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October 04, 2005



“In the Eastern Church married priests are admitted,” Laham said, adding that “marriage is a symbol of union between Christ and the church.”

And one might respond that priests, in imitation of Christ, are already married . . . to the Church.

I really hope the Synod doesn't get bogged down in endless discussions of this sort. Please, we Latins have our traditions and Eastern Christians have theirs. Let us respect one another's traditions and not criticize disciplines practiced since time out of mind.

RP Burke

My question to the Latin rite bishops is this:

If it is so important that celibacy be retained in the Latin rite, why then are married men being ordained to the priesthood if they convert from Protestant churches, while married cradle Catholic men are barred from this ordination?


Ditto to what dcs said.
If there's no theological foundation for celibacy, the good Patriarch should explain why, then, Eastern bishops are always chosen among the ranks of celibate priests (monks).

Zhou De-Ming

Another question for the Latin rite bishops:

If this is so important,

Can. 277 §1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.
§2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.
§3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.

I'm not taking about gay priests (only).
I'm talking about the many priests (on the global scale) and even bishops who engage in heterosexual sex (a.k.a. fornication and/or adultery), sometimes even procuring the abortion of their children.

They might have theology, but not reality.



A lot of priests practice the chastity!

Zhou De-Ming


A lot of priests are not child molesters, either.

It is not the "a lot of" that is the problem.

There is nothing in the theology of orders or celibacy that says, "a lot of priests should be celibate."


Must we accept abortion because a lot of Catholics practice it?


It is interesting to note that at Vatican II the Melkite Patriarch (a different man, of course, 40 years ago) pulled something similar, refering to the Latin's "celibate psychosis," but in the context of calling into question the Church's teaching on contraception.

One wonders, is there something in the water in Antioch?


I suppose that this does raise an interesting question. Orientalium Ecclesiarum does say that the different Churches, whether East or West, "although they differ somewhat among themselves in rite" are "of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite." The word "rite" is much more than liturgical custom and embraces ascetical practices, including the discipline of celibacy.

While nobody can argue that priestly celibacy has a very long history in the West, do the claims that "theological reasons exist" for it and "profound theological motives" are behind its practice implicitly place the Latin rite above the Melkite rite (in which these things would be missing)? What sort of discipline does Vatican II's Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite place on our language, whether we are talking about priestly celibacy or Eucharistic adoration? Surely the answer cannot be none at all.

This might seem like an abstract question, but there is a history of discrimination against Eastern Catholic married clergy in the United States within living memory. Others still recall the effects of the claim, made by Benedict XIV in his 1742 brief Etsi Pastoralis, that the Latin rite was in fact "praestantia ritus."

And one can presently read paragraphs like these (this Sandro Magister piece is dated October 4):

"The CEI has asked Catholic bishops in Ukraine not to send any more married priests to Italy to minister to their immigrant confreres. Why? Because 'they would create confusion among our faithful.'

"The confusion would derive precisely from the fact that they have wives and children. While Latin-rite Catholic priests are required to be celibate, those in the East, even though they too are Catholic, are by ancient tradition for the most part married. And as long as each group stays in its respective country of origin, it´s okay with the Vatican. But as soon as married Eastern priests emigrate and mingle with the celibates, Rome enters a state of alarm. The Vatican has asked Western bishops to raise a barrier and the CEI did so immediately, as did other European episcopates.

"The Ukrainian Church hasn´t taken it well. Almost all of its priests are married and therefore not welcome any more in Italy. But there´s more. The CEI is accused of using a double standard, because even in Italy there has existed for centuries a Catholic, married, Italian priesthood, with all the blessings of legitimacy. It is that of the Albanian Greek rite dioceses in Calabria, Basilicata and Sicily. These dioceses today have a dozen married priests and hang onto them tightly. They are pastors in little mountain towns plus one - Sergio Maio - who lives in Milan and celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the Greek rite every Sunday in the very central church of Saints Maurizio and Sigismondo, on Corso Magenta.

"Around 1950 the Vatican had succeeded in rooting out this prerogative of the Albanian Greek dioceses in Italy. But then in 1970 the bishop of the diocese of Lungro of the Albanians again began ordaining married priests, as was his right. In the curia Cardinal Johannes Willebrands intervened in his defense. But they didn´t forgive him for it. They could maybe tolerate married priests in some godforsaken village, but in Rome, the center of Western Catholicism, never. A 50-year-old deacon of the Lungro diocese, guilty of living in Rome with his family, has been waiting in vain for 20 years to be ordained a priest."

Stories like this might be behind Patriach Gregory's questioning of Cardinal Scola's language about celibacy. If there are "profound theological motives" behind priestly celibacy, certain things become much easier to justify.




Mistake in my last post! "While nobody can argue that priestly celibacy has a very long history ..." should be "While nobody can deny that priestly celibacy has a very long history ..."



Anyway, as I noted in a previous thread, if you want to know the reasons for the Church's long-standing spiritual tradition of priestly sexual abstinence--one which seems to go back to Apostolic times, and was only deviated from in the East about the 8th cent. (hence the chip on the Patriarch's shoulder, I think)--read Cardinal Stickler's "The Case for Clerical Celibacy."


do the claims that "theological reasons exist" for it and "profound theological motives" are behind its practice implicitly place the Latin rite above the Melkite rite (in which these things would be missing)?

No, because "rite" can also include distinct theological outlooks (Thomism vs. Palamism).

Kenjiro  Shoda

Cardinal Scola is looking more and more like papabile material.

I hope the Synod does not get sidetracked into discussing celibacy (or the idea of women priests....ugh), or homosexual clergy etc.

I thought the subject was supposed to be the Holy Eucharist? I hope the Pope doesn't sit back and let the Synod become a "free-for all everythings open for discussion" assembly.

If the purpose of some of the liberals is to further trash Catholic tradition and practice, then the Synod is a sham.

I hope the next Pope discontinues this assembly and begins to govern like the Popes before Vatican II....a la Pius XII etc.

Collegiality, bad idea from the beginning.

Michael Liccione

People who genuinely wish to understand the rationale for maintaining the norm of priestly celibacy in the Latin Church should read what recent popes have taught about it. Thus see Paul VI's Sacerdotalis Caelibatus and John Paul II's Pastores Dabo Vobis. There's little point in discussing this issue without a working knowledge of those documents.

As to the general issue, two points.

First, nobody says that celibacy is of the essence of the priesthood. The reasons for retaining it as a norm are ad convenientem, not necessitating. The mistake made by the Melkite Patriarch was not to question the necessity of the norm, but rather its desirability.

Second, it is indeed "unfair" to ordain married clerical converts to the Catholic Church but not married cradle-Catholic men. But that is also irrelevant. Since ordination is not a right, nobody can be said to be denied his due if the rules prevent him from being ordained but do not prevent others from being ordained. Thus the reasons for the Pastoral Provision are cogent as reasons for making exceptions to the general norm in the Latin Church; they are not cogent as reasons for abrogating said norm.


The real "Mystery"( as Scola calls it), is why
they don't allow married priests. There would certainly be a much larger talent pool of more balanced individuals to draw from.


Charles A.

Once again, everyone, the universal tradition of the Church, from apostolic times is --

1. Ordained men cannot marry.

2. The Church has, and can, ordain married men, at its discretion.

Charles A.

Kurt, you are exactly right. See my post with its (sorry, ungrammatical) 1. and 2. rules above..

In ordaining married men, up until about the 8th c. the rule was that the ordained man, and his wife, lived together "like sister and brother."

In fact, during those times, if a priests wife bore a child, he was degraded from the priesthood.

Boniface McInnes


I am aghast, AGHAST, that we have allowed concupiscent to receive the Sacrament of Ordination!!!

Or that we allow such people to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. I mean, you have completely renounced Satan and all his pomps and works since that water first ran clear and cool across your forehead, right?

I freely admit I haven't, but then, I'm not using the fact that preists are flawed human beings to argue against longstanding practice.

Boniface McInnes

...or priests either! ;-)

Mary Kay

Zhou D (are there two people here named Zhou?),

The last time you went off like a popped cork about priests marrying and/or fathering a child (in the US), I checked out the links you provided. One Of the 5 or so links, the wife beater had "transferred in" from the Episcopal faith, several were outside the US, one was so unsubstantiated that there was no record of the "priest," and one site required registration so I didn't check it.

Funny that this is such a prevalent epidemic that you had to pull worldwide to present 5 examples and that they all supported that a married clergy is probably not the best idea.

Zhou De-Ming

Hi Mary Kay,

That was just an "off the top of Google" sample to make the point.

Also, I don't really care much about "in the US" when taking about the Roman Catholic Church.

Why? Because for every priest "in the US" there are 8.5 preists "outside the US." As the number of priests in the US shrinks, the number outside continues to increase.

And for every Catholic "in the US," there are 16.5 "outside the US."

When discussing global issues like priestly celibacy, it seems rather myopic to focus on the 10% of the priests serving the 5.7% of the church that happens to be located in the US.

The synod of bishops is not about the US.

Tom Kelty

I posted above that Christ Himself freely chose twelve married men as His closest colaborators. Why do I insist on this? It is simply because being married was the norm for young men at that time. Fathering children was the norm. Being childless was a curse, so much to be avoided that widows were expected to bear children fathered by their dead spouse's brothers. Had Christ chosen mostly single men or all single men His whole movement would have been criticized for departing from Jewish Tradition. There is not even a trace of such criticism by the many casuists who tried so hard for so long to entrap Jesus in contradictions. Likewise with the Popes of the first two or three centuries. They saw no need to embrace celibacy. Who would be impressed in anera where children were prized blessings from God?
No, my friends, there are other, clearer historical reasons for celibacy. Some for reasons of pursuing holiness, lived the single life in austerity and in remote areas. Men and women both cultivated this path to sanctity. As the church grew over the centuries in many places the clergy were poorly educated and the celebration of the Eucharist sank into very questionable customs. About the same time in the medieval theocracies, the Bishops held full temporal and spiritual power and a real head-ache in the real estate department. The parish priest's first born son inherited the parish assets when the priest died. This was the real driving force in pushing for celibacy. They passed laws to that effect which everyone ignored. Thus started a long bloody purge of married clergy, their families and in many places the parishioners who attended their Masses or helped them in any way. This is not a fairy tale. It is the painfilled history of celibacy in our church. Had it been made optional, no one would have embraced it. So it was born at sword's point and many died because of it. It continues to fester like an open wound.


"And one might respond that priests, in imitation of Christ, are already married . . . to the Church."

but that is not the theological reason of ordination. Marriage is the SACRAMENT of the union of love between Christ and the Church, not ordination.

also the Patriarch is not saying that there is no theological basis for celibacy. Celibacy is held in great esteem in the eastern churches as seen in the high regard they hold monastic life. he seems to be saying there is no theological reason that priests must be celibate which the Western church accepts in principle or it could not accept married priests who enter in communion with Rome?

