Celibacy, the Debacle

Celibacy is required for only one Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church. And it wasn’t required for the first thousand years of the church. In 1139 the Roman Catholic Church banned priest marriages. In fact, at that time Pope Innocent II voided all priest marriages and required new priests to divorce their wives. Before this time priests could have multiple wives and concubines.

The issue was not purity, holiness, or any other noble matter. The issue was ownership of property. If priests had heirs, then they had potential claims against church property. It really is that worldly.

Catholic celibacy is a debacle. The Church’s claim that ony men with a gift of celibacy are ordained is both a joke and a tragedy. The age that males begin the process of entering the seminary is high school. Young men really don’t know that they can live without the lure of sex when they start the process of becoming a priest. Some leave the priesthood to get married. The tragedy comes in the sexual abuse that permeates this culture where men desire sex and their outlet turns to the opportunities they have to be alone with young boys or young girls. It is moral fiasco, yet the Catholic Church refuses to give ground on this issue. Articles on sexual abuse by priests are all too common. The following is a sample.

Pope apologises for church sexual abuse in Australia
“I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured,” the pontiff said in a homily in Sydney.
“These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation,” he said. “Those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.”
Victims of church abuse in Australia have been calling on the pope to issue a public apology during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day, July 15-20.
Broken Rites, which represents abuse victims in Australia, has a list of 107 convictions for church abuse, but says there could be thousands of victims as only a few cases go to court.
The pope confronted the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States during a visit to Washington in April, meeting victims and vowing to keep paedophiles out of the priesthood.” [i]

This article is a shame. Yes, the pope apologized. But the Catholic Church is not going to change a thing in this area.[ii] Priests are going to continue to molest young boys and girls, and the church is going to continue to require celibacy for men to be ordained.

The facts are hard to dispute. While there is sexual misconduct among clergy of groups where ministers are married the overwhelming blemish in this area is the Catholic priesthood where the incidence of stories of sexual abuse by priests far exceeds the problem by clerics in other organizations.

Despite the fact that there are an estimated 100,000 priests that are married (that have left the Roman Catholic Church, or are in denominations that allow marriage), the Vatican is commited to perpetuating the unbiblical, spiritually destructive practice of requiring celibacy from its ordained ministers.

The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife … (1Ti 3:2)

Despite the reference in 1 Timothy that bishops should be the husband of one wife, the Vatican uses semantics to say that celibacy is a gift, and that only celibates can serve as ministers. That is a distortion of the the truth. Some can be celibate, and some of these can serve well as minsters. Others cannot, and the forbidding of marriage is distinctly talked about in Tim 4:3:

But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving (1Ti 4:1-3)

Men and women that want to marry need to heed Paul’s admonition that it is better to marry than to burn. The Vatican is not going to change.[ii] If you are in this dillemna of wanting to serve but desirous sexual fulfillement, you need to change and be part of a community where the marriage of ministers is embraced. Kudos to those who have made this realization and acted on it.

[i] http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSSYD41034
[ii] http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2006-11-16-vatican_x.htm

Mark W Smith © copyright 2009

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