I’ve written this little piece on the celibate priesthood and wondered if someone would like to give me their opinon of it.
The celibate priesthood has long been a tradition in the Catholic Church. It comes from the teachings of Jesus, echoed in the writings of St. Paul.
Jesus said, ‘There are eunuchs born so from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’ (Matthew 19:12, NJB). Celibate priests are such eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven.
St. Paul states a preference for the single life. ‘I should like you to have your minds free from all worry. The unmarried man gives his mind to the Lord’s affairs and to how he can please the Lord; but the man who is married gives his mind to the affairs of this world and to how he can please his wife, and he is divided in mind.’ (1 Cor 7: 32-33, NJB)
The celibate priesthood, then, is a state in which the priest can be single-minded in his service to the Lord. This is not to say that one can not serve the Lord in marriage, but in marriage one primary concern is primarily for the one’s spouse and children. In the celibate life one is free to a much broader service and the life of the priest is a life of such service and is therefore best carried out in the celibate state.
The celibate priesthood, then, is the stated preference of Jesus and developed by St. Paul. However, it is not a commandment. St. Paul says in the same letter to the Corinthians (v. 28), ‘However, if you do get married, that is not a sin.’ So the Catholic Church could lift its prohibition on married priests without contradicting any of its fundamental teachings. The only thing it would be going against is the expressed preference of Jesus.
As a postscript I could add;
The question of priests marrying raises the question of why not let anyone in any religious order marry, i.e. nuns, etc. Would a nun (or sister) still be nun if she had a husband and kids? Perhaps the same could be said about married priests.
There’s probably a lot more to the issue of celibacy in the religious life than an untrained, very secular layperson like myself would have any knowlege of, but that’s how I see it. What do you think?