Mary Kay


The other thread was about seminary training in the US, so to take examples outside the US did miss the point of that thread.

Whether US or global, using an "off the top of Google" to make a point without critically looking at what you're using to make that point lessens your credibility.

It leaves you wide to open to those who would question the unsubstantiated report. The transfer from the Episcopal faith proved a point - the opposite of what you claimed to be making.

Strong arguments could be made about the other links also. Overall, you only showed that some priests did not keep their vows (wrong word, can't think of the right one), no indication that they are only a percentage of total priests and that there ARE priests who are faithful to chastity.

Are you a 2nd Zhou or the same Zhou?

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Mary Kay,

Here is one of the most famous cases in recent years (2003) from the Philippines: Bp. Crisostomo Yalung.

On June 7, 2002, at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan, Christine gave birth by Caesarian section to a baby girl. In the birth certificate, Yalung signed as the father....
The bishop loved the baby girl very much and would even sleep beside her, she discloses.

When the rumors started to spread, Christine asked Yalung to come out in the open, admit to their affair, and leave his vocation for good.

But Yalung wouldn’t have it her way. "Ang sabi n’ya, paano n’ya kami papakainin ‘pag umalis siya sa pagpapari (He said, how could he support us if he left the priesthood)?"

He was also fearful, Christine says, that he would have a lonely life after retirement. "Kaya gusto n’yang magkapamilya. Ayaw n’yang matulad sa ibang obispo o pari na pinababayaan ng Simbahan ‘pag matanda na sila (He wanted to have a family. He didn’t want to end up like other bishops or priests who were neglected by the Church in their old age)."

By the Church’s Canon Law, priests and bishop retire from service when they reach 75. With a monthly pension, they can either go back to their families or stay with the diocese for shelter.

Yalung and Christine finally agreed to maintain their relationship and bide their time.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani is another recent case:

A prominent bishop embroiled in a sex scandal in Roman Catholic Philippines has resigned, Pope John Paul II's representative in Manila said yesterday.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani had ceased to become the archbishop of Manila's Novaliches suburb but will remain in the Catholic Church, said Father Walter Erbi, first secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila.

"The Holy Father has accepted the resignation tendered by Bishop Bacani. However, his resignation does not mean that he's been removed from the church. He remains absolutely with the Catholic Church," Erbi told reporters.

Erbi refused to comment on the status of a probe by the Vatican's college of cardinals into allegations by Bacani's former secretary that he had sexually abused her.

Bacani has denied the allegations but apologised for "any inappropriate expression of affection" to the secretary.

The alleged affair of Bacani, one of two bishops embroiled in sex scandals in the country earlier this year, received prominent news coverage locally.

Bishop Crisostomo Yalung, who ran a parish in Antipolo suburb east of Manila, earlier quit the clergy after being accused of fathering two children.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines for the first time last year publicly apologised for sexual abuses committed by Filipino priests, but insisted that a majority of clergymen remained faithful to their vows.

The Church admitted that some 200 priests had been investigated for sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. Some were dismissed while most resigned voluntarily.

The Philippines is Asia's bastion of Christianity, with majority of its 80 million citizens belonging to the Catholic faith.


My initial reaction to the article snippet was "If this is a coarse exchange, then I say we need more coarse exchanges!" Blunt, perhaps, and forthright, but it appears they were both mannerly towards each other.

And yes, folks, do remember that celibacy is not part of the matter of the sacrament of orders the way maleness is; it is a disciplinary norm. By emphasizing this I do not mean to denigrate the Latin tradition; I am, after all, a Latin Catholic and I understand and appreciate the strong theological resonances of our tradition. But let's make sure we don't get carried away as though any differences in this matter are irreconcilable breaches of doctrine.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Mary Kay,

The rape of nuns by priests in Africa is another big case study of hetersexual issues with the priesthood.

Among the abuses detailed is the case of a nun being forced to have an abortion by the priest who impregnated her. She later died and he officiated at her requiem mass.

Also cited is the case of a mother superior who repeatedly complained to her local bishop that priests in the diocese had made 29 of her nuns pregnant

The bishop, according to the report, subsequently relieved her of her duties.

Do you remember that? It was in the National Catholic Reporter in 2001.

Mary Kay

Zhou D, you're still using isolated incidents to make a generalization. Evidently, you also are either unable or unwilling to acknowledge the priests who are faithfully celibate.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Mary Kay,

There are priests who are faithfully celibate.

There are also faithfully celibate priests (and single men serving the Church) I know in the San Francisco area are gay.

And there are priests who are not faithful to their vow of celibacy. Some quite public about it. They still celebrate Mass just fine.

So, what is so special about celibacy? It does not "make" the Eucharist. It is just a custom of the later Latin church, one that has never been closely held in "mission lands" where today's Catholics often can trace their lineage back to Brother or Father So-and-so.

Time to stop pretending, to stop pretending to have great "theological reasons."

Chris Sullivan

Zhou, I don't think there's any "pretending" to have reasons. What there is is a genuinely held theology which is or isn't correct.

I remember a very faithful older Catholic who died this year after a long illness, a daily mass attender, not much impressed with all the changes after Vatican II, or all the decisions of liberal bishops. It was his opinion, as the father of solid Catholic boys, that the celibacy requirement excluded many otherwise excellent candidates from the priesthood.

Now if this idea had come from someone else I wouldn't have given it too much weight, but coming from him, I think he was right.

Sure, celibacy is a gift, and the priesthood is a gift, but they're not the same gift.

God Bless


Had Christ chosen mostly single men or all single men His whole movement would have been criticized for departing from Jewish Tradition.

Lack of evidence is not . . . evidence.

Mary Kay

Zhou, you are correct that God can and does work despite a priest's sins.

The end of your post doesn't show up yet, it ends at
Time to stop pretending, to stop pretending to have great "theological

I think it's not just words, just some great "theological ... whatever the rest of your sentence was.

In my own experience, there is a difference between priests who have been celibate and those who later turned out not to be. It shows up in the spiritual fruit they bear. (And yes, I know that to talk about 'bearing fruit' while discussing celibacy is dangerously close to pun country.)

What's so special about celibacy is that the obedience to chastity and celibacy allows God a greater latitude to work in a larger way. I don't know if I can put it into words.

Even though celibacy is "just" a discipline, it it part of the package deal. A seminarian knows that going into the priesthood. When he is unable or unwilling to do all that he agreed to do, then that puts a limitation on how much God can work through him.

That's the best I can explain it. If that's not sufficient, I don't know what else to say.


It is doubletalk of the rankest kind to say that priestly celibacy is a discipline of the Latin rite and to also assert that it is somehow theologically compelled. Since Rome accepts married priests in its Eastern Churches and on occasion accepts married priests in the West, any notion that celibacy is a theological necessity is just nonsense.

This is all about the privileges of a celibate clergy, plain and simple.

under the dome

Aren't they in Rome to discuss the Eucharist?

Seriously, though, I am one who is strongly considering religious life. If there is *any* talk of eroding clerical celibacy, I will most certainly turn my back and run as fast as I can. One of the things so beautiful about Holy Orders is that one abandones themself completely to the will of God, with no woman or man to be beholden to, so that they can love Him and His Church as if they were wed to it.

This is very troubling...


So, Zhou...

In your world, married men never ever sleep with women other than their wives, or rape other women (including nuns), or have children outside of wedlock?

Or is it that these scandals would somehow be easier to cover up if they took place inside a married priesthood?

Honestly, I'm fascinated to learn how your ideas work. Because it's my impression that there are plenty such scandals over in the darker corners of the Eastern Orthodox, our separated Protestant brethren, and every other religious group with a married, or indeed, human religious hierarchy. Certainly the history of married clergy in the West was just as full of scandal, back in the day.

So do tell. I want to know where you get all these flawless beings who are going to serve us. Robots? Aliens? Genetic engineering? Or is God sending down angels who ain't interested in the daughters of men?

Here in this world, celibate priests are a good idea in our Latin rite, and married priests are a good idea in their rites; and ex-Protestant married priests are treated as sort of a little mini-rite all their own, and I'm fine with that, too. And yet, I find that most of the folks who want married priests are not joining up with the Byzantines or the Maronites. Funny, that.

I also know that it was parish gossip in a Byzantine rite parish I used to live near that their priest couldn't decide whether to marry his girlfriend or not, because he couldn't ever move up to be a bishop if he got married. And if it's a serious problem for young priests to decide whether or not they love power (or service) or their girlfriend more, I'm thinking that going the way of all Byzantines would hardly solve all the problems of the world.

We don't live in a perfect world. We are dealing with human beings, not angels. We have a multitude of time-tested options before us. And speaking for myself and almost every other post Vatican II Catholic, we don't want another round of clueless change for change's sake. Do we.

So if everyone would kindly take a chill pill about changing the celibacy thing, I'd be greatly obliged.

(Ick. I really don't want to think about it. Me, a woman, telling a non-celibate man about my sins? Scary! Ew! WAAAAAY outside my comfort zone! I'm sure it's fine if you grow up that way, but sheesh, not me. If they changed it, I'd have real trouble going to Confession at all. So I've got no problem going to Mass in another rite; but unless it's life or death, I'll just stay inside the Latin rite for Confession, thankyewverymuch....)


Great post, under the dome! You expressed most simply and most deeply what I've always felt.
Something as special as Holy Orders shows itself in extraordinary ways such as celibacy. It is awesome sign to the faithful. It is joke to the worldly but then isn't that expected? The whole notion of Church is ridiculous to those who embrace the world's values.

Too much debate I see here and in other places gets sidetracked by an all too human focus on the "neat" results achieved by abandoning the discipline of celibacy. Yes, there may be more priests and yes many people might be pleased that a long held practice will have been abandoned. But at what cost? If priests themselves aren't willing to sacrifice a lot, why should the laity? It seems to me that what made the saints great was the entire wager they place on God -- they aimed for the ridiculous and achieved greatness.

God knows, the vast majority of western Catholics hardly embrace any notice of sacrifice and abandonment to God's will but at least they have the example of the religious. At least it's a reminder that there's something beyond the merely convenient and pleasurable. Let that go and I think you lose an awful lot.

I'll leave the profound theological debates to others.And I wish those who would diminish this great gift of celibacy to the church would reflect seriously on what some of the downside might be should celibacy be shunted aside. Too many times that's not at all considered in the debate.

Yes, dome, I've also thought of the religious life and I agree with you. If celibacy was optional, I'm outta there.

For what it's worth. Tony

fr. frank

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on folks. Priestly celibacy is not that complicated of an idea. Here it is: Jesus was celibate. A priest is another Christ. He acts "in persona Christi." ergo, etc. A priest is to imitate Christ; that's why he does not marry. That's a pretty deep theological foundation for priestly celibacy.

