use of therein, let him be anathema.
Can. 12. If anyone says that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges, let him be anathema.
"Now, however, We want you to rally to combat the abominable conspiracy against clerical celibacy. This conspiracy spreads daily and is promoted by profligate philosophers, some even from the clerical order. They have forgotten their person and office, and have been carried away by the enticements of pleasure. They have even dared to make repeated public demands to the princes for the abolition of that most holy discipline. But it is disgusting to dwell on these evil attempts at length. Rather, We ask that you strive with all your might to justify and to defend the law of clerical celibacy as prescribed by the sacred canons, against which the arrows of the lascivious are directed from every side."
Gregory XVI, Encyclical Mirari Vos,On Liberalism, 1832.
Once again, priestly celibacy is at
A number of feminist priests have decided to marry, but, instead of
to be laicized, they refuse to submit to Church authorities and still
as priests, conferring the sacraments at people's homes now since they
have been removed from their parishes (it is not allowed for suspended
priests to confer the Sacraments, acc. to Canon #1394, n.1, except in
of death, of course; some Sacraments, such as Penance and Matrimony,
invalid when done by a suspended priest). This "service" they call
It is a seriously evil thing to break a vow; but it is even worse to take pride in it. Their site invites you to support a married Catholic priesthood. The webmasters "expose" such "secrets" as there having been married Popes, that St. Peter had a wife, that Pope John Paul II said celibacy is not essential to the priesthood, and other widely-known facts. The interesting part about it is that none of these things are unknown. Everybody knows (or should know) about all that. Celibacy is simply a discipline, not a doctrine, and can therefore be changed. However, currently the Vatican has made celibacy mandatory for priests, and therefore priests must be celibate. Besides, the reasons for priestly celibacy are beyond reasonable disputation, as my essay here demonstrates.
Granted, the faithful (laity or clergy) have a right to voice their opinions concerning such disciplines as celibacy in the priesthood. However, none of them have a right to break their vows of celibacy, much less to be proud of this sin. This shows a great desire of disobedience towards the Church authorities and superiors. The Catholic Church has currently bound priests to be celibate. In the Bible already, we read Jesus giving the powers to bind and loose to his Apostles (and their successors, consequently), when he says that whatever they bind on earth will be bound in Heaven (Matthew 18:18), and that is especially true for the Pope (Matthew 16:19). Furthermore, Hebrews 13:17 warns us: "Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account." What these disobedient priests are boasting of is a riddle to me. Indeed, they promise such blasphemous things as, if you support them, "Your reward will be great in heaven." I call this blasphemous because they are saying that by being disobedient to the Church one will garner a reward in Heaven. We know from which being such a statement can only come (hint, hint: it's not Jesus). At length the Bible tells us what happens to those disobedient to Church authorities (see Numbers 16 for a good example).
Here is another interesting tidbit concerning Rent-A-Priest and its associates: look at the founder. You will find that it's most likely always a woman, probably even a sister. The founder of C.I.T.I., which is responsible for the Rent-A-Priest site, is Louise Haggett. The awkward invitation to "Come As You Are" is made by Sister Deidre Brown. The German association "Vereinigung Katholischer Priester und ihrer Frauen" is under the care of Mechthild Jonas-Himmelmann, another woman.
Fact is that the case for clerical celibacy is deeply rooted in theology and philosophy. Priests must be celibate for a reason. Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas reminds us:
The reasons behind celibacy are not simply pragmatics, for
[Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Understanding the Sacraments: A Guide
Furthermore, the Bible itself tells us that celibacy has a lot of good to it (Matthew 19: 12, 19:29; Luke 14: 26; 1 Corinthians 7: 7; Titus 1:15). On a pastoral note, we should ask ourselves, "If a priest cannot even sacrifice matrimony, how can he be my spiritual counselor and shepherd, teaching me to sacrifice? How can he minister the True Gospel and the True Church to me if he himself is willingly disobedient and takes pride in it?" Folks, what we need in our times is good, holy, obedient quality priests. Not feminists, heretics, schismastics, or modernists. We got enough of those. Again, for a good overview of the biblical and theological case for priestly celibacy, go here.
Words, words, words
The Rent-A-Priest site buries you under slogans such as "Come As You Are." What a tragic misunderstanding of Jesus Christ. Yes, we can come as we are, but we still need to change; "Come as you are" doesn't mean, "Do what you want," but, "Come into my loving arms and repent. I will make you holy if you are willing."
"But Jesus never turned anyone away!" Well, this is not quite right. Indeed, those who were repentant and wanted to change, he did not turn away. However, to those who refuse to do his will he says:
"Depart from me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:23).
