Although the early Church allowed married clergy, the Church later came to see
celibacy as a better example of the norm and model of Jesusí priesthood.
referring to celibacy, St. Paul says: "Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am,
but each has a particular gift from God . . .Now to the unmarried and to widows
I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do" (1 Cor.
7:7-8). He goes on to say: "An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the
Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things
of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided" (1 Cor. 7:32-34).
Jesus said: "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or
father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a
hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life" (Mt. 19:29).
Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma. This means that the Church could change
the rule. In fact, there are a few instances when the Church has allowed married
clergy, such as with some Eastern rite clergy and in the case of some Protestant
ministers who converted to the Faith. These, however, are the exception.
is unlikely that the Church will change this teaching at all, or any time soon,
because of the many positive and practical benefits of celibacy. Here are 10
reasons why a celibate clergy makes good sense:
It leaves the
priest free to more fully commit his life to the service of the Lord and the
The Church has
found it is better to keep priests moving from parish to parish every few
years, perhaps for a few reasons, including the desire to prevent a cult of
personality from building around a particular priest. This situation can put
too much focus on the man rather than on the Gospel message. So, the Church
prudently moves priests around. Can you imagine how much stress it would
cause a priest to have to move his wife and family each time he is assigned
to a new parish? Having a celibate priesthood also enables the bishop the
full flexibility he needs to move priests around.
To be able to lay
his life down for his flock. Because a celibate priest does not have the
obligation of a wife and children, he can give of himself more easily,
including his own life, if necessary. For example, Blessed Damien de Veuster
of Belgium was able to work with lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii,
because of the freedom he had in being a celibate minister. This work
eventually led to his contracting and dying from leprosy.
It is a sign of
contradiction and a great Christian witness to our society, which is flooded
with sexually permissive messages. Celibacy surely gains the Catholic clergy
a hidden respect from many people.
It gives the
priest greater credibility when he asks the laity to make sacrifices,
because the laity knows that celibacy involves sacrifice.
It helps the
priest master his passions amd also gives him more time for prayer, which is
the lifeblood of any ministry.
It enables a
priest to be more objective when counseling married couples. Because he is
not married, he is not going to project any personal marriage problems or
biases onto the the couple he is counseling.
In many cases it
enables the priest to be a "spiritual father" to more people than he
would as a married man (1 Cor. 4:15).
It allows the
Church to put the hundreds of millions of dollars it saves in priestly
salaries to the evangelization and charitable assistance of a needy world.
Although priests do receive salaries, they are much lower than they would
have to be if they had families to support.
foreshadowing that there will be no marriage in heaven (Mt. 22:30).
one is required to live a permanently celibate life (Mt. 19:12). The Church says
that people are free to marry. In fact, the Church glorifies the married state.
Only if one wants to become a priest, brother, or religious sister does he or
she have to live a celibate life. The religious life, and the requirements that
come with it, do not have to be chosen by anyone. However, when it is chosen, it
needs to be followed in the manner our Lord and His Church requires.
Sure, celibacy can be difficult, especially in this sexually permissive age. But
if a priest has good seminary formation that strongly supports celibacy and if
he stays close to our Lord in prayer, he will be able to turn this sacrifice
into a wonderful aid to his work.
Matthew Pinto "Why are Catholic priests not allowed to marry?" Apologetics:
"Question of the Week" Ascension Press.
Reprinted with permission of Matthew Pinto and Ascension Press.