Chris Sullivan

fr frank,

How do you square that with the Orthodox tradition of married priests ?

Are they somehow not really priests ?

God Bless

fr. frank

No. They are really priests. But the fullness of the sacrament (episcopate) is reserved, even in the oriental churches, to the celibates.

Allow me to relate a quick and recent anecdote. Two priests were hearing confessions in a public church. Both confessionals had equal lines of penitents. Word got out that one priest was married, a so called "pastoral provision" priest, married because he used to be a protestant minister. His line of penitents shrank dramatically, while the other line swelled.

Draw your own conclusions about the efficacy of priestly celibacy.

All the best.


It is doubletalk of the rankest kind to say that priestly celibacy is a discipline of the Latin rite and to also assert that it is somehow theologically compelled. Since Rome accepts married priests in its Eastern Churches and on occasion accepts married priests in the West, any notion that celibacy is a theological necessity is just nonsense.

I don't believe that Card. Scola mentioned compulsion or necessity. Saying that celibacy has a theological basis does not denigrate Eastern traditions in the least. The Eastern Churches have, among other things, they're own distinct theology, all the while holding to the very same dogmas that we hold in the West (with a few exceptions among the Orthodox). If one were to assert that celibacy had a dogmatic basis, one would be wrong. But it is not wrong in the least to assert that it has a theological basis. One might even assert that it has a Scriptural basis, at the same time admitting that a married priesthood also has a Scriptural basis.

We should not denigrate the Eastern Churches but at the same time they developed under very different circumstances than the Latin Church and one should be wary of applying their solutions to our problems.

Fr. Totton

I can understand how this came up at the Synod on the Eucharist, as I heard a priest begin in a similar vein this morning: "If we really hold the Eucharist as our greatest value, why are we allowing its celebration to be imperiled by such an unimportant discipline?"
The argument is that dropping the discipline of celibacy (at least for the secular [diocesan] clergy) would be a veritable opening of floodgates of married men into the seminaries and we would never want for priests again, no parish, nowhere would ever lack a priest to offer the Mass.

Sorry, but whether one fully understands the theological underpinnings of the discipline (no folks, it is not a doctrine) of celibacy or not, it is clear that the shortage of priests is not simply based on the current practice. Look at Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, etc, all have married clergy, and all are lacking as much, if not in a greater way, for clergy. If you really want the Catholic church to follow the lead of mainline protestantism, look again at those communities. No, the shortage of vocations is a result of a lack of faith! There is no way around it.


Is it in fact so certain that opening the western priesthood to married men would increase the number of priests?
Of course there are many more married or hoping-to-be-married men than men intending to remain celibate all their lives. But how many of those, really, are likely to discern a vocation?

(On a very pragmatic note, would/could the Church pay a priest enough to support a family? Think of the salaries in Catholic schools.)

Is the number of men who would seek to discern whether they had a vocation only if they could be married greater than than the number of those (like underthedome) who would not consider it if the requirement of celibacy were removed?

Many religious orders have removed restrictions that used to be part of their life (habits, silence, life in community), and they aren't flooded with postulants. I often hear it said that the only growing orders are the strict ones. I'm not convinced that loosening the requirements makes the priesthood more attractive.


Theology is the study of God. If you have two "theologies" that don't agree, do you violate the truth promulgated at the First Vatican Council that "God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth." Seems to be the case to me. Therefore, there cannot be disharmonious "theologies" that have any validity. If there is disharmony, then one must be wrong.

Responding to Laham, Scola asserted that “in the Latin church theological reasons exist” for maintaining the policy on celibacy. He did not elaborate on those reasons.

Cardinal Scola has nothing to argue with because there is no theological reason. It's a matter of tradition in the West and a matter of our discipline.

Cardinal Scola's comment was unhelpful, wrong, and poisoning the collegiality we have in the Church. It's no wonder the Orthodox don't trust us: they think they'll be treated as "second class citizens." And they're right.

Michael Kremer

Fr. Frank,
First you give what looks like an argument for priestly celibacy: a priest is another Christ. That's why he does not marry.

Then you turn around and admit that priests can be married, but reply that bishops, who have the fullness of the sacrament, can't marry.

BUT. When your argument is used to conclude that a priest must be male, it is not open to exceptions, nor does it only apply to bishops, who have the "fullness of the sacrament". It is supposed to lead to the watertight conclusion that no female can be a priest. Why then doesn't it lead here to the watertight conclusion that no married man can be a priest?

I am deeply suspicious of the whole "other Christ" argument in the case of the dispute over women's ordination, and the slippery use it is being put to here only strengthens my doubts.

First of all, either the argument works or it doesn't. If it works at all in both cases, then it works the same way in both cases.

We do know that the argument doesn't work in all cases -- Christ was circumcised but we don't conclude that to be an alter Christus a priest has to be circumcised.

But if the argument in the case of celibacy doesn't work because it's like the case of circumcision, then the argument doesn't work at all. It shouldn't lead to some sort of half-way position in which the "fullness" of ordination is reserved for the celibate. (We don't say bishops have to be circumcised, and anyway are we saying that bishops are somehow *more* other Christs than ordinary priests? I don't get that at all.)

Further, if the argument doesn't work in the one case (circumcision) but it does work in the other (maleness), then it must be that there is some way to distinguish between those characteristics that a priest must share with Christ to be an alter Christus, and those that don't have to be shared. My problem is that I don't have a clue what the criterion here is. Even worse, I don't know how that criterion could then be bent around to yield that priests can marry but bishops can't.

(Also, an aside: why is the episcopate the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders?)

Michael Kremer

OK, let me add -- I looked in the Catechism and found that the episcopate is indeed the fulness of Holy Orders, and I see why, too -- it has especially to do with apostolic succession and with the offices of teaching and ruling. But this doesn't seem to have to do so much with being an "alter Christus" to a greater degree, but rather with being a successor to the Apostles.

David Kubiak

I am astounded to read here such cavalier treatment of a holy counsel of Christianity that descends from the earliest history of the Church.

First, it is offensive and rude for an Eastern bishop to insult the clerical traditions of the West in the way he did. If the Latins behaved the same way towards his traditions what howling there would be. Once again, the Roman Church is cast as perennial doormat.

Second, if you want bogus theology, try the explanation for priestly marriage the bishop proposes. Married clergy in the East are an accomodation to concupiscence, plain and simple, as is demonstrated by the fact that all the bishops must be celibate.

Christianity is a remarkably ascetic religion viewed with the other major religions of the world. Its oldest orthodoxy holds that consecrated virginity opens up the possibility of reaching a higher state of sanctity than can be achieved in the married state. It is not an accident that married couples -- Jacques Maritain and his wife come to mind -- who experience a calling to more intimate union with God usually give up sexual union with each other.

Immoral priests and holy married couples do not affect the basic principle at all. If ever we needed the witness of men who are willing to give up natural pleasures for the sake of the Kingdom it is now. Abandoning celibacy as the Latin norm -- which I do not predict will happen in my lifetime -- far from saving the priesthood might in this sex-crazed era we live in destroy it.


David K. wrote:

"First, it is offensive and rude for an Eastern bishop to insult the clerical traditions of the West in the way he did. If the Latins behaved the same way towards his traditions what howling there would be. Once again, the Roman Church is cast as perennial doormat."

Conservatives just aren't happy unless they can portray themselves as virtuous victims surrounded by ignorant fools. The idea that the Roman Church is the "doormat" in the relationships between East and West is simply laughable.

Bravo to the Melkite Patriarch for noting the Emperor's lack of clothes!


David K. wrote:

"First, it is offensive and rude for an Eastern bishop to insult the clerical traditions of the West in the way he did. If the Latins behaved the same way towards his traditions what howling there would be. Once again, the Roman Church is cast as perennial doormat."

Conservatives just aren't happy unless they can portray themselves as virtuous victims surrounded by ignorant fools. The idea that the Roman Church is the "doormat" in the relationships between East and West is simply laughable.

Bravo to the Melkite Patriarch for noting the Emperor's lack of clothes!

Michael Kremer

David Kubiak thinks that "Married clergy in the East are an accomodation to concupiscence, plain and simple, as is demonstrated by the fact that all the bishops must be celibate."

This demonstrates a remarkably impoverished conception of marriage, and so also of the sacrifice involved in celibacy. Does Kubiak think that the only reason to marry is "concupiscence"? His view here runs dangerously close to the idea that sexuality is an evil, rather than a divinely ordained good. (As Augustine pointed out, that one thing is better than another, does not render the lesser thing evil. Else it would be incomprehensible why God created us as well as the angels, or indeed why God created anything at all.)

I believe Pope Benedict himself has characterized what is sacrificed by celibate priests as family life, not just sexuality.


Ian said:
"Theology is the study of God. If you have two 'theologies' that don't agree, do you violate the truth promulgated at the First Vatican Council that "God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth." Seems to be the case to me. Therefore, there cannot be disharmonious 'theologies' that have any validity. If there is disharmony, then one must be wrong."

Or they aren't really in opposition, and you are understanding them incorrectly.

If you asked me which hand holds a pencil, I'd say 'the right hand'. My brothers would both say 'the left hand'. Oh, no, contradiction! And what about the fact that we all use both hands to type?! Oh, the confusion of disciplines!

And yet, from God's perspective, there is no conflict. There are equally good reasons to write with the right hand or the left, just as there are good theological reasons to cross oneself the Western way or the Eastern. You can type with both hands at the same time, or write in Latin with one and Greek with the other, even.

If you make the non-ambidextrous lefties write with the right hand only, you will not only make writing more difficult and less legible. You will literally damage them neurologically. And the same thing would happen to the righties if you made them write with the left hand.

We who follow the Latin rite follow it for many reasons, and the same goes for the other rites. It is not less or more holy to have celibate priests. But the discipline of each rite is an important part of how they worship God and show their love for God, and it is as innate to most of us as being right or lefthanded. Some of us are ambidextrous and wouldn't much mind a changeover one way or another; but the vast majority of us would be deeply hurt.

Revelation says that each one of us will someday learn a name of God known to no other, just as each of us shows the world God working in each one of us as in nobody else in the history of the world. To force conformity where Christian freedom traditionally has been allowed is to wish to blot out many of the names of God. Those different ways are not confusing or unnecessary. They are God showing us His manifold glory!

What you choose to do -- and why -- depends on what God is telling you to do and has made you to do. This is why we have different but equally valid Church traditions, coming down from the time of the apostles. This is why we have bishops and discernment and all that good stuff. The Holy Spirit and His people (in the person of parents and teachers), looking at our capabilities, will let us know which valid method to choose and when.


