Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Personal Aside: Celibacy—Is it Time for a Change?



The lavender priesthood which shows no signs of abating is threatening the integrity of the Catholic Church—as is plain to see. That lavenders or lavender-enablers control fifty percent of the bishops has been told to me by several leaders of the old National Review Board including one leader in Washington.

This leads to an issue that is ripe for speculation and which I would like to have you comment on. That has to do with celibacy and whether mandatory celibacy should be continued in the priesthood of the Catholic Church.

At the outset, let’s disabuse ourselves of some popular misconceptions about it.

1. Celibacy was not an historic general obligation of the Church. It is not mandatory for the priesthood. During its first three centuries, it was not of general obligation throughout the Church. Up to that time it was voluntary; it was practiced by a considerable number of clergy but by no means the predominant majority.

2. It was not until the 11th century that clerical celibacy became effectively mandatory.

3. As ratified by Vatican II, celibacy is not required by the nature of the priesthood itself. This is clear from the custom in the early Church and the traditions of the Eastern churches which still exist. These traditions the Council had no intention of changing and didn’t. In fact the Council encouraged those who became priests after marriage to persevere in their calling and continue to devote their lives to the service of the people.

4. Thus it is clear that the rule can be changed by the Pope with the flourish of a pen, or by a synod of bishops or by another Council—and it could be restated as voluntary, which it once was.

5. When speaking of the sacrifices a man might make to follow Him, Christ spoke of those who would give up wives and families for the sake of the Gospel (Matt. 19,29), But different practices developed in different parts of the Church. In the Eastern Church it was customary to permit ordination of married men; in the West it became the practice of ordaining only those who felt they were able and willing to lead celibate lives. Neither in West or East was a man permitted to marry after he received Holy Orders.

6. Because celibacy is a style of living rather than a fixed qualification for the priesthood, it seems to me at least that there are many reasons—practical ones—for change of celibacy to voluntary.

7. The crisis of the lavender priesthood is acute. It threatens the entire

Church. Celibacy was not intended to be an inducement for single men to become priests but it has become a specious come-hither for single men who are not interested in heterosexuality anyway to join their fellows.

8. As a practical matter it was argued long ago that the cost of supporting a priest and wife and family would be too much for the Church. That reason now is fallacious. The cost involved to the Church of the lavender priesthood involves much more—the cost of improper reasons for joining the priesthood…the grave scandal that is created by so many who joined the priesthood for the wrong reasons.

Thus I submit this question to plebiscite. Would you agree that a change in the rule to change mandatory celibacy to voluntary is appropriate? Catholics, Protestants, Jews, agnostics…the whole world…can comment. Priests who wish to comment are encouraged and if they wish they can use nicknames but it would be good to know if they are priests. Everybody can take nicknames if they want—or sign with their own names if they prefer. I’d really like to know your religion in the answers, though. Catholic: C; Protestant: P; Jews: J; Agnostics: A. Priests: Rev. Thanks.


  1. I don't think that allowing married priests in the Latin Rite of the Church will accomplish more than capitulating to the contemporary epidemic of sexual obsessions in their hydra-headed manifestations. Married male clergy in other denominations have just as many problems with their own lavender members as do our our celibate priests. The issue is more than married or unmarried or what happened in the second century or what happens now among the Eastern Rite priests. The whole process of what constitutes a vocation and the entire seminary process must be revisited. That requires cleaning out the inside of the vessel and not just polishing the outside as usual. And ridding the Church of the contempt that so many liberal dissenters have for anything beyond their own delusions.

    You have a load of cliches available in support of a married priesthood--ones that have been around the block so many times as to wear out their soles. But with soaring divorce rates and widespread abuse of marriage vows, a married priesthood is no panacea. It just adds another problem to one that has to be rectified from within.

  2. For the record, I am a tradition-minded Catholic.

    I believe, that if a change is made, that the discipline of the Eastern Church will be applied to the West: married men may become priests, but preiests will not be allowed to marry, and only celibates and the occasional widower will be made bishops.

    I personally don't see that a change of this nature will necessarily solve either the priest shortage, or the "lavender mafia" situation, which I believe, are the result of deeper and more serious problems (lack of discipline, lack of sound catechesis, and a fundamental lack of seriousness concerning religion).

    I think part of the problem just now is that we are in the tranisition between those prelates who came of age during the post-conciliar debacle, and the next generation who has a more traditional outlook. I think things will improve once a few more bishops retire, and the new bishops feel more encouraged to fight the good fight.

  3. To give on anything such as Celibacy is to let the Liberals win. If Celibacy falls, the next step is female priests, etc. It doesn't end! The liberals are NEVER satisfied until the Church is completely brought down so as to justify every form of moral decadence.

