Why NOT allow optional celibacy for the priesthood?


#1

I am sure this topic has been discussed many times on these forums, but (in light of today's first reading) I just wanted to offer my two cents...

First of all, every honest person must acknowledge that we have a shortage of priests in the United States that is only likely to get worse as aging priests retire. This places an increasing burden on the shoulders of those who do answer the call to the celibate priesthood, and who must do more and more work to minister to all the faithful, covering entire parishes (or sometimes more than one) by themselves, etc.

Secondly, I think any honest person must also admit that we could eliminate this priest shortage with one change to church discipline that would in no way contradict the doctrines of the Church: make celibacy optional for priests.

I have heard many arguments against this:

1) Priests are "married to the Church", so they can't also be married to a woman, etc.
--- This is a pious expression that has no basis in Church teaching. Many priests have been and currently are married while fulfilling their priestly duties.

2) Many Protestant churches allow married ministers. They still have declining numbers of men pursuing that calling.
--- This is to me a specious argument, comparing apples to oranges. Is the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church on the same footing as mainline liberal Protestant denominations that have all but abandoned orthodox Christianity? If I were a member of one of those churches, not only would I not want to be a minister, I would also not want to be a part of the congregation of an institution that had so clearly forfeited its commitment to orthodoxy. Surely the calling to be a Catholic priest, who confects the Eucharist and forgives sins, is stronger than the call to minister in a denomination that allows for contraception, female ordination, ordination of practicing homosexuals, etc.

3) The priest shortage is only a problem in the Western world. In the developing world there are plenty of priests being ordained.
--- Yes, and in those countries, there is also widespread and rampant violation of priestly celibacy, such as would be a great scandal if it were to occur in the United States. Which is worse, a priest fathering children out of wedlock, or a priest satisfying his natural urge to sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage, a holy institution ordained by God?

4) But celibacy is preferable to marriage because a priest can wholly devote himself to his flock and to the things of God.
--- Surely this is true for many men. Celibacy is a good and holy ideal, and for those who can accept it, a great blessing. However, one must acknowledge that for many priests it is a burden that causes great psychological distress and prevents them from carrying out their ministry to the best of their abilities. An unhappy and bitter priest is not a good priest. Look at the number of priests who drop out of active ministry each year, and one cannot deny that this is a problem. And those are only the most visible cases. How many more priests labor on heroically, burdened by not being able to share their lives and their most intimate selves with a wife and family?

5) Parish priests are so busy that there is no way they could make time for a family and also their priestly ministry.
--- There are many professions that are equally demanding of time and effort as the priesthood. Surgeons who must take call regularly at the hospital, for instance. Or men that must work two or more jobs to support their families. Many lawyers. Jobs that require extensive travel, etc.

Furthermore, if celibacy were made optional, there would be more priests to share the workload in our parishes, and their wives could help as well, making things easier for everyone. This leads to the next objection:

6) How could a parish support a priest AND his family, let alone more than one family? The rectory wouldn't be big enough, there wouldn't be enough money, etc.
--- The easiest objection to this is that this same situation is already dealt with in countless Eastern rite churches, Protestant congregations, synagogues, etc. Would it require the congregation paying more money to support the priest and his family, or even more than one family? Yes! Is it worth paying more money for happier, healthier priests, and in order to solve our priest shortage? I say, "Yes!" Can Catholics afford this? Yes!

In conclusion, at least in my experience, nearly every Catholic young man I have spoken with regarding whether or not he might be called to the priesthood is impeded by one thing: celibacy. There is all manner of self-deception that goes on here. To ease their consciences, guys will come up with a million other reasons why they shouldn't be priests. I would ask them this, though: What if celibacy were made optional for the priesthood tomorrow-- would you still consider yourself not called to be a priest? In my experience, there are many, many young men who could not honestly answer "Yes" to that question.

I have heard people blame our "sex-obsessed" culture for the decline in men pursuing a calling to the priesthood. There may be truth to that, but this probably isn't going away any time soon. Also, if it is such a big "problem" that more young men want to share their lives with a loving wife and family, I would say that is a pretty good problem to have-- marriage is a blessing from God.