More and more I think celibacy is required because of the hierarchy wanting nothing to get in the way of a Priest's OBEDIENCE to their Bishop. Nothing more, nothing less. Theology?, feh! That can be changed. There are too many blatant inconsistencies with this view (the protestant married convert) for this to be anything but an organizational demand.


Post scriptum:

The reason Latin rite people don't necessarily want to go to Confession to a non-celibate priest is not that they feel that the ordination is any less valid. It is that they are shy about confessing to a non-celibate priest. (As noted above, I sure would.)

Of course, as you came to get accustomed to married priests, the unspoken theological reasons would come to you, and Confession would become less shy-making.

I wouldn't want to discourage any ex-Protestant priests in this respect; and probably Jesus would be their aid in making things work. And of course the value that ex-Protestant priests have for former members of their denominations probably is enough in itself to make Catholic ordination perfectly theological and pastoral.

But ex-Protestant married priests are a sign, and an extraordinary exception. If you ask yourself honestly, you will see that cradle Catholic married Latin rite priests would probably be a sign of an entirely different nature -- a sign that celibacy was no longer valued in the Latin rite, and that anything now goes.

We aren't that desperate for priests.

I'd rather have no priests than give that proclamation to the world (which the world would take very eagerly, and trumpet, too).

But it won't come to that, because there are plenty of young priests coming in, and there will be more as we actually teach and proclaim the fullness of the Catholic faith (instead of the wimpy version our generation got in Catholic school). The Holy Spirit set the Latin Rite church up with celibacy, and the Holy Spirit isn't going to suddenly drop it in the year 2005.

(Probably. The Holy Spirit's tricky, so I better not presume to know the mind of God. But more than likely.)



>>>I posted above that Christ Himself freely chose twelve married men as His closest colaborators.

Acutally, St. John was not married.

Michael Kremer: Maleness is inborn; marital status and circumcision are not. Big difference there.

Thus maleness is essential to the alter Christus, in order to image Jesus' maleness. Marital status is not so essential; a married man can be ordained, while a woman cannot. Thus celibacy is not essential to the priesthood. Yet an unmarried man still images the celibate Christ more clearly than does a married man, so priestly celibacy imitates Christ better than a married priesthood. Fr. Frank's argument stands.

As for circumcision: Jesus had to be circumcized because He was a Jew born under the Mosaic Law (Gal 4:4). The New Testament makes it clear that circumcision has been superceded by baptism in the New Covenant, so it is no longer necessary. Though a priest must, of course, be baptized.

In Jesu et Maria,

Michael Kremer


I think you need more distinctions than you have.

You have:

Jesus was essentially male, so to be an alter Christus, you need to be male.

This seems to me like a workable line of argument, even if it does bring up all sorts of issues about what is essential and what is not. But you go on:

But Jesus wasn't essentially celibate or circumcised, so to be an alter Christus you don't need to be celibate or circumcised.

But Jesus was celibate, even if not essentially, so a celibate priest better images Christ than does a married priest.

I don't see why it doesn't follow that:
Jesus was circumcised, even if not essentially, so a circumcised priest better images Christ than does a non-circumcised priest.

Of course, circumcision was a religious requirement for Jesus, but isn't for us. That doesn't change the issue. You need a way to tell apart the non-essential characteristics of Christ that are relevant to imaging Christ from those that aren't. That some of them were religious requirements for Christ isn't enough. But since that point is muddying the waters, let me change the example.

What is wrong with any of the following arguments?

Jesus was born in Bethlehem/spoke Aramaic/ grew up in Nazareth/did not have a permanent home as an adult/never traveled more than 1000 miles from his birthplace/etc (even if all these are non-essential characteristics), so a priest born in Bethlehem/aramaic speaking/ etc better images Christ than does a non-circumcised priest.

To distinguish these from the case of celibacy you need some criterion for sorting out the non-essential characteristics into the relevant and irrelevant ones.

Michael Kremer

Oops -- the old cut and paste. My last set of examples should have been

Jesus was born in Bethlehem/spoke Aramaic/ grew up in Nazareth/did not have a permanent home as an adult/never traveled more than 1000 miles from his birthplace/etc (even if all these are non-essential characteristics), so a priest born in Bethlehem/aramaic speaking/ etc better images Christ than does a priest lacking these characteristics.

thomas tucker

For potential seminarians worried about a change in the rule of celibacy- why would that make you run in the opposite direction as tow of you discussed above? If your vocation is based on a tradition, that is potentially subject to change, and not on serving Jesus Christ, then you probably need to question your call. If celibacy is for you, fine, but if the discipline were to change, and the Lord called others who don't have the charism of celibacy- well, that shouldn't freak you out unless you are making some kind of fetish out of celibacy. If a change in this rule causes you to worry, then I worry, about you and your reasons for considering the priesthood.


"His line of penitents shrank dramatically, while the other line swelled.

Draw your own conclusions about the efficacy of priestly celibacy"

the only conclusion I can draw from this is what a poor example it is, and that really does not prove anything. I could mention a parish where the situation is reversed, what would that prove? or a retreat house where the married latin priest has the most people coming to him for direction? this type of reasoning is silly.

the only thing I have noticed over the years is that people look for men of deep spirituality. the parish i know where there is a married latin rite priest, people line up almost 30 min before confession starts because his line gets so long. there is a spainish priest (celibate) at another parish where this also happens, even though his accent is strong and it makes it hard to understand, he has such a strong presence of spirituality that he has the longest line. so my conclusion is that it has more to do with the holiness of the person.

in regards to the Patriarch "insulting" the latin rite, I think that is a little too judgemental? the eastern rite churches have a tradition of married priests, yet Rome has forced them to have only celibate priests in countries where they feel it might give scandal and confusion to the faithful to the latin rite faithful. I think if the situation was reversed, many latin bishops would follow the Patricarch's example.

again marriage is the sacrament that is to embody the love of Christ for his bride and her love for Christ. from reading comments like the ones on this blog, one could wonders if the greatness and the tremendous calling of this sacrament is really appreciated?

c matt

do the claims that "theological reasons exist" for it and "profound theological motives" are behind its practice implicitly place the Latin rite above the Melkite rite (in which these things would be missing)?

To say reasons/motives exist for practice A does not mean practice A is compelled. That's all Scola was saying, and he was correct. There is plenty of scriptural support for celibacy as a holy way of life. That does not mean it is the ONLY way to become holy, and no one ever said that. Laham was just flat out wrong to say there is no theological foundation for celibate priesthood - he could have said it is not theologically compelled, but he can not say there is no theological basis for it (which, according to the quote is what he actually said). As others have pointed out, if the Eastern churches place no special importance on celibacy, why must their bishops only come from the celibate ranks?

thomas tucker

Yes, and maybe the Eastern churches have it right- both a married, and a celibate priesthood.

c matt

If a change in this rule causes you to worry, then I worry, about you and your reasons for considering the priesthood.

Not even thinking about the seminary, but it would seem that the concern would be that the Church is lowering the bar to get greater numbers rather than quality. For example, if Harvard changed its policies to allow anyone who has a high school diploma and can correctly count to three to have a Harvard degree, the Harvard degree would be less valuable, even to those who could have earned it the previous way. When there is less sacrifice involved, there is less value in what is gained for the sacrifice. If I could become a super athlete by simply swallowing a pill rather than working out 3 hours a day, there is less value in being the athlete. Whether that is fair or not, it is simply reality (also, you never really heard much about the Twelve's families after they were called, and in fact, The Call implied they were to abandon everything and follow Christ).

c matt

What do you mean "right"? It is just different. And I don't think Scola said they had it wrong, they just have it different. Is being ambidextrious "right" and being only right or left handed "wrong"?



If there were anything inherently superior about the Aramaic tongue, a Bethlehem birthplace, a Nazorean upbringing or limited travel, then perhaps the Church would have considered promoting priests with these particular characteristics.

Consecrated celibacy is inherently superior to marriage.

Marriage is an impediment (actually, irregularity) to receiving Orders in the Latin Rite. Other impediments include having committed homicide, self-mutilation or attempted suicide, being born out of wedlock, alcoholism, celiac disease, and now homosexual inclination. These impediments do not make Orders invalid, and so they are not "essential" to the Sacrament. Nonetheless, they were instituted for profound theological reasons and/or practical reasons based on experience.

His Beatitude, if in fact he made a remark stating simply that "celibacy has no theological foundation", would thus to be in error. I doubt this is a fair quote of his, however.

Susan Peterson

I am really curious why people would feel shy to confess to a married priest. Can you who feel this way explain it?

I would think it would be easier to talk about sexual issues to a person who presumably was engaged in sexual relations. With a celibate priest unless you know him well as a person, you don't know if he ever has, you don't know how he feels about women, you don't know if what you say is too graphic for him, etc. It is pretty damn difficult for a woman to confess masturbation to a man at all, whether married or not, but if I had a choice I'd chose a married priest, I think. At least, thinking of my husband's pastor, I can imagine him in that role. The one Episcopalian priest I confessed to before becoming Catholic had led a mostly celibate life, so I didn't really have a chance to find out. I do know that I worried greatly at times in the past about what effect my sexual sins and questions about marital practices would have on what I imagined was the tender mind and spirit of the poor celibate, especially if he was young. When I was young my feelings that this was an attractive young man, and were my motives for saying this entirely pure? worried me...and when I got older I imagined that such a young man would be disgusted by the thought of an old bat like me with such feelings.... I managed to overcome all this...but it certainly makes me wonder why anyone would actually prefer to confess to a celibate.

I honor them for what they have given up for God and to minister to us, and see why that witness is important. A holy marriage is also a witness and I would also happily live in a church where diocesan priests could marry. (There should also be monks, of course, hopefully in such a way that they were visible to the faithful.) Just as some fail in celibacy some would fail in having holy marriages. Both patterns have worked well in some situations and at some times. I think we have to trust that the Holy Spirit working in the Church will lead it to what is best for these times.

Susan Peterson


Susan, I would not buy the claim that people are unwilling to confess to married clerics. That's not borne out by experience:

1)Most Protestant ministers are married. While they do not hear sacramental confessions, they sure hear confessions, and are privy to people's most private thoughts. I don't think those Protestant ministers are sitting in empty offices with no one coming to see them.

2)Most therapists are married, and I sincerely doubt most people think twice about inquiring about the marital status of their counselor, psychologist or other kind of therapist.

Michael Kremer


Your argument is different from Fr. Frank's, to which I was responding.

I did not say there were no arguments in favor of reserving the episcopate for celibates. My examples concerned specifically the claim that celibacy is required to be fully "another Christ". Maleness is required (so it's argued) because it is essential to Christ, not because it is superior to femaleness (it isn't, though some in the Church have thought so). The argument now takes another twist, namely that celibacy is required not because it is essential to Christ, but because it is inherently superior to marriage.

