Why Celibacy?

Written by Rev. H.T. Burke

Our Lord was a priest (Heb. 4:14); He was also celibate and called others to do the same. “And Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left all and followed You.’ And He said to them, ‘Amen I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or parents, or brothers, or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive much more in the present time, and in the age to come life everlasting.”‘ (Lk. 18:28-30) Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22); through celibacy the priest is called to sacrifice not just his son, but his wife. Our Lord teaches that not all can be celibate, but those who can should do so for the sake of the kingdom: “His disciples said to Him, ‘if the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.’ And He said, “Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given -there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can.” (Matt. 19:10-12)

Celibacy is also a sign of the resurrection; we will all be celibate in the next world. Jesus says: “When people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30) In imitation of Christ the priest is called to live this way here and now in this world. Elijah and John the Baptist, the two great prophets of the Old Covenant, were celibate. St. Paul even encourages celibacy among the laity. He writes: “It is good for the man not to touch woman. Yet for fear of fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband – For I wish that you all were like me; but each one has his own gift from God, one in this way, and another in that – Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be freed. Are you freed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you take a wife, you have not sinned. He who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please God. Whereas he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.” (1Cor. 7)

A champion of celibacy for the priesthood, Vatican II said: “Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was recommended by Christ the Lord. This Sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation so far as it concerns those destined for the priesthood, and feels confident in the Spirit that the gift of celibacy, so appropriate to the priesthood of the New Testament, is liberally granted by the Father. And the more that perfect continence is considered by many people to be impossible in the world of today, so much the more humbly and perseveringly in union with the Church ought priests demand the grace of fidelity, which is never denied to those who ask.”

Celibacy is not unnatural, it is supernatural. It is a special grace from God. Our Lord created manhood, and as a man he lived it fully and naturally, as a celibate male. Celibacy is a sacrifice of the good of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. It is not for men who have no attraction for women. It is for men who do like women. If they don’t then there is no sacrifice in giving up marriage. Celibacy is unpopular with the world today because it is a sacrifice, and sacrifice for God is not what a hedonistic culture wants. The opinions of this world do not worry Our Lord who said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (Jn. 18:36)

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See also Celibacy of the Clergy

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5 Responses to Why Celibacy?

  1. soc says:

    Life is a about a VISION of which is your MISSION in the world.
    – Saint Robert Joachim John Bronislaw

  2. Constantine says:

    Funny, that the Apostle Paul, having been taught directly by the risen Christ (Galatians 1:12) insisted that bishops (1 Timothy 3:2), deacons (1 Timothy 3:12) and elders (Titus 1:6) all be married men. How did he miss this?

    We know Peter (the first “pope”) was married. Peter must have missed it, too.

    We also, know, that the Church had a married priesthood for longer than it has had a celibate priesthood.

    And to say, ““Perfect and perpetual continence “being recommended by Christ the Lord” puts Christ in direct conflict with God the Father, who said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18. And our modern experience tells us just how well “perfect and perpetual continence” works, anyway.

    And Abraham, our “father in faith” was selected by God precisely because he was married. And if its good enough for the “father” of the faith, it’s surely good enough for its sons.

    Peace.

  3. gopal4mission says:

    Here are some greatly inspiring thoughts by great men and women on celibacy: http://gopal4mission.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/greatly-inspiring-brahmacharya-quotes/

  4. aboriente says:

    Constantine,

    It seems you are not in peace. You have either an immense dislike for the Church which is clouding your judgment and leading you deviousness, or you need to be studying the Scriptures better, and perhaps it would do you good to join the RCIA program if you seek the Truth.

    Abraham was not selected “precisely because he was married.” I have searched hard to find where you might have come up with that notion. Paul says he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. In the OT, the Lord talks to him and he does. To quote, “So Abram went, as the Lord has told him.” True the Lord would provide him offspring, and through that, we would have the people of the covenant, but to say “because he was married” is to betray ignorance of the Scriptures, or plain mal intent. After all, most of us would become children of Abraham, but not through blood decent, and as it is said, out of stones could the Lord make children of Abraham.