I have known many, many strong, holy, intelligent, heterosexual Catholic men who would make EXCELLENT priests, but who are clearly dissuaded from going down that road because of the requirement for celibacy. In my opinion, this is a shame, and we should take a good, long look in the mirror and ask ourselves if it really makes sense to keep this discipline intact, both for the good of the faithful and for the good of our priests. Optional celibacy seems like the way to go.


#2

Priestly celibacy is optional in the Catholic Church. Would-be priests who are married are free to seek ordination in the Byzantine, Alexandrian, or Antiochean families of Catholic rites. It’s only the Latin Rite that (usually) requires celibacy.


#3

The Roman Catholic Church says no. And she has repeatedly said no for a very long time. That's why not, and should be reason enough for any Catholic to accept it.


#4

[quote="Saints_Alive, post:3, topic:304929"]
The Roman Catholic Church says no. And she has repeatedly said no for a very long time. That's why not, and should be reason enough for any Catholic to accept it.

[/quote]

Not "any" Catholic (as in ALL Catholics) - I personally know a married Catholic priest and his wife babysits our youngest son. And he has a parish in the Diocese and everything!


#5

Because the priests are married to the Church. Would be very difficult, if not impossible, to serve 100% to both at the same time.


#6

[quote="Godfollower, post:2, topic:304929"]
Priestly celibacy is optional in the Catholic Church. *Would-be priests who are married are free to seek ordination in the Byzantine, Alexandrian, or Antiochean families of Catholic rites. * It's only the Latin Rite that (usually) requires celibacy.

[/quote]

Yes; but don't you think in the Byzantine, Alexandrian, or Antiochean families of Catholic rites. this need for priest desiring to be married is born out of a a natural compunction of a man having a need to be with his married wife? Im not being negative stating this at all. In effect such married priests serve two masters both God and their wife.

I find in this over secularized world many laity in the Catholic Latin Rite don't value the virtue of celibacy for priests or those who have chosen a single chaste vocation because they are least apt to understand or value its profound spiritual rewards.

SACERDOTALIS CAELIBATUS

ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PAUL VI
ON THE CELIBACY OF THE PRIEST
vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_24061967_sacerdotalis_en.html


#7

[quote="ADiosgracias, post:5, topic:304929"]
Because the priests are married to the Church. Would be very difficult, if not impossible, to serve 100% to both at the same time.

[/quote]

Well, that can't be true.

The Church has many married priests, both in the Eastern Churches, and converts from Protestantism. In the East, married parish priests are the norm (celibacy is mainly for monks).

I think it is unfair to diminish the service of these priests in any way. They provide excellent service to the Church.

God Bless


#8
  1. But celibacy is preferable to marriage because a priest can wholly devote himself to his flock and to the things of God.
    — Surely this is true for many men. Celibacy is a good and holy ideal, and for those who can accept it, a great blessing. However, one must acknowledge that for many priests it is a burden that causes great psychological distress and prevents them from carrying out their ministry to the best of their abilities. An unhappy and bitter priest is not a good priest. Look at the number of priests who drop out of active ministry each year, and one cannot deny that this is a problem. And those are only the most visible cases. How many more priests labor on heroically, burdened by not being able to share their lives and their most intimate selves with a wife and family?

To become a priest it takes several years of study and living in the religous communtiy. Are you telling me that a man cannot realize over the course of 8-10 years or more if he can handle lifelong celibacy? I don’t believe that. If someone realizes that lifelong celibacy would be a burden to them, they can leave their studies anytime. They are not forced to become priests or take vows.


#9

[quote="Carina20, post:8, topic:304929"]
To become a priest it takes several years of study and living in the religous communtiy. Are you telling me that a man cannot realize over the course of 8-10 years or more if he can handle lifelong celibacy? I don't believe that. If someone realizes that lifelong celibacy would be a burden to them, they can leave their studies anytime. They are not forced to become priests or take vows.

[/quote]

One reality is that during formation you are in a "hothouse" looked after, cooked for, cared for and ministered to. Once ordained you are on your own - literally (if you are a diocesan).