Well, let's just grant that consecrated celibacy is superior to marriage. What about other traits of Christ that are arguably superior to their alternatives? Voluntary poverty is superior to wealth, in my view, but not all priests take vows of poverty, nor is wealth an impediment to ordination. So, why don't we have an argument here that bishops should take a vow of voluntary poverty, if not all priests?

Sue T.

I read an article once by a liberal theologian who was in favor of a married priesthood simply because he thought celibacy was weird. He argued that celibates were "spiritually immature" and that marriage would automatically make someone a more suitable candidate for the priesthood.

I disagree with this (of course) and, luckily, the pro-married priesthood people on this blog don't seem to have this view. However, I think it's out there among the faithful. This isn't surprising considering our highly sexualized culture.

As a single woman trying to live chastely, I appreciate the good example of many celibate priests.


Re: confession to married priests

I don't know why the very idea makes me feel uncomfortable, any more than I know why my right hand shoots out to pick stuff up. But it does. (And just because it's an inchoate thing doesn't mean it's not real and justified.)

I suppose in some ways... well, think about being a little kid. You and the other kids around you aren't particularly interested in boy and girl stuff yet, but all the older kids and adults are. They do all kinds of crazy stuff. Heck, even Mommy and Daddy do. Not that it's a bad thing, but it permeates the world.

The only people other than little kids who aren't involved in all this boy and girl stuff are the priests and the nuns. That's part of why you, as little kids, can trust them to be sensible and give you good advice.

(This is not to say that Mommy, Daddy, and all the other folks in the world couldn't give you good advice also. This is not to say that at all.) :)

But when I went to my first Confession (or Penance, or Reconciliation, or whatever it officially was that year), I thought of the priest as someone who'd stepped outside that mysterious storm that so occupied all the grownups. I suspect that in many ways, I still do.

So the theological thing here would be, the priest is like Christ and God in that he is outside all that. The theological meaning of the Eastern rite married priest would be that God is more like a father or a married man, which is also well inside our tradition of the Covenant. (And my own dad is a very good imitation of Christ in this way, I'm proud to say.) Both these things are true. I have no problem with them both being true.

But my feelings and instincts necessarily come from the way I was raised and the rite I was raised in.

Zhou De-Ming

A few comments the next morning...

Especially for Mary Kay:
My comments on the previous thread (Sep 28) that you referenced were intended to demonstrate that, on the global scale, it is the heterosexual transgressions of the "celibate" Roman Catholic priesthood that far outnumber the homosexual transgressions that are of such concern in the US today. I was not discussing whether or not celibacy is good or bad or required or optional, but that excluding gays from the priesthood will not solve the larger, global problems of heterosexual sins of Catholic priests. It was not "about priests marrying and/or fathering a child (in the US)," but about whether or not banning gays from the seminaries (and thus, eventually, from the priesthood) was the solution to The Problem. I contend that the problem is not one of sexual orientation, but of sexual activity in a priesthood where, allegedly "[c]lerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Can. 277.1).

Especially for Maureen, who wants to know how I think. I think it is important to get our terms straight and not confuse them.

1. Chastisty or sin.
2. Celibacy or marriage.
3. Continence or sexual activity.

1. Chastity, proper action in regard to our sexuality, is in opposition to sin, such as fornication (if unmarried), adultery (if married), whether in the body or the heart, whether between persons of same or different gender. You are either practicing chastity or you are practicing sin.

2. Celibacy or marriage are states of being. Every human being is one or the other (not both). Celibacy is commonly known as "single." I don't like the term "celibacy optional" because it confuses that there is only one option: marriage. You are one or the other, always, while you are in this life. Priests can be either, although the custom in the Latin Church is for priests to be celibate, mostly.

3. Continence is the absence (as gift) or suspension (as disciplne) of sexual desires and actions, as opposed to sexual activity, of the heart or the body. Every human being not married (i.e. celibate) is called to "perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Those who are married may engage in sexual activity, although this may or may not be out of purity of heart. Married couples may also practice continence, and this is, indeed, the higher path of practice to which all are called eventually.

That is how I think.

I don't really care whether or not bishops ordain celibate or married me to the priesthood, or if those ordained marry. However, I am concerned about the all-too-common lack of discipline in the priesthood regarding those priests who are not chaste, more concerned for the heterosexual situation than the homosexual situation. And, if in reality a celibate priesthood cannot also be a chaste priesthood, then I think we should have more married priests who manage to live and grow in a healthier understanding of their sexuality, many of whom will, I believe, through marriage grow to a more "perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."

Zhou De-Ming

Another distinction which I think is important to this discussion:

Monastic or Diocesan.

Celibacy is great for monks and nuns living apart from the world in single sex communities; also for hermit and anchorites living in solitude. I would never want to see a monastery of married monks--that would seem more like an apartment complex!

But I don't think celibacy is great for diocesan clergy living in and among the people in the world.

Through the history of the Church the tide has gone up and down regarding how "monastic" the diocesan life should be. It has been going down steadily since Vatican II.

No more do diocesan clergy have the obligation of the "monastic office" with one week Psalter. Spending so much time in chanting and praying did not fit practically with all their active, pastoral obligations.

No more do diocesan clergy live in well organized communities of several priests, like a monastic community. Many live in near isolation in spacious but rather empty suburban rectories, and never want to be "alone at home."

I feel that opening the way for diocesan clergy to marry and have kids is just another step to making the diocesan clergy less monastic. Get a wife and kids in those empty rectories, now that it is not full of several priests, and that way the father Father will also be more inclined to be at home instead of out visiting, having dinners, going to concerts and movies and sport events, and people might actually be able to find him if they need help.

For those interested in religious, celibate life, I say more power to you! Many religious orders need you!

But the diocesan clergy is not monastic.


I'm really enjoying this discussion!

First, I'll throw in that since "presbyter" is Greek for priest and means "elder", your vast majority of priests back in the day may well have been beyond having any problems with continence and celibacy, married or no. (Another reason why little kids and really old people get along so well.) Also, this discussion hasn't taken into account just how much more important and visible that monks are in the Eastern churches.

Anyway. Back to the rites. It occurs to me that there may be a sort of complementarity at work in our theology and our ideas of what priests should be, in all the rites.

Somewhere in my head is this idea that a priest is someone who's been set apart, not only by ordination but by his vow of celibacy. But my idea of Christ is of someone suffering beside us, and my idea of the saints is of people close by and active in our midst.

Meanwhile, it's fairly clear that the Eastern churches are very concerned with God as Mystery and unapproachable Light, with Christ as Emperor, and with the saints as... well, look at the icons. But tons of the priests are married, and the priest's wife makes stuff for the bake sale.

(This may also apply to ministers and ministers' wives in many of the Protestant denominations, actually. It may also reflect why being a Preacher's Kid is apparently so bloody difficult. A kid doesn't usually want to be forced to be a role model or an image of the saints simply by virtue of birth.)

Tom Kelty

Why are they arguing about celibacy during a Synod on the Eucharist? It seems to me that the obvious reason is that sooner than we think, the Eucharist will become a rare event due to lack of celebrants. I go to Mass several times weekly in a Parish of 1,000 families in upstate NY. I read the diocesan paper. No matter how you cut it, our clergy are aging and using every allowable tactic to serve parishioners who were raised when there was no lack of ordained ministers. Nothing can replace the Eucharist as given to us by Christ. The Synod has every reason to be concerned about the shrinking number of clergy. Making celibacy optional in the Latin Rite would be only a very small step toward restoring the priesthood to its original status. Everyone should be encouraged to practice celibacy for spiritual motives, for brief periods or for a lifetime, even married people. But celibacy should not be a sine qua non for the celebration of the Eucharist. "As it was in the beginning, is now (in many rites) and ever shall be (please God)

Chris Jones

I would like to clear up a misconception about episcopal "celibacy" in the Eastern Churches.

The requirement in the Eastern Churches is not that a man who is to be ordained bishop must be unmarried. The requirement is that he be a monk. The fact that he is unmarried is a consequence of his monastic profession, not a requirement in itself.

The reason for the requirement is not that marriage somehow taints a man and makes him unsuitable for the episcopal office. The reason is that the monk who has renounced the world is more likely to have a deeper spiritual life and a greater mastery of the passions, which in turn will make him more sober, self-denying, and dispassionate as a chief pastor of the Church. Not that this works every time, but it makes it more likely.

If there were such a thing as "married monasticism", a married monk would be just as suitable for the episcopate as a celibate. And an unmarried priest who has spent his entire career living "in the world" is just as unsuitable for the episcopate as a married priest is.

Unfortunately, in many Orthodox Churches (I can't speak about Eastern Catholic Churches), the rule is often honored more in the breach than the observance. Celibate priests who have lived their entire lives in the world are routinely chosen as bishops, and professed and tonsured as monks a few days before their episcopal ordination. They are "monks" who have never lived in a monastery.

Nevertheless, it is monastic status, not celibacy per se, that the canons require.

Zhou De-Ming

I might mention that Protestants have clergy which may or may not be married, and they also have celibate monastic communities, for example the Anglican Order of the Holy Cross, the Society of St. John the Evangelist, etc.

Perhaps, just as the Protestants have re-discovered the value of the celibate, monastic form of Christian life, the Roman Catholics may become more open to married diocesan priests (to go along with all those married diocesan deacons!).


So why not a call for nuns or sisters (there's a difference) to marry, to fill the near-empty convents? Teaching and nursing orders are just as much "in the world" as diocesan priests, if not more so. Two sisters that teach at the local Catholic school live off-campus (off-convent?) in their own apartment. They have their own cars, their own salaries, their own social lives. Why shouldn't they marry, too? (I think they'd prefer to be married to other women, but that's a different argument.)

Zhou De-Ming

Dear KH, many of them have left religious life and married.

Again, the distinction should be between diocesan (primarily apostolic, in the world) and monastic (apart from the world, cloistered).

My own opinion, which matters less than a frog croak in a hidden stream, is that it was the push to "monasticize" the entire Church which caused a lot of these problems.

There is, really, no reason in modern society for a woman who wants to teach or provide health care of social work to be a sister. In our modern world a woman is free to be active, pursuing her vocation, single or married. But, if a woman is really called to a celibate life of prayer and contemplation in a closed community, then she should probably get to the convent.

I have had discussions with monastic nuns about this, and why their communities are NOT declining. It is because their mission is prayer, contemplation, living in community, in short, monasticism, not active apostolate of teaching or health care or social work.

Again I say that celibacy is great for monastics, for hermits and anchorites, for those living in closed single sex communites or in solitude, living a life of prayer and contemplation and retreat from the world. But for those called to active, apostolic life of active ministry, social justice work, care for the poor and the sick, these folks should be able to marry if they wish.

The number of religious sisters in the US dropped from 179,954 in 1965 to 68,634 in 2005, a drop of 62%, with no signs of any recovery in the future; most of those 68,634 are very old.

