Priestly Celibacy, Belief or Discipline?

I am arguing with my brother, a protestant, who claims that the Catholic discipline of clerical celibacy is just a belief called a different word, and so since you didn’t have to be unmarried to be a priest in the apostolic church, the Catholic Church has changed its beliefs.

I try to tell him that the belief is that its better to be unmarried, and that hasnt changed since the time of Christ, and that clerical celibacy is a discipline because we want our priests to more perfectly imitate Christ, and that it is better to be celibate. If it were a belief that priests needed to be celibate, then we wouldn’t have married Eastern priests or Anglican/ protestant convert clergy who are married.

How would you recommend explaining the difference between a belief and a required discipline (for Roman Rite) priests?

St Peter was married.

catholic.com/magazine/articles/did-peter-have-a-wife

A doctrine is part of divine revelation, i.e. we believe it’s part of the revelation on faith and morals handed down by God. This cannot be changed. Part of this includes, for example, the priesthood being reserved only to men, or the enumeration and number of the Sacraments, or the three degrees of Holy Orders.

Disciplines are of ecclesiastical origins. Because they were instituted to support the Church in its life, they retain the force of law and demand obedience, often on pain of sin. But because they weren’t handed down by God himself, they can be relaxed, increased, or abolished altogether if the good of souls no longer requires them. Priestly celibacy is one of them.

A simple answer to your friend’s objection is to simply point out that we’ve had married Catholic priests from the beginning, and still do so now.

I for one LOVE the Catholic faith. Just because i disagree with a tiny bit of its teachings doesnt stop me from embracing its core teachings and its founding Father, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another discipline is never mixing fabric types. So tell your brother that if he wears cotton-poly blends his practice is unbiblical and Protestants have changed their belief.

Haha… this is too funny.

I did mention the fabric thing and he just claimed that Jesus did away with the law, which turned into a circular argument he couldn’t defend.

But yeah, next time it comes up, I’ll establish a doctrine vs discipline instead of a belief vs discipline debate, since doctrine is less ambiguous than belief.

Also, would an unmarried state being better for those who can live it be a doctrine, then?

As far as, “How would you recommend explaining the difference between a belief and a required discipline (for Roman Rite) priests?”

I would say that it is NOT “a required discipline (for Roman Rite) priests” but a belief since not ALL Roman Rite priests are required to be celibate.

Yep; that’s what I was thinking, too, when I read the suggestion to bring it up. Jesus didn’t “do away with the law”, though – He perfected it.

But yeah, next time it comes up, I’ll establish a doctrine vs discipline instead of a belief vs discipline debate, since doctrine is less ambiguous than belief.

Ask your brother if he believes in the beliefs of the Church that are written in the Bible. (I’d be terribly surprised if he said “no”. ;))

Then, point him toward Acts 5, and the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In those days, the Church told Christians to sell everything they owned and give it to the Church, and the Church would distribute it to those in need. We know it was more than just a ‘suggestion’, since Peter really gave them a hard time about their disobedience.

Now – since your brother agrees that he believes what the Church of the Bible believed… ask him if he’s sold everything he owns and given it to the church? If not, then according to what he’s said to you, there are only two choices: either he’s in grave disobedience to his church… or his church “has changed its beliefs”.

Or… as we’d say (as Catholics), the requirements we see in Acts 5 aren’t a ‘belief’, but just a ‘discipline’ (that is, a command of the Church that is appropriate in a particular time and place, but not necessarily in all times and all places). Game, set, match. :wink:

I would just like to clarify that the church did not make people sell everything and give it to the church. Starting in Acts 4:32, it explains that from time to time as the need arose. Also, the reason that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead was because they lied to the Holy Spirit. Not because the didn’t give ‘everything’ to the church. Thanks!