Loneliness can be crushing for priests.

I've seen it.


#10

An interesting propsition. Perhaps you could send this to the Vatican for consideration (seriously). After all it is a discipline not a Dogma. In the first 1000 years or so of the Catholic Church history, clergy were allowed to marry. Even Peter, the first Pope was married.

What was lacking in you post was data comparing numbers of vocations in other rights which allow marriage (Byzantine, etc. which were mentioned in a earlier post) with the Latin right.

Are there more vocations?
What is the divorce rate?
What are the statsitics on preist leaving the married priesthood?
We barley pay for salaries and retirement for single priests, can we really pay for families (not just able but willing)?

Just a few thoughts which come to mind.


#11

You know who is not asking for marriage? The PRIESTS! (a few may be, but they are a tiny bunch and are being tempted away from obedience)

What I note is a human tendency for us to be more concerned with others' living conditions than they are - especially in the case of those who willingly and voluntarily accepted and embraced those same conditions.

Ask a Priest: He will likely tell you that celibacy is a gift. Would you take that away?


#12

Why not?

From the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden:

It happened that a person who was absorbed in prayer heard then a voice saying to her:

"O you to whom it has been given to hear and see spiritually, hear now the things that I want to reveal to you: namely, concerning that archbishop who said that if he were pope, he would give leave for all clerics and priests to contract marriages in the flesh. He thought and believed that this would be more acceptable to God than that clerics should live dissolutely, as they now do. For he believed that through such marriage the greater carnal sins might be avoided; and even though he did not rightly understand God's will in this matter, nonetheless that same archbishop was still a friend of God.

But now I shall tell you God's will in this matter; for I gave birth to God himself.

You will make these things known to my bishop and say to him that circumcision was given to Abraham long before the law was given to Moses and that, in that time of Abraham, all human beings whatsoever were guided according to their own intellect and according to the choice of their own will and that, nevertheless, many of them were then friends of God. But after the law was given to Moses, it then pleased God more that human beings should live under the law and according to the law rather than follow their own human understanding and choice. It was the same with my Son's blessed Body.

For after he instituted in the world this new sacrament of the eucharist and ascended into heaven, the ancient law was then still kept: namely, that Christian priests lived in carnal matrimony. And, nonetheless, many of them were still friends of God because they believed with simple purity that this was pleasing to God: namely, that Christian priests should have wives and live in wedlock just as, in the ancient times of the Jews, this had pleased him in the case of Jewish priests. And so, this was the observance of Christian priests for many years.

But that observance and ancient custom seemed very abominable and hateful to all the heavenly court and to me, who gave birth to his body: namely, because it was being thus observed by Christian priests who, with their hands, touch and handle this new and immaculate Sacrament of the most holy Body of my Son. For the Jews had, in the ancient law of the Old Testament, a shadow, i.e., a figure, of this Sacrament; but Christians now have the truth itself- namely, him who is true God an man - in that blessed and consecrated bread.

After those earlier Christian priests had observed these practices for a time, God himself, through the infusion of his Holy Spirit, put into the heart of the pope then guiding the Church another law more acceptable and pleasing to him in this matter: namely, by pouring this infusion into the heart of the pope so that he established a statute in the universal Church that Christian priests, who have so holy and so worthy an office, namely, of consecrating this precious Sacrament, should by no means live in the easily contaminated, carnal delight of marriage.

And therefore, through God's preordinance and his judgment, it has been justly ordained that priests who do not live in chastity and continence of the flesh are cursed and excommunicated before God and deserve to be deprived of their priestly office. But still, if they truthfully amend their lives with the true purpose of not sinning further, they will obtain mercy from God.

Know this too: that if some pope concedes to priests a license to contract carnal marriage, God will condemn him to a sentence as great, in a spiritual way, as that which the law justly inflicts in a corporeal way on a man who has transgressed so gravely that he must have his eyes gouged out, his tongue and lips, nose and ears cut off, his hands and feet amputated, all his body's blood spilled out to grow completely cold, and finally, his whole bloodless corpse cast out to be devoured by dogs and other wild beasts. Similar things would truly happen in a spiritual way to that pope who were to go against the aforementioned preordinance and will of God and concede to priests such a license to contract marriage.