Folks, let's be honest. It doesn't stop at a married priesthood. When these groups get their married priests, the next thing is a plea that divorce be legalized. And then we move on to an acceptance of homosexual practices. And anyway, we will be told then, masturbation isn't all that bad after all. The next step will be that human life doesn't start till birth so we can allow abortion, that each person has a right to die and thus we can be in favor of euthanasia, etc. Am I going too far? Not at all. I can give you an exact example of what I've been saying: Rent A Priest supports Catholics who have been divorced and wish to re-marry. Indeed, Rent A Priest actually blesses second marriages. Click here [http://www.rentapriest.com/abless.htm] if you don't believe me. The worst part is that they do it "in the name of Jesus," who was rather unequivocal when he said:
God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:6)
St. Paul, too, was fairly clear:
I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate
Rent A Priest and all who favor them are thus not only disobedient to the Church, they are also disobedient to the very Word of God, to the teachings of Jesus, and exhort others to support that, promising them a reward in heaven! This is the ultimate blasphemy. It is evil.
Rent A Priest's connections
Let's look into the hotlinks that Rent A Priest provides. We find ourselves being led to The Link Up home page, [http://www.thelinkup.com] a web site dedicated to victims of clerical abuse. Or so they say.
There is no problem offering help to victims of clerical abuse, but when you actually visit the Link Up page, you will soon find out that it is only a cover-up for an organization that is actually liberal, feminist, and trying to undermine Church authority wherever possible. It is a real Call To Action-supporter, seemingly. At the Conference of the NCCB in 1997, they demonstrate, putting up "Walls of Shame" etc. to show how many clergy have abused other people. We must note several things about this:
1.) I would bet that not all the cases pictured at those walls
actually proven [and I am still of the opinion that one is innocent
But, boy, this is not the end yet. We got more. On the front page of Link Up, we find the web editor accuse the Vatican of conspiracy, murder, and helping Nazi prisoners to escape. Another interesting example of Link Up's pure desire to scandalize the Church (rather than work for renewal), whether true, half-true, or false, is the so-called "Clergy Crime" summary page. It lists, among many others, a case with Fr. Tom Watson [name changed to protect identity] as having treated a seminarian violently. I happen to know the seminarian, the priest, and the seminary, and hereby testify that the priest would not do such a thing, and the student was known to be an opponent of Watson's, and could simply have used the occasion to "get back at Fr." Since the case is not proven, Fr. Watson is therefore legally innocent of the "crime." However, Link Up treats the case as if Watson were guilty. This is hypocritical. There is no love or desire for the truth on Link Up's part. It simply tries to garner as many cases as possible.
Another glaring example is the case with Fr. Herb Foley [name changed to protect identity], accused of misbehaving sexually towards a parishioner who allegedly sought "counsel" with him. I happen to know the priest, and hereby stand behind him 100%. Since I know details of the case, I testify that the parishioner's arguments are so ridiculous, improbable, and contradictory, that I plead for Fr. Foley's innocence. Again, the case is not proven, and Fr. Foley is legally innocent. Link Up chooses to ignore that.
Another one of Rent A Priest's links leads to Fr. Pascal Baute's home page. Fr. Baute is of the opinion that dissent is sacred and necessary. He thinks it is intended by God. (Click here for proof.) [http://www.lexpages.com/SGN/paschal/trojan.html] I, together with millions of other Catholics, the Bible, and Tradition, think otherwise:
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
A scary fact is that Fr. Baute and many other priests from the Rent A Priest site give spiritual counsel and/or teach spirituality. By doing this, they are manipulating countless individuals and their spiritual growth in the true Church of Jesus, who said:
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)
Heresy is one of the worst sins, because it does not (only) kill the body, it kills the soul (cf. Matthew 10:28).
Please contact Rent A Priest by sending an e-mail [firstname.lastname@example.org] and tell them you oppose their breaking their vows of celibacy and the heretical teachings they are propagating, and you would like them to repent.
More and detailed information on this topic, again, can be found below.
Some might accuse me of being judgmental. For those I wish to mention that I am not judging anybody's heart. I am only providing facts and call things as they are. We remember Jesus' exhortation, "If your brother sins, rebuke him" (Luke 17:3), as well as St. Paul's cry to St. Timothy, "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2).
Under the cover-up of "love," Rent A Priest & Co. are trying to destroy the Church from within. Let us orthodox Catholics, however, be firm in our true faith that comes to us from the Apostles and in our love for the Church, which is the "foundation and pillar of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).
5: Why Celibacy?
