MARRIED PRIESTS

Although it is not set in stone that priests may never be able to marry, it has long been a tradition of the Catholic Church that priests do not marry. We must remember that under the current Pope, married priests are not permitted. We as Catholics, can not argue or disagree with the Pope on his decision. When we disagree or challenge the Pope in matters of faith or morals we disagree or challenge Jesus as well (see Mt. 16:17-19 and Why Obey?). In James 4:11-12 it states "…if however you judge the law, you are no observer of the law, you are its judge…"

(Q): Do we need married priests because there is a shortage?
(A):
Why is there a shortage, should be the question. The shortage is not because there is a lack of vocations. God is always calling his people. The shortage stems from the fact that families no longer pray together, and no longer encourage spirituality in their children. If somehow in this stagnate environment a child does respond to this calling, his parents, relatives, and friends quickly discourage him. Would you encourage your child to become a priest or nun?

According to an interview with Father James King from Our Sunday Visitor (Oct. 21, 2001), Father King states that there is an increase nationwide in priestly vocations. He states the following:

"In the last few years, those numbers have gone up after having dropped for 35 years straight. This generation coming through now is in reaction against some of the cultural excesses we've seen in the last 25 or 30 years when it comes to drugs, sexual morality and the secular culture. They're finding that the Church speaks the truth, and Pope John Paul II is probably the single person who is the most responsible for that. There are not many people in the world state who appear to be practicing what they preach, and he's one who is."

(Q): What would be the obstacles for a married priest?
(A):
A married priest would no longer have the church and his congregation as his main duty. Married life creates great difficulties and hindrances. A married priest would have responsibilities to his family.

When a couple is united in the vows of matrimony, they make a commitment to each other and to their future children. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in [1631] that "marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children." Both the vows of marriage and priestly celibacy cannot co-exist smoothly in the same environment. One will be neglected and not be given the fullest attention.

When a priest takes his priestly vows, he has an obligation to the church, the Pope, and to the lay members of the Catholic community. A priest is present for his flock from the beginning of life (baptism) to the end of life.

What if the married couple chooses to divorce? Then what? It does not set a good example for the rest of the congregation. What if their child becomes involved in drugs? The old cliché states that our actions speak louder than our words.

Sexually, some feel that a priest will no longer be tempted by wanting to be with a woman if he is married. What about men who are married and engage in adulterous affairs? They are married yet they are not satisfied sexually.

(Q): What does the Bible have to say about Celibacy?
(A):
It is interesting to note, that celibacy is symbolic of the resurrection in that in the resurrection we will neither marry or be given in marriage but will be like the Angels (see Mt. 22:30). What this means is that there are those who are called in this life time to live the life of celibacy that we will one day live in Heaven. Celibacy is a predestine sign of the holiness to come. Jesus teaches us that not all can be called to celibacy, that only those who could do so for the sake of the Kingdom (Mt. 19:10-12). The disciples said to Jesus, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." (11) But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. (12) For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."

The disciples left everything to follow Christ. Jesus said to them (Lk. 18:28-30) "Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, (30) who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life." Jesus teaches that not all can be celibate but those who can should do so for the sake of the kingdom.

(Q): Celibacy is unnatural.
(A):
Celibacy is supernatural—not unnatural, as some may believe. Celibacy is a special grace from God. It is a sacrifice to God and pledges a total commitment to following Christ.

No one puts it as well as St. Paul when he states, "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; (33) but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, (34) and his interests are divided." (1 Cor. 7:32). St. Paul, ( 1 Cor. 7:7)"I wish that all were as I myself am (celibate). But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another."

There is a mystery and uniqueness about priestly celibacy. It lifts a priest high above any Protestant pastor. It shows that the priest upon taking his vow, clearly knew what he was choosing. He knew that once he took this vow he could never be married. He freely chose God.

(Q): How can you deny the fact that priests were married in the early church?
(A):
In the early years of the church there was a scarcity of single men eligible for the priesthood and married men were permitted to enter the priesthood. When the supply of single men increased, the West, in unity with Paul's suggestion (1 Cor. 7:7), decided that the practice of permitting married priests would stop. The East, however, decided to keep the old custom of married priests.

