Why are the bishops and priests to be celibate? The Bible speaks about the bishop being pure and the husband of one wife. Is celibacy something new that has been promoted in the church?


No, it came from Jesus
Matthew 19

12 For there are eunuchs, that were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, that were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, that made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Some wrongly interpret the husband of one wife to mean they had to be married that is not the meaning. It was meant that if they married, they should only marry once.

Paul also speaks of it being better not to marry.

The Bible passage notes not that the bishop MUST be married, but rather (since we know from the Bible that in the time of Jesus divorce had been permitted by the Jewish leaders) that IF the bishop was married, he could not be married, divorced, and remarried.

Celibacy is nothing new. Christ was celibate; by Sacred Tradition so was St John the Evangelist, St John the Baptist, and St. Paul. Even St. Peter may have been a widower as his wife is never mentioned; only his mother-in-law. Christ even speaks of this in Scripture Himself (“There are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom”). St. Paul also speaks of those.

That being said, priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church (western) is a discipline which can change.

If you buy that the Holy Spirit guides the Church (as I do), then you have no problem seeing that just as the Spirit moved Christians to compile the written word (the Bible), to establish leaders and to appoint successors (Acts), etc., then the Spirit’s guidance in that direction was necessary because God said so.

So no, the Church didn’t ‘independently’ come up with this out of left field. The Church doesn’t operate that way. The Church is here purely and simply to do the work which God instituted it for: To proclaim His truth.

Mostly God lets the Church set up HOW to proclaim that truth as it sees fit. In certain eras (early Christian) when Christians were persecuted, they couldn’t all meet in a nice Church the way we can in 21st century America. In some countries today, they STILL can’t meet in church and have to operate ‘underground.’

In some times, priests, bishops, and even the Pope would get confused as to what was needed for the CHURCH to function. In eras where political CLOUT was what all people thought necessary in order to be credible, the Church sought political clout in order to make their message credible. And sometimes individuals went too far. . .but never to the point of actually teaching false doctrine.

TODAY some could argue that U.S. bishops, for example, in the last 40 years or so have done TOO LITTLE to get out the gospel; that they have watered it down in order to ‘ease the burden on people’ and thus the people haven’t had the real teachings. (I"m not saying that personally, but it is an argument that is out there and some, even many, agree with it.) In an era in which ‘social justice’ meant trying to give people as much ‘health and wealth’ and ‘good feelings’ as possible, individuals in the Church tipped too far and distorted the actual teachings. . . but even HERE, the TRUE teachings remained taught by the Church. Every time a ‘false’ teaching went out, it was always couched as, “We KNOW the Church teaches X, but we think it is MOVING toward teaching non-X, and of course if your conscience says Non X is all right, it’s all right for you.” Inside all of this gobbeldy gook, the fact is, they all say, “THE CHURCH TEACHES X”. . . so the true teaching is there even if some individuals are trying to distract people into practicing non X!

Of course, don’t forget the Eastern Catholics :slight_smile: ! The Latin Church (Western Catholicism) has traditionally had a celibate priesthood, while the Byzantine Church (Eastern Catholicism) has a long tradition of ordaining married men.

True…with the caveat that a married man may become ordained, but one who is ordained may not subsequently marry if he was single before ordination. And a further caveat is that bishops in the Eastern traditions are drawn soley from the ranks of monastics and/or unmarried clergy.

Why does the scripture say he that is able to receive it to receive it? The quote confuses me.

We were all one church before the great schism though. Before that did celibacy rule?

Yes, actually it did. Before 1054 the majority of priests especially in the western church were celibate. The tradition of celibacy, while it was not embraced by all, was embraced by MANY, from the time of the apostles. Especially among the Latin rite it was more likely that a priest would be celibate rather than married.

It’s not so much that celibacy was the “rule” as though it were a mandate of sorts. Celibacy is properly understood in the voluntary choice to remian celibate for the sake of the Kingdom. The Church made it a practice (discipline, not Doctrine) to select candidates for the Priesthood from those that had voluntarily vowed celibacy.

Paul also was celibate and showed a string preference for celibacy. Paul says that the married are concerned for “worldly affairs”(1 Cor 7:27-34). “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1Cor 7:8-9). Paul is endorsing celibacy for those capable of it.

This passage is understood correctly when taken into the context of 1 Cor 7:2-3 “. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” Paul’s teaching about each man having one spouse was due to this immorality. He clarifies this for us in 1 Cor 7:6-7 “.I say this (the preceding text) as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”

And if there were any questions as to whether Paul is recommending celibacy, he continues:
“Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. . . those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. . . . 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. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Cor 7:27-34).
Paul concludes.“So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.” (1 Cor 7:38)

(I got alot of that from Karl Keating’s tract “Celibacy in the Priesthood” here on CA…didn’t quote him verbatim though.)

It simply means that not all are called to celibacy that those who are will receive it.

Check out this article I wrote for my blog because it may help. Priestly celibacy is unBiblical. NOT!

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