The reasons for priestly and religious celibacy are numerous. They range from theological to spiritual, from psychological to practical, from philosophical to biblical. Before I start going into some of the reasons, let me first mention a short but important book on the matter: The Case for Clerical Celibacy by Cardinal Alfons Stickler. Click on the link to see more information about it and some scanned-in sample pages. Another important book that mentions the biblical and historical evidence for priestly and religious celibacy is Fr. Mario Romero's book Unabridged Christianity: Biblical Answers to Common Questions About the Roman Catholic Faith. You may consider getting one or both of these books if you are interested in this topic, for an essay like this one can never give you the full picture but only snapshots.
Before I get into the biblical arguments, let me quickly mention a fairly philosophical reason for priestly celibacy: it helps filter out unworthy vocations. A priest ought to be a most holy, most virtuous man wholly dedicated to God and ready to sacrifice his life for God and in order to feed the flock. If someone who wishes to become a priest cannot even make the sacrifice of celibacy, giving up wife and children, how will he hold up when it comes to other sacrifices? Can he give his life for his flock? If the priest is not willing to give up wife and children, just how serious is he about his vocation? How will he be the best possible servant he can be if he is not willing to dedicate his life wholly to God? If God calls you, God will give you the graces necessary to be a good and holy priest. Hence, if you feel you have a vocation but also feel that you could not be celibate for the rest of your life, this is an indication that you do not have a calling to the priesthood or religious life after all. As a former seminarian, I know what I am talking about. If the Church rescinded on her discipline of requiring priests and religious to be celibate, she would be opening the doors to many unworthy vocations, filling the seminaries, monasteries, and convents with people who are not willing to make this great sacrifice of celibacy in order to serve the Lord totally dedicated to Him. A vocation to the religious life -- whether it be that of a priest, monk, or nun -- must be willing to give everything to God, including one's life, to be shared with no one and nothing other than Him.
Now, given the many sex scandals that have been exposed by the press in recent weeks, you may wonder how I can say that priestly celibacy furthers holy vocations. Of course when I say that, I am talking about heterosexuals (males for the priesthood or brotherhood, and females for sisterhood). When you look at the many scandals that we have heard about in the news lately, you will see that almost every single one of them involves priests and other men. That is, we are talking about homosexual priests. Homosexual men should not be admitted into the seminary, into the priesthood, or into a monastery to be monks. The Church affirms this in its 1961 document on the matter. Unfortunately, however, many homosexuals have been able to infiltrate the seminaries and the priesthood and are now priests, educators, and administrators of whatever sort. It is because of this infiltration that we now see so many scandals. It has nothing to do with priestly celibacy but with homosexuality.
A more practical reason for priestly celibacy is simply that you do not have time for wife and children as a priest. You simply don't. Even in the seminary already it would be impossible to have a wife and children to take care of--you would get nowhere. Besides, having wife and children to care for is a huge responsibility, and of course the husband in the family must be very diligent and properly care for his family. A priest could not do this because he would be torn between his responsibilities as a spiritual father and his responsibilities to his wife and children.
Now we come to the biblical reasons for celibacy. I will be taking the research from Fr. Romero's book Unabridged Christianity. What follows are selections of passages that demonstrate the celibacy as a state for life is approved by the Bible, recommended especially in order to be free for prayer and focus on God, and will be rewarded greatly in the afterlife:
Any questions? Ask me: email@example.com
21. The more resplendent priestly chastity is, so much the more does the sacred minister become, together with Christ, "a pure victim, a holy victim, an immaculate victim" [Missale Rom., can.].
22. In order carefully to preserve unstained this inestimable treasure of our chastity, it is suitable and necessary to be obedient to that exhortation of the Prince of Apostles, which we daily repeat in the Divine Office, "Be ye sober, and watch" [ 1 Petr., V, 8].
Vigilance and Prayer the Safeguards of Chastity
Avoidance of Familiarity
CHASTITY A MOST PRECIOUS VIRTUE
It is impossible to treat of the piety of a Catholic priest without being drawn on to speak too of another most precious treasure of the Catholic priesthood, that is, of chastity; for from piety springs the meaning and the beauty of chastity. Clerics of the Latin Church in higher Orders are bound by a grave obligation of chastity; so grave is the obligation in them of its perfect and total observance that a transgression involves the added guilt of sacrilege. [Cod. Jur. Can., can. 132, § 1]
Though this law does not bind, in all its amplitude, clerics of the Oriental Churches [Eastern Rite Catholics], yet among them also, ecclesiastical celibacy is revered; indeed in some cases, especially in the higher orders of the Hierarchy, it is a necessary and obligatory requisite.
