(Part 2 of response to Mr. E. Z Wayout questioning the practice of priestly celibacy in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church)
Continued from last week……..
Let’s look at the Bible. Yes, we Catholics read the Bible. We’re the ones who first wrote, edited and published it. I wonder what your wife does with such passages as Matthew 19:12 “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” This certainly seems to indicate that Jesus saw some role for celibacy.
Then there is St. Paul, who seems to be boasting about his celibacy in this next passage (1 Corinthians 9:5) “Have we not power to travel about with a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” Perhaps your wife would say “See, this proves that the early Church didn’t practice celibacy. After all, no one required it of
St. Paul ”Oh, yes someone did. Jesus required it of St. Paul: (1Cor, 7: 7, 8 ) “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. Therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I (unmarried). ......v.28... Nevertheless, such (those who are married) shall have trouble in the flesh: but I (want to) spare you (trouble).”
The introduction of celibacy to the life of ministry was not a late thing, it happened right at the beginning. We see it in the life of St. Paul and even in the life of our Lord Jesus. (I don’t believe those loons who think Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a number.)
The following passages are even more helpful in understanding the development of priestly celibacy: (1 Timothy 3:12) “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” And (1 Timothy 3:2) “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, able to teach.” We know from the continuous history and teaching of the Church, that in the earliest days of the Church, married men might be chosen as clergy. They could be already married but married only once. That means if the wife of an ordained man died, he could not marry again. In fact, in most places all those who were widowed were required to remain unmarried. Any second marriage, was considered adultery. The Church wisely took the lenient view that St. Paul took, that, though celibacy for widows and widowers is better, it is still “better to marry than to burn.” (1Cor.7:9) St. Paul clearly believes that celibacy allows a person to be single minded for the service of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:33) “But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, that he may please his wife.”
The Church still follows this general rule; married men may be ordained, but ordained men may not be married. Huh? Simple. If a man comes to the sacrament with a spouse, he remains married. That is more common now with certain men who are ordained and is the general custom for permanent deacons.
I think that your wife gives herself away when she says that because deacons can do just about everything priests can do, except for the 5 sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Anointing). Buried in her comment is the reason for the development of celibacy in the Western Church. The Eucharist! Remember a long way back I said that Eastern Rite parish priests are generally married? This is not true of Eastern Rite monastic priests. They are celibate as a form of self denial. It is very interesting to note that the Eucharist is not celebrated daily in most Eastern parishes. If you want a daily Mass in much of the Eastern Christian world, you have to go to a monastery, where men are celibate. Why? Because it is customary in the Eastern Churches for even married clergy to refrain from “intimate relations” (remembering this is a family column) as a kind of fasting and preparation for the SACRIFICE of the Mass. I don’t know if this is still common, but it certainly was.
We in the west are almost all monastic priests in that sense. We, like St. Paul, make a sacrifice, a kind of fasting for the advancement of the kingdom and the salvation of the world. It is a sacrifice worth making, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Your wife however, has given up on sacrifice by leaving the Church. She says as much when she asks, “What can a priest do that a deacon can’t?” A priest only says Mass and hears confessions and anoints. Nothing that important, he just brings Christ physically into the world and announces His healing and forgiveness. That’s all.
Luther and his followers did not believe that Mass is a sacrifice. They misinterpret the verse from Hebrews 9:28, “...so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” So many forsake the Christian religion for the American religion in which God does nice things for me and never tells me things I don’t want to hear. The Scriptures are clear. God wants to make us like Himself and if He is the sacrifice offered for the world, we become part of His sacrifice. In the Sacrifice of the Mass we unite ourselves to His sacrifice. (Col 1:24) “In my own flesh I make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” In the sacrifice of the Mass I, unite my small sacrifices and self denials to His perfect sacrifice. That is the Eucharistic heart of the Catholic Faith which we is so inconvenient, that with ears itching we “find teachers to suit our own fancy.” (2Tim 4:3)
I wish your lovely wife, Anny Wayout, much luck in her search for a Church that agrees with her. I always worry that if I ever found the perfect local church, it would stop being perfect the minute I joined it. Just tell her that she is free to worship God in her way and you will worship Him in His. Happy year of the priest.
Your friend as ever,