In the East, married men can be ordained, however, once ordained an unmarried priest cannot marry. If a married priest is widowed he cannot remarry. All monks in the East are celibate and the bishops are not chosen from the ranks of married priests but from the monks who are celibate. This means that Eastern Rite bishops cannot be married.

So shouldn't there be an overabundance of clergy in the Eastern Rite since their priests are permitted to be married? Not so! According to Fr. Stravinskas (The Catholic Answer Book 2), the Eastern Rite, despite the fact that they have married priests, have serious problems in vocation recruitment!

(Q): What about St. Paul? He states in 1 Tim 3:2 that a bishop must be the husband of one wife and that he must keep his children under control! This means that a bishop must marry and he must have children!
(A)
: The point that Paul is trying to make is not that a man must be married in order to be a bishop, but that a bishop can only be married once. If this were true then Paul would be violating the rule that he was making. Paul never married. He even stated in (1 Cor. 7:7) that he wished everyone would "…be as I am."

Regarding a bishop having children, what if a bishop is not married and he does not have children? Would he be rejected as a bishop because he did not meet Paul's specifications? No, all that Paul was stating is that if a married man is chosen as a bishop, he must manage his household well, not that he must have children.

(Q): What type of rules does the Catholic Church have about priestly celibacy?
(A):
The Code of Canon Law shows (Canon 277), states the following about clerical celibacy:

"Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and therefore are obliged to observe celibacy, which is a special gift of God, by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and can more freely dedicate themselves to the services of God and mankind."

Pope Paul VI states that priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel. Below are several selections from his encyclical promulgated on June 24, 1967.

12. We well realize that there are other objections that can be made against priestly celibacy. This is a very complex question, which touches intimately upon the very meaning of being alive, yet is penetrated and resolved by the light of divine revelation. A never-ending series of difficulties will present themselves to those who cannot "receive this precept"[5] and who do not know or have forgotten it is a "gift of God,"[6] and who moreover are unaware of the loftier reasoning, wonderful efficacy and abundant riches of this new insight into life.

13. The sum of these objections would appear to drown out the solemn and age-old voice of the pastors of the Church and of the masters of the spiritual life, and to nullify the living testimony of the countless ranks of saints and faithful ministers of God, for whom celibacy has been the object of the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign. But no, this voice, still strong and untroubled, is the voice not just of the past but of the present too. Ever intent on the realities of today, we cannot close our eyes to this magnificent, wonderful reality: that there are still today in God's holy Church, in every part of the world where she exercises her beneficent influence, great numbers of her ministers-subdeacons, deacons, priests and bishops-who are living their life of voluntary and consecrated celibacy in the most exemplary way.

Nor can we overlook the immense ranks of men and women in religious life, of laity and of young people too, united in the faithful observance of perfect chastity. They live in chastity, not out of disdain for the gift of life, but because of a greater love for that new life which springs from the Paschal mystery. They live this life of courageous self-denial and spiritual joyfulness with exemplary fidelity and also with relative facility. This magnificent phenomenon bears testimony to an exceptional facet of the kingdom of God living in the midst of modern society, to which it renders humble and beneficial service as the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth."[7] We cannot withhold the expression of our admiration; the spirit of Christ is certainly breathing here.

14. Hence we consider that the present law of celibacy should today continue to be linked to the ecclesiastical ministry. This law should support the minister in his exclusive, definitive and total choice of the unique and supreme love of Christ; it should uphold him in the entire dedication of himself to the public worship of God and to the service of the Church; it should distinguish his state of life both among the faithful and in the world at large.

17. Virginity undoubtedly, as the Second Vatican Council declared, "is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself. This is clear from the practice of the early Church and the traditions of the Eastern Churches."[11] But at the same time the Council did not hesitate to confirm solemnly the ancient, sacred and providential present law of priestly celibacy. In addition, it set forth the motives which justify this law for those who, in a spirit of faith and with generous fervor, know how to appreciate the gifts of God.

 


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