A certain connection between this virtue and the sacerdotal ministry can be seen even by the light of reason alone: since "God is a Spirit," [JOHN, IV, 24] it is only fitting that he who dedicates and consecrates himself to God's service should in some way "divest himself of the body." The ancient Romans perceived this fitness; one of their laws which ran Ad divos adeunte caste, "approach the gods chastely," is quoted by one of their greatest orators with the following comment: "The law orders us to present ourselves to the gods in chastity-----of spirit, that is, in which are all things. Nor does this exclude chastity of the body, which is to be understood, since the spirit is so far superior to the body; for it should be remembered that bodily chastity cannot be preserved, unless spiritual chastity be maintained." [M.T. Cicero, De legibus, lib. II, c. 8] In the Old Law, Moses in the name of God commanded Aaron and his sons to remain within the Tabernacle, and so to keep continent, during the seven days in which they were exercising their sacred functIons. [Cf. Levit., VIII, 33-35]
LAW OF ECCLESIASTICAL CELIBACY<>But the Christian priesthood, being much superior to that of the Old Law, demanded a still greater purity. The law of ecclesiastical celibacy, whose first written traces presuppose a still earlier unwritten practice, dates back to a canon of the Council of Elvira, at the beginning of the fourth century, when persecution still raged. This law only makes obligatory what might in any case almost be termed a moral exigency that springs from the Gospel and the Apostolic preaching. For the Divine Master showed such high esteem for chastity, and exalted it as something beyond the common power; He Himself was the Son of a Virgin Mother, Florem Matris Virginis, [Cf. Brev. Rom., Hymn. ad Laud. in fest 55. Nom. Jesu] and was brought up in the virgin family of Joseph and Mary; He showed special love for pure souls such as the two Johns-----the Baptist and the Evangelist. The great Apostle Paul, faithful interpreter of the New Law and of the mind of Christ, preached the inestimable value of virginity, in view of a more fervent service of God, and gave the reason when he said: "He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God." [1 Cor., VII, 32] All this had almost inevitable consequences: the priests of the New Law felt the heavenly attraction of this chosen virtue; they sought to be of the number of those "to whom it is given to take this word," [Cf. MATTH., XIX, 11] and they spontaneously bound themselves to its observance. Soon it came about that the practice, in the Latin Church, received the sanction of ecclesiastical law. The second Council of Carthage at the end of the fourth century declared: "What the Apostles taught, and the early Church preserved, let us too, observe." [Conc. Carthag. II, can. 3; cfr. MANSI, Coll. Conc., t. III,
In the Oriental Church, too, most illustrious Fathers bear witness to the excellence of Catholic celibacy. In this matter as in others there was harmony between the Latin and Oriental Churches where accurate discipline flourished. St. Epiphanius at the end of the fourth century tells us that celibacy applied even to the subdiaconate: "The Church does not on any account admit a man living in the wedded state and having children, even though he have only one wife, to the orders of deacon, priest, bishop or subdeacon; but only him whose wife be dead or who should abstain from the use of marriage; this is done in those places especially where the ecclesiastical canons are accurately followed." [ST. EPIPHAN., Advers. Haer. Panar., 59,4 (MIGNE, P. G., 41,1024)] The Deacon of Edessa and Doctor of the Universal Church, well called the harp of the Holy Spirit, St. Ephraem, the Syrian, is particularly eloquent on this matter. [Brev. Rom., 18 iun., lect. VI] In one of his poems, addressed to his friend the Bishop Abraham, he says: "Thou art true to thy name, Abraham, for thou also art the father of many: but because thou hast no wife as Abraham had Sara, behold thy flock is thy spouse. Bring up its children in thy truth; may they become to thee children of the spirit and sons of the promise that makes them heirs to Eden. O sweet fruit of chastity, in which the priesthood finds its delights . . . the horn of plenty flowed over and anointed thee, a hand rested on thee and chose thee out, the Church desired thee and held thee dear." [ST. EPHRAEM, Carmina Nisibaena, carm. XIX (ed. Bickel, p. 112)] and in another place: "It is not enough for the priest and the name of the priesthood, it is not enough, I say, for him who offers up the living body, to cleanse his soul and tongue and hand and make spotless his whole body; but he must at all times be absolutely and preeminently pure, because he is established as a mediator between God and the human race. May He be praised Who made His servants clean!" [ST. EPHRAEM, Carmina Nisibaena, carm. XVIII (ibid.)] St. John Chrysostom affirms: "The priest must be so pure that, if he were to be lifted up and placed in the heavens themselves, he might take a place in the midst of the Angels." [ST. JOHN CHRYSOST., De sacerdotio, III, 4 (MIGNE, P. G., 48, 642)]