For that same pope would be totally deprived by God of his spiritual sight and hearing, and of his spiritual words and deeds. All his spiritual wisdom would grow completely cold; and finally, after his death, his soul would be cast out to be tortured eternally in hell so that there it might become the food of demons everlastingly and without end. Yes, even if Saint Gregory the Pope had made this statute, in the aforesaid sentence he would never have obtained mercy from God if he had not humbly revoked his statute before his death."


#13

[quote="bilop, post:7, topic:304929"]
Well, that can't be true.

The Church has many married priests, both in the Eastern Churches, and converts from Protestantism. In the East, married parish priests are the norm (celibacy is mainly for monks).

I think it is unfair to diminish the service of these priests in any way. They provide excellent service to the Church.

God Bless

[/quote]

I agree. I also believe that celibacy is a special vocation and should be left as such. There have been many who have a vocation to the priesthood, but not to celibacy. We have need of and room for, both. It's also the oldest tradition. This is something any Pope can change at any time and I think it's a mistake not to.


#14

[quote="Titus813, post:1, topic:304929"]
Secondly, I think any honest person must also admit that we could eliminate this priest shortage with one change to church discipline that would in no way contradict the doctrines of the Church: make celibacy optional for priests.

[/quote]

I disagree.

Many Protestant churches allow married ministers. They still have declining numbers of men pursuing that calling.
--- This is to me a specious argument, comparing apples to oranges. Is the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church on the same footing as mainline liberal Protestant denominations that have all but abandoned orthodox Christianity? If I were a member of one of those churches, not only would I not want to be a minister, I would also not want to be a part of the congregation of an institution that had so clearly forfeited its commitment to orthodoxy.

Well, you've certainly established why you wouldn't become a Protestant minister! Yet, that doesn't mean that you've established why a Protestant, who believes in their denomination and the ministry it provides its flock, wouldn't want to be a minister. There's the apples and oranges in your argument! ;)

Surely the calling to be a Catholic priest, who confects the Eucharist and forgives sins, is stronger than the call to minister in a denomination that allows for contraception, female ordination, ordination of practicing homosexuals, etc.

And, apparently, the allure of secular goods -- and the values which it ascribes to these goods -- seem to be stronger than the call to the ministry of the priesthood. :sad_yes:

3) The priest shortage is only a problem in the Western world. In the developing world there are plenty of priests being ordained.
--- Yes, and in those countries, there is also widespread and rampant violation of priestly celibacy

This is too sweeping a generalization.

Look at the number of priests who drop out of active ministry each year, and one cannot deny that this is a problem.

This, then, is a failure of priestly formation, not of vocation.

Surgeons who must take call regularly at the hospital, for instance. Or men that must work two or more jobs to support their families. Many lawyers. Jobs that require extensive travel, etc.

Are you saying, then, that surgeons, lawyers, and road warriors have good marriages? No... far too often, these stresses lead to a breakup of the marriage. Keep in mind what's at stake, here: a priest who is married must image all that is best in marriage; if he should become divorced, imagine how poor of an example that would be to his parish... :eek:

Furthermore, if celibacy were made optional, there would be more priests to share the workload in our parishes, and their wives could help as well, making things easier for everyone.

Agh! No! Unless you're suggesting that the priests' wives likewise go through a period of formation! It would be horrible to just put a woman in that situation, without likewise a period of discernment and quite a bit of formation and training!

Besides... what kind of 'help' are you proposing?

Would it require the congregation paying more money to support the priest and his family, or even more than one family? Yes! Is it worth paying more money for happier, healthier priests, and in order to solve our priest shortage? I say, "Yes!" Can Catholics afford this? Yes!

Tell you what... take a straw poll at your parish -- ask them to triple their contributions to the parish, so that they'd demonstrate that the parish is able financially to support a priest and his family. Do you really think that would work? :rolleyes:

In conclusion, at least in my experience, nearly every Catholic young man I have spoken with regarding whether or not he might be called to the priesthood is impeded by one thing: celibacy.