I would also say that because: (1) bishops really don't care as much about the loss of sisters as the loss of priests and (2) your average Catholic is much less impacted by Sr. Joan leaving her order and going to work and/or marriage than Fr. Joe, that there is less concern about the dramatic drop in the population of sisters. Most Catholic hospitals higher non-religious staff; most Catholic schools hire non-religious staff; etc. They have been shown to be non-essential in our modern world.

Except for the monastic sisters, the nuns, who really focus on a life of contemplation and prayer in community. They will always be greatly needed.

Zhou De-Ming

Another monastic-diocesan distinction. Monks (and, similarly, cloistered nuns) do not own private property. Diocesan clergy, on the other hand, do not take a vow of poverty, are free to make or inherit wealth, and some are quite wealthy.


Yes, most Catholic hospitals and school hire non-religious staff and I believe it's been a disaster for our society. See, I think that the average Catholic was extremely impacted now that they no longer have teaching sisters in the Catholic schools. Think of what we've lost, in our culture and tradition now that there are only lay teachers. Think of what we no longer have in the hospitals; what kind of antidote to the anti-life people running the hospitals would they be, if they existed like they used to? I don't know for sure, but aren't the Dominican Sisters of Nashville a teaching order? And aren't they doing well with vocations? I know this talk of nuns/sisters is off-topic, but marrying everyone off doesn't seem to be the panacea that some might think it is.

If you wanted to argue to expand the availability of your average Catholic man who thinks he might have a calling to the priesthood and married life to enter into an Eastern Catholic seminary, then I can agree with that approach. It's what we already do; it already exists. Perhpas it just needs to be marketed better. But like I said yesterday, the Eastern Catholic seminaries aren't full, not by a long shot.


Oh, so there's no room in the modern world for sisters to be both active and live a deeply spiritual life, unless they marry.

Yeah. I'm sure that Mother Teresa and her ever-growing crew would be surprised at that. Not to mention the Sisters of Life; the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; the Nashville Dominicans; the....

Why is it so hard to think that one might want to serve the world and vow oneself solely to Jesus? What's the disadvantage here? You get it all (except sex), as well as having other people around who share the same challenge.

Or are all the women who don't want to marry but feel no call to the cloisters, every single one of them, supposed to live as consecrated virgins? I mean, that's an attractive life, too, but it's a lot easier to face challenges if you can watch what other people in the same situation do, instead of having to email your mailing list and hope. And your local church would have to keep a very keen eye on you as you grew older, instead of just receiving what you needed as part of sisterly life.

I've said it before and I've said it again -- we have diverse forms of vocations because they all work differently for different people. Even within a single form of vocation, the charisms of orders are different. Even within the same order, the charisms of different communities are different. Even within one community, every individual is different. God does not call us as a monolith, and I am appalled to see people calling for wholesale abolition of forms when in fact even the most ancient, obscure, and neglected forms (like consecrated virgins, hermits, and anchorites) seem to be reviving and thriving.

The numbers of religious we have now are the fallout of 1963. The numbers of religious coming in now are the fallout of the reforms of 1978, and they will continue to increase as the years go by.

The wind has changed, and those black sails aren't corsairs.

Zhou De-Ming

Both KH and Maureen mention the Dominican Sister of St. Cecial Congregation in Nashville. This is primarily a contemplative community.

The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, another community in Dominican tradition, were founded in horarium is monastic. There two apostolates are retreats (the monastic tradition of hospitality), and teaching in two local schools.

Sisters of Life is also basically contemplative, and new: "The Sisters of Life is a contemplative/ active religious community of women founded in 1991..." They are, basically, monastic in their lifestyle:

A rich, joyful and generous common life is essential to us, for, in the words of our Founder, “a call to the Sisters of Life is a call to holiness through community.” Community life is the first place where Sisters live the charism of reverence for every human life.
Because we don’t watch television or use the internet in the convent, Sisters are able to spend recreation time with each other and are often spotted en masse on the walking, rollerblading and bike paths near our convents (quite a scene!). Above all, though, our common life is a pledge of mutual prayer and encouragement as we walk together on this pilgrimage of faith.
This is even more clear from their horarium:
Four hours a day is spent in common prayer (see horarium). Sisters also spend time each day in spiritual reading. All the convents reserve each Friday and one Sunday a month as prayer days spent in silence with extended hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.


Though apostolic needs may require local convents to re-arrange the general horarium below, all houses follow this outline:

5:00 am Rise
5:30 am Common Prayer - Office of Readings/ Morning Prayer/ Meditation
6:45 am Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
7:30 am Breakfast (silent with reading)
8:30 am-12:00 noon Apostolate (common silence kept)
12:00 noon Midday prayer
12:30 pm Lunch (silence broken)
1:30- 2:30 pm Personal recreation
2:30 - 5:00 pm Apostolate
5:00 pm Eucharistic Holy Hour - Rosary/ 45 minute meditation/ Vespers
6:45 pm Supper (silent with reading)
7:30 pm Community recreation
8:15 pm Compline
Grand Silence after Compline

As I said, contemplative, monastic-style communities are growing.


And I never said that a woman must marry if not religiouus. On the contrary, I know many non-religous, celibate woman who have a very fulfilling life loving and serving God and neighbor.

But I say again: it is not wise to try to "force" the diocesan clergy into a monastic lifestyle (celibacy, monastic prayer life and spirituality, including monastic office, poverty, etc.)

Zhou De-Ming

Sorry, mangled the HTML on Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Founded February 1997, now up to 43 members.

A contemplative, monastic style community in the Dominican tradition.



Thank you for your clarity and thoughtful posts.

fr. frank

Wow. Lot of good stuff here. Hard to keep up. Let me see if I can summarize and respond to various remarks my comments have raised.

By embracing "apostolic celibacy" for the sake of the kingdom of God, a priest has a more perfect configuration with Christ who, after all, was celibate. People look for Christ in a priest; they look for faith, and they look for holiness. Granted, all these traits can be found in a married person. But by renouncing marriage -- as Christ did -- a man can more effectively lay down his life for the others and be the good shepherd for everyone. This is not just a discipline; it's much more.

For a celibate priest, his first love, his most important love, is Christ. But for a married priest, his first concern must -- in all justice -- be for his wife and children. St. Paul wrote: "I would have you free from care. He who is unmarried is concerend 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" (1 Cor 7:32-33)

I think St. Paul was on to something. I really do. He became so configured with Christ that he had the stigmata. So did Padre Pio. (And yes, so did St. Catherine of Siena.)

fr. frank

Michael Kremer wrote: "So, why don't we have an argument here that bishops should take a vow of voluntary poverty, if not all priests?"

Let me be the first to second that motion.

under the dome


your arguments are indeed thoughtful and well-reasoned.

However, I am still not even close to being convinced that doing away with clerical celibacy -- if even only for diocesan priests -- is the solution to the problem of declining numbers of priests. If you examine the numbers of diocesan priests in those dioceses which are generally considered to be more orthodox (a big generalization, but you get the picture), they all have an upward trend in the numbers of entering and ordained seminarians. This trend starts in each diocese whenever an orthodox bishop is installed who does not tolerate dissent from the views of the Holy See. Young men are moving across the country just so that they can be ordained in these dioceses (I know several), and all you have to do is look at their numbers to see that this is true. Specifically, I am talking about dioceses like Lincoln, Omaha, Arlington, Denver, St. Louis, and Birmingham. Conversely, in dioceses that are obstinately heterodox, numbers are at an all-time low. Every concession to dissidents who are not likely to seriously consider a religious vocation in the first place does nothing but push more young men and women who are away from doing so. It is not an abandonment of celibacy that will spark an increase in numbers, it is a return to orthodoxy. Anyone who attempts to argue otherwise does so on the basis of highly emotional appeals and not appeals based on empirical evidence.

To further expand on the point I made in my above post, let me lay out the beauty of celibacy as I see it:

It is said that the only way humans achieve immortality is through their children. Indeed, the desire to procreate is the basis of a large part of our human instinct. When one surrenders that immortality, it is a sign of complete and utter abandonment to God's will. It is one acknowledging that they have only one life to live and vowing to live it for God. When they die, their offering to the world will be the good works they have done in service to God and in the name of Christ, as opposed to the children they have created. Neither path is necessarily better than the other, they are just different. Just as one cannot live in absolute committment to his wife and family if they are at the same time married to another woman, a man cannot give himself wholly and utterly to God if he is beholden to a wife. He must be wed to the Church and love Her as he would a woman, selflessly and without reservation.

This, anyway, is how I view celibacy, and why I cannot fathom a priesthood without it.

fr. frank

Hey, "under the dome": here, here!

Zhou De-Ming

Dear "Under the Dome,"

Might I suggest that you take a couple of courses in New Testament?

It is said that the only way humans achieve immortality is through their children.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (Jn 3:14-15)

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day...whoever eats this bread will live forever. (Jn 6:54, 58b)

When one surrenders that immortality, it is a sign of complete and utter abandonment to God's will. It is one acknowledging that they have only one life to live and vowing to live it for God.

None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. (Rom. 14:7-8)

He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:15)

When they die, their offering to the world will be the good works they have done in service to God and in the name of Christ, as opposed to the children they have created.

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2)

[I would also point out that many, many people die without leaving children behind who are not celibate clergy...do you say their life is meaningless?]

Just as one cannot live in absolute committment to his wife and family if they are at the same time married to another woman, a man cannot give himself wholly and utterly to God if he is beholden to a wife. He must be wed to the Church and love Her as he would a woman, selflessly and without reservation.

For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you, on condition that a man be blameless, married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious. For a bishop as God's steward must be blameless... (Titus 1:5-7a)

This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God? (1 Tim 3:1-5)

You (and Fr. Frank) seem to hold to traditions that exalt some ideal of the priesthood (and celibacy) and look down upon mere mortals in married life.

I can assure you that married men and women are quite capable of giving themselves wholly to the service of God, of the Church, and at the same time taking care of family and household and community.

Or have you never seen what the laity have done?


no one says "to do away with celibacy". those called to celibacy would live it as priests or religious if they have the vocation to celibacy. to accept married men into the priesthood is not the same as saying one wants to do away with celibacy. anyway, this debate has been decided since the latin rite does accept married men into the priesthood. the debate now would be if they want to accept other married men that do not fit the current regulations.

if one is only keeping celibacy for some legal reason, or some status (comparing it to a havard degree?) i think they need a much deeper understanding of it.

the primary reason for celibacy (there are other valid ones as noted in this discussion) is to be an eschatological sign of the kingdom and this is why in both the east and west evangelical celibacy is essential to the monastic life.


no one says "to do away with celibacy". those called to celibacy would live it as priests or religious if they have the vocation to celibacy. to accept married men into the priesthood is not the same as saying one wants to do away with celibacy. anyway, this debate has been decided since the latin rite does accept married men into the priesthood. the debate now would be if they want to accept other married men that do not fit the current regulations.

if one is only keeping celibacy for some legal reason, or some status (comparing it to a havard degree?) i think they need a much deeper understanding of it.

the primary reason for celibacy (there are other valid ones as noted in this discussion) is to be an eschatological sign of the kingdom and this is why in both the east and west evangelical celibacy is essential to the monastic life.



