I am currently reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. It’s raised a few questions which I have been thinking about for a while…
I do understand its explanations of “marriage” and “celibacy” in the general sense of the terms and the passages in the Bible that relate to them. However the Bible speaks of overseers being married to one wife…why then does the CC select its priests from those who have chosen to be celibate? Shouldn’t the priests be married as the Bible states?
Also where does the CC conclude that Mary and Joseph had a celibate marriage? Is it in the Bible, tradition, early writings etc?
Was Jesus or Paul married? From the very beginning there were both married and celibate men in the ministerial priesthood, as is true today. There is a growing number in the Latin Catholic Church of married men entering the priesthood and it is general practice in most other segments of the Catholic Church as a whole who have a married clergy. I would remind you that ordaining married men to the priesthood in the Roman catholic Church is not the norm, but the exception. The discipline is to ordain only celibate men.
I believe if you take a look back through history, both married and celibate clergy have been a part of the Catholic Church since its creation by Jesus.
To your second question they were not celibate, they were in fact married and abstained from sexual relations. There is support for the understanding of their relationship in all three of the sources you mention if my memory serves me in this case. Not much time to elaborate, I’m sure others will chime in.
Not to nit pick…but celibacy is the abstinence from sexual relations…if they didn’t have sexual relations, they were celibate. Even the book says they were called to both marriage and celibacy. The reason you think celibacy is only in relation to unmarried people is because the norm is to have sexual relations during marriage. However it can mean both married or unmarried.
I understand what you mean about Jesus and Paul but it still doesn’t explain the passage in the bible which talks of overseers being married to one wife etc. thanks
Some of the other questions have been tackled. I’ll take this one.
It’s my understanding that when the biblical text is properly translated it is intended to mean “no more than one wife”. In other words it’s meant that the men CAN have one or fewer wives. The point was that bishops/overseers could not have multiple wives at one time and ought not to remarry upon the death of a wife.
I can understand the idea that contraception sterilises the marital act and brings into question the reason for sex ie love/lust (the theme that runs throughout the book). My problem is that if this is the case/problem and that it removes the procreation side of things…how is NFP any different. If you have sex at a time when you know it is impossible to get pregnant…how is this any different? You are indulging your human instinct for self instead of the idea of procreation…
Well, you can think of it something like this. You can get money through working a legitimate job or robbing a bank. They both achieve the same end result. That’s sort of like how some might view the difference between NFP and contraception.
There is much written on this topic, but let me see if I can’t give you the nickle version of the answer to your question.
God created man and woman with certain natural desires and cycles. It is part of his plan. Using artifical contraception interferes with these cycles and/or his plan, by either chemically altering the cycles of the woman or by putting an unnatural barrier between a man and a women, which God did not intend.
On the other hand, married spouses are not required to have sexual relations all the time. It is merely required that that when they do so, their relations “be ordered to procreation”. Using artificial barriers or chemicals to interfere with the natural course of things is not and can never be “ordered to procreation”.
On the other hand, having sexual relations during a woman’s infertile period is certainly permissible, wouldn’t you agree? There is nothing “unnatural” about that, right? It is consistent with the natural law which God put in place.
Moreover, it is also natural for a man and women to abstain from sexual relations if they choose to do so, periodically, right? In fact, some might argue it would be very “unnatural” if a married couple was continuously engaged in sexual relations, right? So, being aware of the natural cycles that God created and that operate as a result of natural law, is not unnatural or contrary to God’s plan. Adjusting one’s behavior consistent with God’s own plan must also therefore be “natural” and consistent with his plan.
Of course it is illicit for a couple to use Natural Family Planning to totally avoid having children. When it is proper or not to use NFP is the subject of many threads on this board. Suffice it to say that the couple must have (pick your term: “sufficient”, “serious”, “important”) reasons for delaying the birth of children.
While NFP is a method that can be used to avoid pregnancy, it is also very useful in becoming pregnant. Tracking your cycles and then having sexual relations on the most fertile days, a fertile couple can easily have many children.
Look at it from the perspective of farmers, who do everything on a yearly cycle of plowing, fertilizing, planting, and harvesting. Even they leave fields fallow to allow them to rest and recover from growing crops. Farmers well understand God’s plan for the land and the weather, and use it to their advantage to make their way in the world. Just the same with married couples.
*]Unitive: the act by which two become one flesh
*]Procreative: apt for generation of children (without any assumption of fertility)
When a couple enters matrimony they grant the gift of moderate and just marital act to their spouse when reasonable requested. They do not have to have the intention to produce a child with each act, rather they are willing to accept the child if one results. Obviously a specific act which is apt for generation of children, may be fruitful or not, depending on many factors. Since the couple is made one flesh through this apt act it is the unitive aspect of matrimony, which is reflected in the matrimonial canon law. Although impotence is an impediment, fertility is not required, as reflected in 1084 §3.CIC
§1 A valid marriage between baptised persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring. To this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh.
§1 Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have sexual intercourse, whether on the part of the man or on that of the woman, whether absolute or relative, by its very nature invalidates marriage.
§2 If the impediment of impotence is doubtful, whether the doubt be one of law or one of fact, the marriage is not to be prevented nor, while the doubt persists, is it to be declared null.
§3 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1098, sterility neither forbids nor invalidates a marriage.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.
There is no definition argument to have, the Church recognizes that celibacy means not married and abstinence is abstaining from sexual activity.