I'll grant you that this is the big obstacle. In other words, the Church asks the man discerning the priesthood, "are you willing to deny yourself what the world says is important, for the sake of the priesthood?" When the man says, "no" -- whether it's to celibacy, or obedience, or the allure of a lucrative job -- then the Church has her answer.

I have known many, many strong, holy, intelligent, heterosexual Catholic men who would make EXCELLENT priests, but who are clearly dissuaded from going down that road because of the requirement for celibacy.

You mean "men who would make excellent priests if they had a vocation." By saying 'no' to the priesthood, they're saying 'no' to the vocation, aren't they? That is, if they felt that they had a vocation, but weren't willing to act on it because they perceived it was difficult... is this really the man we want as our priest? :hmmm:


#15

To the OP:

This is an interesting and controversial topic, and I really think we could go on forever posting about it because there are so many arguments on both sides.

But the fact remains: the Church has demanded celibacy for all priests in the Roman Rite, and this thread isn't going to change that.

I'd suggest, Titus, that you take this question to the forum where you can ask Apologists questions, and find an answer to your question as to why priests should not be able to get married.


#16

[quote="triumphguy, post:4, topic:304929"]
Not "any" Catholic (as in ALL Catholics) - I personally know a married Catholic priest and his wife babysits our youngest son. And he has a parish in the Diocese and everything!

[/quote]

Is he a former Anglican priest, married before he converted to Catholicism?


#17

[quote="dshix, post:15, topic:304929"]
To the OP:

This is an interesting and controversial topic, and I really think we could go on forever posting about it because there are so many arguments on both sides.

But the fact remains: the Church has demanded celibacy for all priests in the Roman Rite, and this thread isn't going to change that.

I'd suggest, Titus, that you take this question to the forum where you can ask Apologists questions, and find an answer to your question as to why priests should not be able to get married.

[/quote]

:eek: I'm going to ask for my money back!:mad:;)


#18

[quote="triumphguy, post:17, topic:304929"]
:eek: I'm going to ask for my money back!:mad:;)

[/quote]

lol :p


#19

[quote="Julia_Mae, post:13, topic:304929"]
I agree. I also believe that celibacy is a special vocation and should be left as such. There have been many who have a vocation to the priesthood, but not to celibacy.

[/quote]

Here's the thing, though. Discerning a vocation to the priesthood isn't something that a man does on his own -- just like marriage, it's something that happens between two parties. In the case of priesthood, the two parties are the Church and the man. If one (but not the other) discerns the vocation, then you simply just do not have a vocation: the Church cannot tell a man, "you will be a priest, young man!" just as a man cannot tell the Church, "I will be a priest, regardless what you say!".

In other words, if someone unilaterally says "I have a vocation to the priesthood" (and the Church doesn't concur), then that's the clearest evidence that he doesn't have a vocation to the priesthood! ;)

So, if the Church says "celibacy", then a man who says "I have a vocation to the priesthood but not to celibacy" is deluding himself... :sad_yes:


#20

[quote="Gorgias, post:19, topic:304929"]
Here's the thing, though. Discerning a vocation to the priesthood isn't something that a man does on his own -- just like marriage, it's something that happens between two parties. In the case of priesthood, the two parties are the Church and the man. If one (but not the other) discerns the vocation, then you simply just do not have a vocation: the Church cannot tell a man, "you will be a priest, young man!" just as a man cannot tell the Church, "I will be a priest, regardless what you say!".

In other words, if someone unilaterally says "I have a vocation to the priesthood" (and the Church doesn't concur), then that's the clearest evidence that he doesn't have a vocation to the priesthood! ;)

So, if the Church says "celibacy", then a man who says "I have a vocation to the priesthood but not to celibacy" is deluding himself... :sad_yes:

[/quote]

You hit the nail on the head. If a man is interested in the priesthood, but doesn't care enough about it to practice celibacy, then that is a CLEAR indication that he is not ready to be a priest!!


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