How would the Catholic Church answer Paul's rhetorical question?


Assuming a Priest, Bishop, Cardinal or Pope who are all successors of the Apostles asked the same question posed in 1 Corinthians 9:5, would the answer be a stern, “no.”?

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

If a Bishop insisted on this, wouldn’t he be removed as Bishop? I understand it’s a discipline but Paul seemed to think such a discipline is not necessary for the Church leaders. Paul seems to assert that marriage is a right for those who lead the Church, no?


I think that it would be seen as a moot point.
A man, in accepting the call to priesthood, accepts celibacy. Therefore, there is no wife and the question simply does not come up in the Lain Rite Church.




This is a discipline which can change, but it does NOT contradict Scripture. Scripture does not insist that a priest be married (Christ, the great high priest, was not married Himself, was He?).

If people are going to insist that things in any given Christian Church be done 'just as they were in St Paul’s time" then they are going to segregate women and men in church–or ‘temple’ since in St Paul’s times, Christians either met in the local synagogue or in private homes. Women are going to wear headcoverings. Men and women will dress in robes. And when it is time to receive the Eucharist, they will RECLINE AT TABLE. And of course, when they receive, if they are really receiving as St Paul did, they will believe that what they receive is the Real Presence, the actual Flesh and Blood, of Jesus, and not some ‘symbol’.

I wonder if many of the non-Catholic Churches, when asked if they wish to celebrate the liturgy in the above SCRIPTURAL ways, would respond with a resounding ‘no’. . .


Read the entire chapter. Paul discusses his celibacy for the sake of the Church. He strongly recommends celibacy several times.

He could have chosen marriage, but: “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.”

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting! 16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.


Let me just suggest that you carefully study my blog article called Priestly celibacy is unBiblical. NOT!


I agree that celibacy is Biblical, but would you say that Paul would have taught that the Apostles and Priests have to be celibate or would he have taught otherwise?


From the JB 1Co 9:5 and footnote.

5 And the right to take a Christian woman[c] round with us, like all the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

9c. Lit. ‘a sister, a woman (wife?)’. To look after the apostle’s needs.


Paul might well have taught that celibacy was not required then and been quite correct since the discipline(s) regarding celibacy had not been formally set in the Church.
But, just as Paul preached other things that have since changed (such as the roles of women in Church - length of hair etc) because they were seen as matters of practice and discipline rather than doctrine…so too with celibacy.



Good analogy. Except I can understand why a woman’s role in the Church has changed. Back then, it would have been confusing to see a woman speaking out in Church, and of course that’s not the case anymore.

What do you see as the reason that this changed? Assuming the CC is correct it would also be right to assume Paul would change his teaching on this; what I want to know is why?


f you mean why the Latin Church went to priestly celibacy across the board…I really don’t know.
I’ve heard opinions expressed here…but I’ve really not looked into it.

As for whether Paul would change his teaching - we certainly can assume he would since he was a loyal member of the Church he served.



My defense against those who would pass judgment on me 2 is this.

3 Do we not have the right to eat and drink?

Paul asks many questions. Paul was not married therefore I do not see how you can claim it as a right. He is defending himself not necessarily promoting that marriage was a right after all he does say that it is better to remain as he does single. Do not take out of context.


Church leaders seem to have been chosen from the older men of the Christian community, hence their name, elders. The older men among the first Christian converts were most likely already married, though Paul himself was an exception with respect to his celibacy and Timothy an exception with respect to his young age. As Paul’s authoritative opinion on the superior merits of Christian celibacy was propagated and the years passed, it is reasonable to assume that the ranks of older, celibate men in the Christian community grew. Is it really surprising that Churches increasing preferred these older celibate men to be their leaders, considering Paul’s opinion on the superior merits of Christian celibacy, Paul’s own example of celibacy and Jesus Christ own example of celibacy? Then, as time proved its usefulness, it is not difficult to see that such a preference would become the norm and then the norm would become the law in the Church.

I think choosing only celibate leaders is a great witness to the world of the hope that Catholics have in the promises of Jesus Christ and in the world to come.