    Your slighted reference in what you refer to as “modern experience” shows that you have some kind of vendetta against the Church. Truly, the abuses that have been made much of by the media in recent years is not any more due to “celibacy” as you can say that the same adultery or child abuse is due to “marriage” when they occur in Protestant denominations or within married clergy of the Eastern churches. Fact is, the devil works hard at attacking us, and follows a general rule in combat, take out the leaders so that people can not muster to their examples… the priests undergo a heavy assault, and it is to be remembered our condition. There is soo much to be said about Genesis 2:18, and the Theology of the Church, and justice can only be done by allowing your heart to be unhardened and then with an soul open to the Truth, to explore the teachings of the Church. Only within that context could you understand that some will become eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God.

    You also betray an ignorance of history when saying the Church had a married priesthood for longer than it has had a celibate. Fact is, since Christ and St. Paul, there were people who took to celibacy voluntarily. There were people before Christ as well, but since we are talking about the priesthood of the Church… So how can you cay longer for one than the other? Even in the first ecumenical councils, there were talks of requiring celibacy, I believe mostly brought on by Western practices where celibacy was more predominant. So clearly, your history is a bit off.

    The only thing you said correct in your statements is that Peter was married. But you are facetious in your bent ways when you say “Peter must have missed it.” No one who is of the Catholic faith has missed that. That is a non-issue, and your snide remark is not warranted. It lets me know that you do not have the peace we are seeking. I suggest you sit with a good priest and talk things out.

    We both know that the Apostle Paul did not insist that bishops and deacons be married men. An honest read of St. Paul will show he is concerned with people who have irregular households. Hence, it is usually translated as “but one wife”, meaning not many, or not married and divorced and remarried or something that would make his position at odds with the teaching of Christ, which is the teaching His Church. This is in line with Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians. And let us not forget that it is Paul himself who in the same epistle says it is well for those who are virgins to stay so… not a command of the Lord, but something somewhat a matter of discipline… which is exactly how the Catholic Church approaches it.

    You need to stop your polemical attacks, and study the Bible, and study the Church’s teachings, as it has kept them from the time of Christ, and then you need engage in a search for the truth with prayer and hunger for it.

    Pace e bene.

  5. Robert says:

    Constantine,

    Surely you are misinterpreting Paul’s own advice. When Paul says that a bishop should be married once, we can interpret this in two ways:

    (1) Every bishop must be married, and every bishop can only be married once.

    (2) No remarried man may become bishop.

    The first option seems highly unlikely. Remember, of course, that it seems that Paul himself was unmarried, and thus that he may have violated his own injunction. More likely is the interpretation that Paul is placing a limit on remarriage than a positive requirement that a bishop be married. It seems that there are plenty of positive reasons to limit remarriage within the clergy. After all, the married man is concerned about pleasing his wife, and it is not at all fitting for an ordained man– one consecrated to God– to always be courting women, for after all, then he is being far too concerned with pleasing women, and cannot focus with the proper singleness of mind on the Lord’s business (for which he has literally been “consecrated” or set aside).

    Besides, why would God *require* a bishop to be married? Paul explicitly gives theological considerations why this, while not absolutely prohibited, would make it more fitting for a bishop to be unmarried. After all, Paul does say that the unmarried man is concerned about the Lord and how to please Him, whereas a married man is concerned about his wife and how to please her. The conclusion seems inevitable, the unmarried man will be better able to attend to the Lord with singleness of mind and heart.

    That’s not to say that it would be impossible for a married man to do so, but merely that it is easier and more fitting for an unmarried man to do so. And it is presumably in this way that Sts. John and Paul persevered in celibacy. Indeed– in doing so they were imitating Jesus Christ Himself who lived a celibate life, no doubt because of His intense and total consecration to His Father’s will, “about the things of the Lord, how he may please God.”

    God bless,
    Rob

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