It’s not Webster’s decision to define a Church term. The Church has always understood celibacy to be not married. Now you can choose to disagree with Mother Church but you will not change what the Church means when She says celibacy.
The two terms are not interchangeable. If a person is celibate he must also choose to remain abstinent. If a married couple decides to abstain, this does not make them a celibate couple.
I think the first paragraph has been addressed enough, it’s up to you to accept it no matter what the book says. The second point is I guess a reference to first Timothy;
1 Timothy 3:2 - “Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach,”
This verse does describe that a bishop, I guess you can say overseer because that’s what bishops do, they are the shepherd of their assigned diocese and the souls which reside in their territory, should only be married once. What part of this verse or any other verse that says that he MUST be married?
Many of the first bishops, including Paul, were not married and therefore lived a chaste celibate life.
Many people believe that the Catholic Church violates the Word of God because it forbids people to marry (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3) or that it is wrong for priests to remain celibate. To get a clearer picture of this issue, let’s examine what the Bible has to say about the subject of celibacy.
11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Jesus offers the celibate life as a gift and tells us that “The one who can accept this should accept it.”
1 Corinthians 7:1
1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.
1 Corinthians 7:7
7I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Paul reveals his own celibacy and offers an earnest wish that more people would follow his example.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9
8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Paul concedes that getting married is better than struggling with sexual temptation; for those that “cannot control themselves, they should marry.”
Is Paul completely opposed to marriage? Not at all. The book of Hebrews states:
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Why then does Paul recommend celibacy?
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
From this passage, we can see Paul’s primary reason for advocating celibacy: he wants everyone to live in undivided devotion to the Lord, and in all of these verses, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus calls some men to the priesthood and offers them the gift of a celibate life to be lived in undivided devotion to God. Paul understands that not everyone is offered this gift and that not all to whom it is offered can or will accept it.
There are Latin Rite Catholic priests who are married; typically, these are men who were priests in the Anglican, Orthodox or other faith traditions and have converted to the Catholic faith after they were married in those churches. Under special circumstances, they may be ordained to serve as Catholic priests. Men who are already Catholic when they begin to discern their call to the priesthood must remain celibate. In other rites, Catholic priests may be married.
The Catholic Church forbids no man to marry. However, she does desire that those who will represent Christ, who will stand in persona Christi (in the place of Christ) when administering the sacraments as priests, be like their Lord as fully as possible. This means that like Jesus, they are celibate men prepared to sacrifice their own lives in the service of God and others.
The calling and the gift is offered by God; those who choose to accept it do so freely.
In regards to celibacy, I understand that the verse does not mean a man has to have one wife, however I think the problem I have is that it doesn’t say men have to be celibate to be priests either. If the CC had a mixture and left it upto the men in question, I would agree the verse allows for married men and celibate men. My issue is that the CC requires men to be celibate to be priests (I’ve heard a few exceptions of already married men becoming priests but the norm seems to be celibacy). While not a major issue, if the bible says that men can be married, why would the CC chose celibate men only? While not directly against the Bible, it does point to the CC making up its own rules. How do I know they aren’t making up their own rules elsewhere?
First, this is discipline and not doctrine. Sacred Scripture imparts doctrinal teachings about faith and morals, and may historically recount disciplinary practices of the past, but since the Church has been given the authority of the Keys of the Kingdom, she has the right to change discipline at will, by competent authorities such as the Pope or bishops.
Secondly, referring back to the Keys of the Kingdom, the Church is not sola scriptura. The Bible is part of Sacred Tradition; an important part, but just a component and does not represent the whole of the Deposit of Faith. Therefore there are doctrines that are not fully developed in the Bible yet part of our Tradition. The Bible is interpreted by the Church and the basis of our knowledge of revelation, but much more has been added in 2000 years; the writings of the Early Church Fathers, the saints, Popes, Ecumenical Councils, and the teaching of the living Magisterium. These are all things taken into account when doctrinal questions arise.
It is worth pointing out that the Sadducees in Jesus’ time had something in common with sola scriptura Protestants. The Sadducees rejected the oral law, i.e. the Talmud and Midrashim, the Tradition of the Jewish faith, and relied solely on the Torah for Scriptural authority. Jesus’ own attitude toward them is clear in the Gospels, and the sola scriptura heresy is proof that there’s nothing new under the sun.
Doctrine is revealed truth relating to faith or morals. Discipline is practice according to the laws and guidance of authority. For example, sacramental theology is doctrine. It is essential to the baptismal rite to use the Trinitarian formula and ordinary water for efficacy. This will never change. The indissolubility of marriage is doctrine; a valid, consummated, sacramental marriage bond cannot be broken except by death. The lighting of the Paschal candle during the baptismal rite is disciplinary, it is decreed by liturgical law and part of the Rite as we know it today, but it is not essential for validity. The requirement of preparation for marriage, the granting of dispensations for mixed ones or disparity of cult, the laws against consanguinuity are disciplinary, and can conceivably be relaxed or tightened by the Holy See.
The Pope is the Supreme Lawgiver of the Church. It is in his authority to promulgate Canon Law, while ordinaries (bishops and others) have limited authority to decree particular and local laws. Canon Law has its origins in various sources. Some canons are based on Divine Law or doctrine and will not change, while some are purely man-made and rest on the authority of the Church given to her by Christ.