The real question I think you should be asking yourself is, Why aren’t there more celibate leaders among Evangelicals? Why aren’t there more Evangelical leaders willing to choose the better way? Why aren’t there more Evangelical leaders willing to follow more closely the example of Jesus Christ and Paul with regard to celibacy? Are Evangelical leader so hopeless, so infirm and divided of heart, and so lacking in self-control that they absolutely need a wife?


Perhaps one should look at this in the environment at THAT time. This was the first batch of Christian missionaries so to speak. There was no church infrastructure at that time. Many were already married. Where ever they go to spread the good news, these womenfolk were the support group for their daily basic needs. You see these support groups when Jesus started his ministry too. Jesus and Paul both said if you are able,remain wifeless. They recognised not everyone is cut out to stay single but if you are able to, “secure undivided devotion to the Lord”. Matthew 19:10-12., 1 Cor 7:32-40.
I am quoting whole sections because it explains the situation better rather than single verses which one can twist to support any position one wishes.


I think it’s immaterial: priestly celibacy is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine. Therefore, the Church has the right – in fact, the duty! – to choose disciplines based on the conditions of the day, and for the good of the Church. So, I think Paul would have taught that the Church has the right to assert her authority as she sees fit…! :wink:


The issue isn’t what Paul taught here, but (as my article points out) what Christ Himself taught and …(by extension) why it is that no n-C communities make any effort to not only teach that, but to allow those men who discern that they are able to obey Him to easily do so.

Those who argue that some of the apostles were married really are arguing with Our Blessed Lord’s direct teaching and have (without intending to) made the Word of God to no effect, which we all will agree is wrong. St. Paul himself was exemplary of Our Lord’s ideal of celibacy and his own teachings concerning it echo those of Our Lord.


This particular verse is not a strong argument for married clergy since, while gyne can mean wife, its primary meaning is just “woman.” It is doubtful that Paul has the meaning of wife in mind here. The literal translation is “a sister, a woman” or as the Douay-Rheims has it “a woman, a sister.”


The commentary from the 1582 Rheims on your verse might bring a smile.

  1. A woman a sister. ] The Heretics perversely (as they do all other places for the advantage of their Sect) expound this of the Apostle’s wives, and for, woman, translate, wife, all bells sounding wedding to them. Where the Apostle meaneth plainly the devout women that after the manner of Jewry *did serve the preacher of necessaries, of which sort many followed Christ, and sustained him and his of their substance. So doth St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, and all the Greeks (Oecu. in collect. super hunc lo.) take it. So doth St. Augustine De op. Monach. c. 4. and St. Jerome li. 1 adv. Jouinianum c. 14. both disputing and proving it by the very words of the text. St. Ambrose also upon this place. And the thing is most plain, for to what end should he talk of burdening the Corinthians with finding his wife, when himself (chap. 7:7-8) clearly saith that he was single?


Only Bishops are successors to the Apostles. Priests are not successors to the Apostles. A Cardinal and the Pope are successors to the Apostles only insofar as they are Bishops. There have been Cardinals who were not Bishops.

Clerical celibacy has nothing to do with being a successor to the Apostles. Anyone who reads scriptures knows that Paul says that it is better for a man not to be married in 1 Corinthians 7 and that God calls some to have an undivided heart. There are many voluntarily celibate men and women in the Church who are not priests.



So, how long was this teaching true for? Why did it change?

I would disagree and say that Paul was making a point that they should be allowed to Marry and he takes issue with those who say they shouldn’t. That’s why his question is rhetorical.

Similar to Orthodoxy, Evangelicals think that their Pastors can better guide a marriage with experience themselves. I’m currently in Marriage counselling with my fiancé and two of my Pastors.

So the answer to the question would be, “yes.” But you believe he was asking something different?


What I’m saying is that “The Heretics perversely (as they do all other places for the advantage of their Sect) expound this of the Apostle’s wives, and for, woman, translate, wife, all bells sounding wedding to them.”

Your translation is faulty.

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