>>>I don't see why it doesn't follow that:
Jesus was circumcised, even if not essentially, so a circumcised priest better images Christ than does a non-circumcised priest.

When you bring up circumcision, you open up a whole theological can-of-worms. Circumcision is not just an operation, it was the sign of the Old Covenant - an "Old Testament sacrament." Jesus was circumcised because He was "born under the Law" (Gal 4:4). He had to do it in order to be counted among the people of Israel.

Circumcision is no longer the sign of the covenant. Baptism - the spiritual "circumcision" of the New Covenant (Col 2:11-12), has replaced it. So Catholic priests have to be baptized, but not circumcised. Baptism is the new circumcision, so to speak.

While Jesus was born under the Law, Catholic priests, like all Christians, are not under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). Therefore they need not be circumcised.

In Jesu et Maria,


Re: Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

A contemplative, monastic community that runs several schools.

Oh, no active ministry there. Yup, them sisters just sit there in their cells at one with God, while the angels mind the chirren and teach them their ABCs, miles away.


Okay, that was a cheap shot.

The point is that contemplation enhances and feeds an active ministry. This was exactly the point behind Mother Teresa saying that you should pray an hour every day, and if things got busy, you should get up earlier and pray more than an hour. This is true for everyone, but it is even more true for religious -- and for priests. Which was the whole point of breviaries and the Hours and all that.

Zhou De-Ming

Well, this thread has not yet gone to its eschatological home, so I'll add another comment.

Actually, our eschatological destination is celibacy, for all of us, because there is no married state in the resurrection (cf. Mt 22:30; Mk. 12:25; Lk. 20:33-36; also "Theology of the Body" General Audiences of Pope John Paul II in late 1981). Marriage only exists in this life, not in eternal life in resurrection.

Numerous ecclesial writers making the eschatological case for clerical celibacy are strong to proclaim: In the kingdom of heaven there will be no more marriage!

Of course, in the resurrection neither will there be ordination, or the need of priests to function as "alter Christus" as we will be united with Jesus Christ our High Priest in praise and worship. (Ecclesial writers seem less keen on point this out.) No more need of priestly ministry that is "until He comes again."

It would seem, then, that it is actually the celibate, lay monks and nuns living a contemplative life in community, rather than priests, that most image our eternal destiny and God's eternal will for us and the entire Church, the Bride of Christ. Pope John Paul II expressed this in Verbi Sponsa:

The nuptial dimension belongs to the whole Church, but consecrated life is a vivid image of it, since it more clearly expresses the impulse towards the Bridegroom.

In a still more significant and radical way, the mystery of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with the Lord is expressed in the vocation of cloistered nuns, precisely because their life is entirely dedicated to God, loved above all else, in a ceaseless straining towards the heavenly Jerusalem and in anticipation of the eschatological Church confirmed in the possession and contemplation of God. Their life is a reminder to all Christian people of the fundamental vocation of everyone to come to God; and it is a foreshadowing of the goal towards which the entire community of the Church journeys, in order to live for ever as the Bride of the Lamb.

fr. frank

Zhou wrote- "You (and Fr. Frank) seem to hold to traditions that exalt some ideal of the priesthood (and celibacy) and look down upon mere mortals in married life."

I think you read too much into our comments. Priestly celibacy does not give a person a corner on holiness. Holiness is available for everyone, regardless of their state in life and it remains the ideal for everyone. I never look down on married folks and know from direct experience their awesome holiness when they are open to life and trust in God. It is worth noting that many vocations to the priesthood come from such families.

Then you wrote: "I can assure you that married men and women are quite capable of giving themselves wholly to the service of God, of the Church, and at the same time taking care of family and household and community."

I don't think so. I can not imagine doing what I do as a priest -- with the endless hours at the service of others on the drop of a dime -- and being married at the same time with a wife and children to care for. My family would suffer and that would be an injustice to them. The way I see it, it's one or the other.

The exception for married clergy in the Latin Church is an accomodation "in favor of the faith" (if you will) to help these men convert to the Catholic faith and maintain their livelihood. It is a completely exceptional situation.

The married clergy in the early Church ("a bishop should be married once")is easy to understand: celibacy was not yet practiced. The Church needed to develop, and it needed sacred ministers. Yet priestly celibacy has apostolic origins and is rooted in the teachings of Christ. (cf. Alfons Stickler's work on the subject.)

Zhou De-Ming

Dear Maureen,

Re: Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

43 sisters.
3 schools, NOT staffed by just the sisters.

The staff of the first school is described:

The students themselves are thrilled with the school in which they are taught by the Sisters of Mary, the Benedictine Sisters under the leadership of Mother Regina Mary, a memberof the Ann Arbor based Servant’s of God’s Love, and various multitalented and very dedicated lay men and women. Daily Mass, monthly Confessions, and First-Friday Eucharistic Adoration are made possible by Fr. Roger Chikri, a priest of the Maronite Rite from Lebanon.

And, the description of the third school:

Like the smell of a new car, this school is as fresh as a school could ever be, from the smiling faces of the children to the eight enthusiastic staff members that are manning this great ship. Mr. Robert Ouellette, the principal, comes from Canada every day, bringing with him two other teachers who reside in Windsor, Mrs. Mary Cincurak who teaches at Via Sacra and Mrs. Susanna Orcsik, who is the first and second grade teacher at Golfside. Mrs. Sharon Hayward teaches the Kindergarten class; Miss Angela Dougaveto, the third and fourth grades; Miss Angela Austin, the fifth and sixth grades; Mr. Michael Thiefels is the gym teacher and building manager; Mrs. Maricela Torres is the Spanish teacher and finally, Mr. Patty Palmer, our secretary. The school is also affectionately known as Spiritus Sanctus Zoo as it has a bird, a snake, three hermit crabs, a caterpillar, a lizard and a frog.

The professed sisters have "apostolate" on their schedule from 7:30am to 4:00pm, a typical work day.

But they all get up at 5:00am for Eucharist Holy Hour and Mass before breakfast, and end the day with Spiritual Reading, Vespers, Rosary, Dinner, Communty Recreation, more Spiritual Reading, Compline, Salve Regina and Silence after 8:00pm.

This is basically a monastic schedule.
Monks work. Monasteries are supposed to be financially self supporting. Ora et labora and all that.


The Greek text of the New Testament and the earliest Latin versions make it quite clear that the clergy have the right granted by God to marry (even after ordination) and to take their wives around with them:

Me ouk ekomen exousian phagein kai pein? Me ouk ekomen exousian adelphen yunaika periagein hoos kai hoi loipoi apostoloi kai hoi adelphoi tou kuriou kai Kephas? E monos ego kai Barnabas ouk ekomen exousian me ergazesthai? (Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece) I Cor IX 4-6.
'Are we not allowed to eat and drink? Are we not allowed to take a sister (=catholic woman, as opposed to a non-believer) around as a wife, as do the both the rest of the apostles and the brethren of the Lord and Cephas? Or am I alone and Barnabas not allowed to do this?

This passage was rendered by St Jerome in his (Latin) Vulgate, thus:

numquid non habemus potestatem manducandi et bibendi numquid non habemus potestatem sororem mulierem circumducendi sicut et ceteri apostoli et fratres Domini et Cephas aut solus ego et Barnabas non habemus potestatem hoc operandi
The Latin is a direct translation from the Greek. The English is therefore the same for both.

That it is correctly understood that the above passages refer to the apostolic right of the clergy to marry is shown from the church fathers:

Tertullian, oldest witness to this text, says in De exhortatione castitatis 8: Licebat apostolis nubere et uxores circumducere...

'It was permitted the apostles to marry and take their wives with them.'

Clement of Alexandria, in his Paedogogos II,1,9, places the 'being accompanied by a wife', on the same basis as 'eating and drinking' (i.e. what we today call a NATURAL right). In his Stromateis III,6,52, he even thinks it possible to infer from Philippians 4:3 that Paul himself was married, but unaccompanied by a wife. He cites the above passage from Corinthians as an indication of this. Although we know St Paul was not married, St Clement's writing is useful, because it shows how in the second century it was understood by I Cor IX 5 that the apostles were married men who took their wives on their journeys from the Holy Land to evangelize the world.

Eusebius of Caesarea in his Historia Ecclesiastica III,31,2-3 tells us that the apostle St Philip had three daughters, and in III,20,1-5 tells us that the grandsons of Judas Thaddeus were sent to Rome for martyrdom, but sent back when the judges saw their calloused hands.

St Hilary of Poitiers refers to the above passage of Corinthians as evidence that the apostles were married in his Tractatus in Psalmos.

A much later witness to the church's conviction that the apostles were married is found in Pope Leo IX in his letter to Abbot Niketas 1054, found in the Decretum Gratiani D.32c11 in which he admits that priests have the right to marry: 'Episcopus vel presbiter uxorem propriam a sua cura non abiciat...' (Let a bishop or priest not thrust away his own wife from his responsibility to her) in which he quotes the passage from Corinthians above as proof that the apostles were able to marry:

Sic et sanctos apostolos legimus egisse, B. Paulo apostolo dicente: 'Numquid non habemus potestatem...' (Thus also we read the holy apostles to have done, since the Blessed apostle Paul says, 'Are we not permitted...').
He then goes on to deny that they actually had sexual relations:
Vide, insipiens, quia non dixit: numquid non habemus potestatem sororem mulierem 'amplectendi'? sed 'circumducendi'... (See, idiot, that he does not say: are we not permitted to have sex [amplectendi] with a catholic woman as a wife? but 'to go around with her' [circumducendi].
This is, of course, an extremely weak argument for the proposition that the apostles ceased to have marital relations with their wives after their ordination (or to be more accurate, episcopal consecration). Thus, the evidence of Scripture and the infallible ordinary magisterium of the church is that the clergy certainly have an apostolic right to marry. Now, the preface to the New Code of Canon Law expressly states:

Officium episcoporum cum potestatibus adnexis est iuris divini. (The office of bishop together with the powers attached to it are of divine right).

Besides, Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Casti Connubii quoting Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum states that 'No human law can take away from man the original human right to marry'. But the Church calls its celibacy regulation 'ecclesiastica regula' (an ecclesiastical rule) in Lateran II and 'lex ecclesiastica' at Trent. These are both species of human law. Thus, this rule and ecclesiastical law contradict both the teaching of Leo XIII and the Code of Canon Law, and Canon 199,1 states that rights and duties of positive and natural divine law never expire...

