I was asked last night by a Baptist and an Assembly of God patron, why we do not allow priests to be married. My uncle is a priest and once gave me a very biblical reason as to why but I couldn’t remember. My explanation (which by the way my uncle discounted at the time) was that it would take too much time away from the parish and his commitment and marriage to Christ. What is the official teaching on this?
Please read Pope Paul VI’s beautiful encyclical *Sacerdotalis Caelibatus * (Celibacy of the Priest). There are many scriptural references in the encyclical. Here are a few excerpts:
- Christ, the only Son of the Father, by the power of the Incarnation itself was made Mediator between heaven and earth, between the Father and the human race. Wholly in accord with this mission, Christ remained throughout His whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified His total dedication to the service of God and men. This deep concern between celibacy and the priesthood of Christ is reflected in those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and mission of the Mediator and eternal Priest; this sharing will be more perfect the freer the sacred minister is from the bonds of flesh and blood. (28)
The Motive for Celibacy
Jesus, who selected the first ministers of salvation, wished them to be introduced to the understanding of the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” (29) but He also wished them to be coworkers with God under a very special title, and His ambassadors. (30) He called them friends and brethren, (31) for whom He consecrated Himself so that they might be consecrated in truth; (32) He promised a more than abundant recompense to anyone who should leave home, family, wife and children for the sake of the kingdom of God. (33) More than this, in words filled with mystery and hope, He also commended an even more perfect consecration (34) to the kingdom of heaven by means of celibacy, as a special gift. (35) The motive of this response to the divine call is the kingdom of heaven; (36) similarly, this very kingdom, (37) the Gospel (38) and the name of Christ (39) motivate those called by Jesus to undertake the work of the apostolate, freely accepting its burdens, that they may participate the more closely in His lot.
To them this is the mystery of the newness of Christ, of all that He is and stands for; it is the sum of the highest ideals of the Gospel and of the kingdom; it is a particular manifestation of grace, which springs from the Paschal mystery of the Savior. This is what makes the choice of celibacy desirable and worthwhile to those called by our Lord Jesus. Thus they intend not only to participate in His priestly office, but also to share with Him His very condition of living.
“Laid hold of by Christ” (43) unto the complete abandonment of one’s entire self to Him, the priest takes on a closer likeness to Christ, even in the love with which the eternal Priest has loved the Church His Body and offered Himself entirely for her sake, in order to make her a glorious, holy and immaculate Spouse. (44)
The consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers actually manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church, and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage, by which the children of God are born, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh.” (45 46)
The priest dedicates himself to the service of the Lord Jesus and of His Mystical Body with complete liberty, which is made easier by his total offering, and thus he depicts more fully the unity and harmony of the priestly life. (47) His ability for listening to the word of God and for prayer increases. Indeed, the word of God, as preserved by the Church, stirs up vibrant and profound echoes in the priest who daily meditates on it, lives it and preaches it to the faithful.
Full text is here.
The *Catechism of the Catholic Church * Sections 1579, 1618
Celibacy and the Priesthood: