Monday, February 28, 2005

Priestly celibacy

I was reading the following article on priestly celibacy ...

Shrinking number of priests versus the increasing number of permanent deacons
Answered by Peter Howard, STL

... and found this part quite interesting:

"We often think WE become deacons and priests, when it is precisely CHRIST Who calls men to follow Him and participate in HIS Priesthood, NOT "our priesthood". There are many excellent reasons for Christ's perfect decision to live celibate and ask His followers to live celibate and those reasons are found right in Sacred Scripture. Celibacy, for example, was found in the Old Testament during two events: Temporary celibacy for men who were in battle and when there was a theophany. You [find] this in the story of Uriah and David in 2 Samuel 11 and when David ate the loaves of the perpetual presence in 1 Samuel 21 where the condition to eat the holy loaves of perpetual presence was that David and his followers "kept themselves from women."

Well, in the priesthood, they are in a perpetual battle against evil and they are at a theophany as they administer the sacraments, especially when they act in the person of Christ at the Mass and when Christ works through them to administer absolution in the sacrament of Penance. They are perpetually united to the High Priesthood of Christ by the nature of their priestly character which, like our Baptism, is an indelible mark making them a "priest forever".

Therefore, celibacy is a gift because it allows priests to love with an undivided heart and moreover, to love as Christ loves -- totally and without ties to the world. And since celibacy is a gift from God, He will protect it, but priests must be faithful to Christ or, like the Apostles who falied to "watch and pray" in the Garden, they will abandon their call to stay with Christ and gave into temptation and fear."


Blogger Wray Davis said...

Sorry I'm commenting on all of your posts, but they're all interesting!

Here's my question on this post:

If celibacy of the priesthood had been important to Christ, wouldn't he have selected celibate apostles?

8:57 PM  
Blogger itsjustdave1988 said...


I'm glad I sparked your interest!

You asked:
"If celibacy of the priesthood had been important to Christ, wouldn't he have selected celibate apostles?"

Some were celibate (eg. Paul), some were not. It seems to me the 12 apostles picked by Jesus were celebate. Peter certainly had a mother-in-law, which tells us that he was at least at one time married. But we never hear of his wife. In fact, the 12 were told to drop everything and follow Christ. It's rather likely that Christ did select his "fishers of men" from those who were celebate.

I find that Scripture is restrictive, not injunctive when it comes to celibate clergy. Marriage to one woman is the minimum restriction in Scripture. Yet Paul asserts, "he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better." (1 Cor 7:38). In other words, the Church may allow married priest (and it does, as married Catholic priests are the norm in the Eastern Catholic Rite), but Scripture does not prohibit the Church from being more restrictive, or from making it the norm that they remain celebate, as were the 12 apostles, and as Jesus himself was celibate.

For instance, some Protestant congregations require a Master's degree before becoming their pastor. They too are being more restrictive than Scripture, yet not contrary to Scripture by being more restrictive. Catholics have similar restrictions which, while not contrary to Scripture, are more restrictive.

Those who have what Jesus calls a Divine charism to "renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God" (Matt 19:11-12) are eligible to be clergy within the Catholic Latin Rite. Jesus teaches that "Whoever can accept this ought to accept it" (ibid). He seems rather injuctive here, for those that can accept it. The acceptance begins with a voluntary vow, and once taken, it is expected to be binding.

The Church merely restricts enrollment in some religious orders to those who have made this voluntary vow, an acceptance of this Divine charism, an acceptance to what Paul says is to seek "to do better," so that they are freed from being "anxious about worldly affairs" (1 Cor 7:27-28), who seek to keep their interests undivided.

There's Scriptural precedence for this practice of restricting membership in a religious group to those who take a voluntary vow of celibacy. Paul mentions an order of widows pledged not to remarry (1 Tim 5:9-16), in particular advising Timoth to "refuse to enroll younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge" (5:11–12). Notice that a requirement of enrollment was a pledge, a vow to remain celibate. This vow is voluntary, but still the lack of it or the authority of Timothy, a Bishop of the NT Church, was to restrict enrollment to those he deemed unable to keep this pledge. The Church can and has required such a vow of celibacy for enrollment in religious groups since NT times.

I believe Christ is telling his Church that for those who have this charism, they are to be a sign of what it will be like in heaven. "In the resurrection we neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (cf. Matt 22:30).

2:52 PM  
Blogger Wray Davis said...

That's a good answer.

It also lead me to Matthew 19:3-12, which I think is informative on the matter.

I've been reading through the Old Testament lately (or rather, listening to it being read on CD's as I drive to work), and I've notice how common polygamy is in the Old Testament. By Jesus' time, I don't think I recall any accepted cases of polygamy. I've been wondering if this shift is cultural or is at some point mandated. I guess I'll find out as I continue through it.

8:18 PM  

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