I would just like to comment on what you said that the belief is ‘that it’s better to be unmarried, and that hasn’t changed since the time of Christ’. I don’t believe that was the belief during the time of Christ or shortly after. Here is what the Apostle Paul said regarding it:

1 Corinthians 9:5 (NABRE)

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

I would say the Apostle Paul is stating that having a wife was ok!

porthos11 #3
we’ve had married Catholic priests from the beginning, and still do so now.

Incorrect.

From the beginning, continence was required for priest and bishop – priestly celibacy is an Apostolic norm. It is certain that since apostolic times the Church had as a norm that men elevated to the deaconate, priesthood and the episcopate should observe continence. If candidates happened to be married – a very common occurrence in the early Church – they were supposed to cease, with the consent of their spouses, not only marital life but even cohabitation under the same roof.

Among the Apostles, only Saint Peter is known to have been married because his mother-in-law is mentioned in the Gospels, but no mention is made of his wife or children. Tradition tells us that he was a widower who was caring for his wife’s aged mother. Some of the others might have been married, but there is no indication of this and it is a clear that they left everything, including their families, to follow Christ.

St. Peter asked Our Lord, “What about us? We left all we had to follow you.” The Divine Master answered: “I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, wife, brothers, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not be given repayment many times over in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life” (Lk 18:28-30, cf. Mt 19:27-30; Mk 10:20-21).

Not doctrine, but it is, at least, Biblical.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. [1Cor 7:7-8]

Let’s not argue continence or bishops. Bishops have historically been celibate. Priests have not.

Married priests have been with the Church from the beginning, even if the continence requirement has varied over the centuries. In fact, the Latin church is the anomaly, not the norm. Reading into Scripture what we want to see regarding this question does not help either. Celibacy is exalted, but there were married priests. There is no problem with that fact and should make no one uncomfortable.

I like celibacy. I would like to see it kept even though I would not object to having the question re-examined for the Latin church. But that does not necessitate us to find anything to contradict the fact that married priests, for the first centuries of the Church were a normal thing, that does not need scandalize us.

porthos11 #14
Let’s not argue continence or bishops. Bishops have historically been celibate. Priests have not.
Married priests have been with the Church from the beginning, even if the continence requirement has varied over the centuries. In fact, the Latin church is the anomaly, not the norm. Reading into Scripture what we want to see regarding this question does not help either. Celibacy is exalted, but there were married priests. There is no problem with that fact and should make no one uncomfortable.
I like celibacy. I would like to see it kept even though I would not object to having the question re-examined for the Latin church. But that does not necessitate us to find anything to contradict the fact that married priests, for the first centuries of the Church were a normal thing, that does not need scandalize us.

False.

The reality is that priestly continence is an Apostolic Norm. From the beginning, continence was required for priest and bishop – for Early Church Tradition the most important studies are: Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, by Fr. Christian Cochini, S.J.(Ignatius, San Francisco, 1990); The Case for Clerical Celibacy, by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler (Ignatius, San Francisco, 1995); Celibacy in the Early Church, by Fr. Stefan Heid, (Ignatius, San Francisco, 2000).

There is no question that Priestly continence was the norm from the beginning and there were no legitimate exceptions.
Here is more testimony to the truth:
Fr. George William Rutler, in an article entitled* A Consistent theology of clerical celibacy *(Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Feb. 1989), notes that “Virginity and celibacy were not synonymous in the original ecclesiastical institution of celibacy. Those clerics whose marriages were recognized by the Church, and they were many, were expected to abstain from conjugal union after ordination. The new archeology shows that this was the case for all the Eastern Churches in the earliest centuries, and in a mitigated form later. In the Latin Church this was the clear rule throughout the first millenium, culminating in the laws of the Gregorian reform, especially as found in the First Lateran Council of 1123, and the Second Lateran Council of 1139…The discipline of the Second Lateran Council explicitly forbidding marriage after ordination was not an innovation in the observance of continence. Its prohibition of clerical marriage was only a regulation ensuring that the apostolic norm of abstinence would be better observed.”