Misrepresentation of scripture shows the lack of good faith involved. If there were such a strong case in favour of compulsory priestly celibacy in Divine Revelation, why resort to deceit??

No amount of arguing that a certain thing might be 'appropriate' can prove that something else is thereby compulsorily prohibited. It is an illogical progression of argument. It is for God, not men, to decide what is appropriate for his priesthood. Since He permits clerical marriage, He expects that men obey His will and not obstruct it. To prohibit clerical celibacy amounts to human legislators playing God. Such an attitude is absolutely impermissible.

God in His infinite wisdom saw that clerical marriage would benefit the vast majority of those He called to the priesthood, and He therefore saw fit to permit, not forbid it. So, when human legislators seek to make compulsory and universal by law that which God himself makes voluntary and particular by a special, individually granted grace, those legislators are daring to usurp God's prerogative.

Either way the Latin rite heirarchs do wrong: they end up excluding from the Latin Rite priesthood men God has undoubtedly called to it, but also to the sacrament of marriage, or they cause men who enter the priesthood to bear a burden which requires a grace which is absent in the case of the majority of the clergy. Further, if they are aware that they do wrong, they sin.

How the Clementine Vulgate, with its scandalous alterations of 1598 could have been produced without at least its editors, if not the Pope himself, committing mortal sin, I do not know. Thankfully, it is not my task to know. But what about all the popes up to the present? Well, I think that the majority were probably not even aware of it, so were clean of conscience. It is interesting that the only pope canonized since Pius V, namely, St Pius X, in so far as he had to deal with the question of priestly celibacy at all decided in favour of clerical marriage (there was a crisis in the Eastern churches over it during his reign - many, many curial officials and latin-rite diocesan bishops were creating trouble for the Eastern churches over their married clergy, and trying to get the Pope to absolutely prohibit clerical marriage. The saintly pope ruled in favour of clerical marriage in the east, to the horror of many latin catholics. After he died, the curia tried to put about the idea that Pius X's permission for clerical marriage was a concession purely limited to his own reign, and now celibacy had to be enforced now that he had died... (I don't have the scholarly articles at hand to provide a reference for this particular episode, I think I've lost them. You'll just have to accept that I've written the above in good faith, actually having read the source material.)

An interesting point that has not been mentioned in this discussion so far:

The Clementine version of the Vulgate (1592, named after Pope Clement VIII) changed the word order of the original Vulgate to read 'mulierem sororem' (a woman as a sister), rather than 'sororem mulierem' (a [christian] woman as a wife). This piece of dishonesty, hitherto the sort of thing only associated with heretics who mistranslated scripture because the original vulgate/ greek/ hebrew/ aramaic supported catholicism and not their errors, shows how aware the highest reaches of the catholic hierarchy really were that the secular clergy have the right to marry, and that the 'law' of celibacy is groundless and unfair.

In view of all of the above, it can only be said with truth and justice that the 'triumph' of compulsory clerical celibacy in the latin church for the last 400 years is the result of a fundamental and radical failure in its spirituality. The current situation, whether the 'paedophile' (i.e., rather the homosexual) scandal, abuses of authority (both before and after the Council) - the most visible and notorious lately being the concoction of the rite of Paul VI and forcing it upon the Western Church, misbelief/ disbelief/ institutionalized immorality amongst clergy and laity alike, all trace their most profound causes back to the abusive neo-platonic spirituality which made compulsory celibacy a possibility in the late 16th/early 17th C and the punishment of God upon latin rite church by depriving it incrementally of grace as time passes as a result of hardened, persistent and institutionalized disobedience to God.

Granting that the above argumentation represents the true state of canonical and theological affairs with regards to clerical marriage, how is it that there is so much opposition to it?

The earliest opposition recorded, not to clerical marriage per se, but to sexual activity between priests and their wives and deacons and their wives, appears to be contained in a decree from Pope (St) Siricius to Bishop Himericus of Tarragona in 385:

'...Plurimos enim sacerdotes Christi atque levitas, post longa consecrationis suae tempora, tam de coniugiis propriis, quam etiam de turpi coitu sobolem didicimus procreasse et crimen suum hac praescriptione defendere, quia in Veteri Testamento sacerdotibus ac ministris generandi facultas legitur attributa...' [Enchiridion Symbolorum, Denzinger-Schoenmetzer, XXXVI ed, 185(89).
(...For we have learned that very many priests of Christ, and deacons, long after they have been ordained, have had children with their own wives in filthy (or obscene) coitus, and defend their crime with this justification, that one reads in the Old Testament that the priests and ministers had the opportunity of having children...)

It is worth noting that intellectual dishonesty raises its ugly head somewhat when the editors insert a heading over paragraph 185(89), DE CAELIBATU CLERICORUM ('On the celibacy of the clergy') when it is contextually obvious that the clergy were married. Why else would the pope refer to the women of the clergy concerned as 'coniugiis propriis' i.e., 'their own wives'?

It is a scandal that a pope - and one who became a saint at that - could refer to the sexual act as 'filthy (obscene) coitus' - 'turpi coitu'. This is practically Manichean. No valid legislation - ecclesiastical or secular - could ever be predicated upon the assumption that the sexual act is filthy or obscene. However, this is probably due to the increasing influence of neo-Platonism upon churchmen at that time. A Jesuit, writing in 1973, refers to entire 'tradition' of such thought amongst catholics, and links its propagation in a much later era to the 'Ignatian' method of spirituality:

'Greek philosophy's systematic contempt for the body and the concomitant stressing of the ideal: liberation of the soul from the shackles and burdens of the flesh. This notion has dictated much Roman Catholic thinking about sex and marriage, and has helped build up certain inhibitions. It keeps appearing in Roman Catholic spiritual writers, even those of the highest eminence and irreproachable orthodoxy. Thus St Francis of Assisi urges mortifying the body in terms which betray their Greek provenance: 'beat brother ass into subjection'. St Ignatius of Loyola echoes a favourite neoplatonic expression when, in his meditation on sin, he describes the soul as "imprisoned in a corruptible body"'. It is no easy task for any man to educate himself to a serene, mature, balanced outlook on sex. Perhaps the constant drip of hellenization [sic] has made it still harder for Roman Catholics.' (Kenny, J.P., Roman Catholicism, Christianity and Anonymous Christianity - the Role of the Christian Today [Theology Today no. 44] Hales Corners Wis., 1973 p.59 quoted in 'The Banished Heart - Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church' Hull, G. Spes Nova League Sydney 1995 (2nd impression 1996)p.159.

Likewise, the next legislation to deal with the topic at Lateran II in 1139 purported to declare clerical marriages, everywhere accepted as valid, henceforth 'void' with the purpose 'that the purity pleasing to God may be spread among those belonging to the church and those who are ordained' (ut lex continentiae et deo placens munditia in ecclesiasticis personis et sacris ordinibus dilatetur).

Well, the reason for prohibiting clerical marriage, i.e., 'to spread purity', cannot validly ground any prohibition, as the sexual act cannot possibly render a validly married priest 'impure' and therefore 'polluted' and unfit to officiate at the altar. The 'law', therefore, is non-existent. Besides no-one, not even an Ecumenical Council or Pope, has the right, to dissolve valid marriages - even those of subdeacons, deacons, priests or bishops!

Thankfully, the pre-reformation clergy were made of sterner stuff than their post-Tridentine and modern successors, and quite rightly refused to submit to this law. It is well known that clerical marriage was a common reality all over western Europe until the establishment of the seminary system after the Council of Trent, during which, the opponents of clerical marriage attempted to define, ex cathedra, a statement that God would not refuse to grant the grace of chastity (in a celibate rather than marital setting), thus giving little excuse to those clerics who wished to marry: all they had to do was to pray and God would give them the gift of chastity to enable them to be celibate. To wish to marry under such circumstances could only be the result of selfishness, or determined disobedience to ecclesiastical law. The Holy Ghost did not see things that way, and caused the critical bit about 'God granting the gift' OUTSIDE the 'anathema sit', which denotes the limit of an infallible definition:

Si quis dixerit, clericos in sacris ordinibus constitutos, vel regulares castitatem solemniter professos, posse matrimonium contrahere, contractumque validum esse, non obstante lege Ecclesiastic vel voto, et oppositum nil aliud esse, quam damnare matrimonium; posseque omnes contrahere matrimonium, qui non sentiunt se castitatis (etiamse non voverint) habere donum: anathema sit. Cum Deus id recte petentibus non deneget, 'nec patiatur, nos supra id, quod possimus, tentari.'
If anyone should say that clerics constituted in sacred orders, or regulars solemnly vowed to chastity, are able to contract marriage, and the contract is valid not withstanding ecclesiastical law or a vow, and that there is no other reason for opposing it, than to condemn marriage; and all are able to contract marriage, even if they have not made a vow, who feel themselves not to possess the gift of chastity: anathema sit (let him be accursed). (THIS IS THE LIMIT OF THE INFALLIBLE STATEMENT) Since God will not deny it to those rightly asking for it 'and neither does He suffer us to be tempted beyond that, which we are able to bear'. (This last sentence is not part of the dogmatic definition, and hence obviously not infallible. Therefore it is subject to error.)

The consequences of the Holy Ghost forcing the last sentence to be placed outside of the infallible definition are enormous: it did not happen for a reason, and that reason is that God will not just give the gift of chastity to any cleric who asks, just so that he can fulfil the requirement of the church 'law' of celibacy. In other words, the law of celibacy seeks to make compulsory in all latin rite clerics that which is only obtainable by God's free disposition - and He does not give that grace freely to all latin rite clerics, as the 'law' requires. So, the law is ultra vires, 'beyond the powers' of churchmen, in the same way that a secular law can be as regards a temporal legislature.

fr. frank

This thread is not dead. Yet.

James, a couple of thoughts:

1. Yes, many of the Apostles were probably married, because they were called by our Lord when they were already adults. Most likely, St. John never married.

2.The Church law (as you call it a human law) which mandates celibacy for clerics abolishes no rights, so it does not contradict Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Casti Connubii quoting Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum: 'No human law can take away from man the original human right to marry'. Mandated celibacy for clergy abolishes no rights because no man has a right to be ordained. If he chooses ordination, he must take on the added obligation of celibacy. That's why the discernment process is so important. Those who can not live celibacy should choose to do something else.

3. You make reference to Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium, but you do not interpret -- in this case -- Scripture and Tradition in the light of the living Magisterium, so abundant and clear on this point in recent years. As CCC 95 states: "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are co connected and associated that one of them cannont stand without the others." The Magisterium clearly favors clerical celibacy, and that's the voice we should listen to, not private interpretations of Scripture and Tradition.

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