While not a doctrine, an Apostolic “norm” means rules, including commands and prohibitions; “rule” means a prescribed guide for conduct; “prescribe” means issue commands or orders for; tradition means an inherited pattern of thought and action; custom means habitual practice of longstanding; practice means a customary way of acting; requirement means indispensable – the celibacy required for priests from the apostles was mandatory, and obligatory.

Priestly Celibacy and Its Roots in Christ … Interview with Fr McGovern
National Catholic REGISTER, May 19-25, 2002

“Recent scholarship on the history of celibacy in both the Easter and Western Church has shown that there is a considerable body of evidence in favour of the argument that priestly celibacy is of apostolic origin, based on Christ’s invitation to the Twelve to leave all things and follow him (cf. Mt 19:29). Indeed, John Paul II points out in his 1979 Holy Thursday *Letter to Priests *that celibacy is so closely linked to the language of the Gospel that it refers back to the teaching of Christ and to apostolic tradition.”

All right. I concede the point.

porthos11 #16
Fine. I concede the point.

You’re very welcome – and if any more confirmation is needed in the future, just ask.

Best wishes for Easter.

The Church changed the Sabbath observance from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week; is your friend a Seventh Day Adventist? 
 It's funny that Protestants put almost exclusive emphasis on St. Paul and they absolutely refuse to take him seriously on this point or to consider his example. 

We do not decide what to believe on the basis of our personal selective interpretation scripture
Since we believe that the authority of the apostolic see comes directly from Christ; it’s on this basis that married men who convert to the Catholic faith are eligible to be ordained, though those raised in the Church are not allowed to marry and then be ordained. Because Protestants do not believe in the Visible Body of Christ, they have no grasp of the principles of how doctrines and practices are handed on or developed, and so they assume that the Church is arbitrary. Since their pastors can get divorced and remarried as often as they wish with no impudent to exercise of ministry, they’re not about to understand discipline. Their idea of discipline is what the feel like accepting this year.

“no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. … There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.” (Acts 4:32, 34-35).

If you say so, SJacob… but that’s not what the Scriptures say. Rather, it simply states that they had everything in common.

Also, the reason that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead was because they lied to the Holy Spirit.

… by asserting that they gave their property to the Church, when in reality, they just pretended to turn over all the proceeds.

Not because the didn’t give ‘everything’ to the church.

“Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? … when it was sold, was it not still under your control?’” (Acts 5:3, 4)

I don’t know where you’re getting what you’re saying, SJacob… the Scriptures tell a different story. :shrug:

On the question of property selling and giving to the Church the following looks at the facts.
In A Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1953: “We see in Acts 4:34-35 that property was sold, from time to time, by the owners of it, according as the Church’s need dictated. The sharing of goods was always voluntary. The story of Ananias and Saphira, cf. 5:4, makes it clear that they were not bound to sell, and that after they had, the price was still theirs. When Barnabas gave all his property, such exceptional generosity was chronicled. There are examples of houses held privately in Jerusalem, !2:12; 21:16. St James, in his Epistle, reveals the existence of rich and poor there. The community of goods does not seem to have been very successful, 6:1, and other churches had continually to send alms, voluntarily, ‘each man according to his ability’, to Jerusalem, 11:29. ”

In Acts 2:44-47, where the faithful lived together and owned everything in common, these so-called “Apostolics” were condemned by St Thomas and the Late Scholastics, who quote St Augustine. Why?
In his Summa, II-II, Q. 66, art. 2, resp., St Thomas quotes St Augustine: “Augustine says: ‘The people styled apostolic are those who arrogantly claimed this title for themselves because they refused to admit married folk or property owners to their fellowship, arguing from the model of the many monks and clerics in the Catholic Church (*De Haeresibus *40).’ But such people are heretics because they cut themselves off from the Church by alleging that those who, unlike themselves, marry and own property have no hope of salvation.”

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