    Just look what has happened in the Episcopal Church... 1st women, 2nd Homosexuals.

    Tom I did not realize that it is as bad as you say... you even have me questioning the concept of "alter boys"!

    The liberals in the Church have certainly gained a firm hold. I am now starting to wonder if it can be salvaged without a humbling financial collapse!

    But as I see it there is a concerted effort by the liberals to infiltrate main line religion and corrupt it.

    So much of liberalism is based on a desire to give sanction to perverted sex of one kind or another.

    If you study this matter deeply you will see that it has its foundations in the rebellion of liberal Jews against the strictures of the Orthodox Jewish Faith.

    Just read Ayn Rand or Karl Marx... just two of many who rebelled. Must their rebellion be justified by taking down ALL of organized religion? To hide from criticism behind the false canard of claiming anti-semitism is hypocritical because to intellectually destroy the roots of the Orthodox Jewish faith IS patently anti-semitic! Those destroying the Catholic Church from within should be called anti-Catholic! Why not? If the shoe fits, wear it.

    Oh how clever the liberal intellectuals are!


  5. When I was a lad (ca. 1948-55) one couldn't walk down a street without addressing nuns politely, "Good Morning/Afternoon Sister, etc.
    I was an altarboy, and was honored to be on the squad that took care of Mass at the Convent, even if it took walking through three foot drifts at dead calm 30-below (once)where I grew up in MN.
    These Srs. of St. Francis taught me my basic 3Rs, and they did quite well.

    Where have they all gone? My grandchildren are taught be highly qualified lay women, but I wonder about the difference.

    The greatest crime to me is wretched Vatican 2 distorted to the highest levels. Most nuns have run off to eat beaver amongest their poor companions.

    Nick really scored with the Vat 2 "Fresh Wind blowing--" Blowing up what?

  6. To me, as an active lay person, the conundrum is not how to handle the priest that gets divorced but how to handle the priests and the lavender-enablers that betray their orders and the faith of the community.

    The 'Lavender Coterie' is the largest problem the Catholic Church faces.

    Let us solve the lavender priesthood issue before we move on to the question of celibacy.

  7. There was a Jesuit who wrote a book on Celibacy and a married Clergy. His name was Christian Cohiney (sp?) He pointed out that in thje early church married men could become priests. However, after marriage they had to live as brother and sister.
    This later went by the boards and the reson for a celibate priesthood was to stop the abuses of a married clergy.
    Since the 1960's and the sexual revolution there has been a lot of sexual permissiveness in society. "As long as it feels good, go do it!"
    At one time, if a candidate was homosexual, that candidate was invited to leave. In the 60's,70's and 80's the attitude became "as long as one does not act out" it is okey.

    Consecrated Celibacy is a struggle but not the problem. The problem is some people want it both ways.

    A married clergy will not solve the problem. Re-directing candidates who manifest these tendencies would be a step in the right direction.

  8. Thank you for clearing up the historical origin of clerical celibacy. I am aware of this, but many of our fellow Catholics labor under some serious misconceptions.

    I am concerned that while abolishing celebacy or making it optional may ease the shortage of priests, it will still be necessary for the Pope to appoint a Legate with a strong mandate to clean up the seminaries and recommend disciplinary action for bishops and diocesian staff who have been complicit in the current problem

  9. This could reinvigorate the Catholic Church in so many ways. Great idea and well articulated.

  10. That clerical celibacy was a late arrival is a half-truth, a liberal Catholic and Protestant half-truth. Married clergy were expected to cease marital relations with their wives if married (continence,not celibacy). Is that what you want, Mr. Roeser? Celibacy (no marriage) was introduced only because bishops and priests were not living up to their pledge of continence within marriage. This was the original discipline; only in the 690s was it changed to permit married priests to have marital relations and raise a family.

    We only know Peter was married because his mother-in-law is mentioned. Was his wife still living when he led the Church at Pentecost? If living, did she accompany him? In other words, that Peter was married is true but tells us next to nothing about whether he was a married bishop, with children, a family etc. We have no clear evidence that any of the other apostles were married at all. The claim that the early clergy were married is a misleading half-truth.

    Even Protestant clergy recognize that the pastor's congregation expects him to devote himself entirely to them; the wife and children suffer. PKs or "preachers' kids" are notorious at Evangical colleges for disproportionate rebellious "acting up"--unlike other "workaholics" who neglect family for career, a pastor is "doing God's work" and his wife pays the price--she can't really expect him to limit his "mission" to 9-5. This is documented in Protestant circles. Married, former Anglican Catholic priests tell of similar struggles.

    Is it really necessary to spout Lib-Cath half-truth talking points? We can do better.

  11. Tom:
    I saw a little article in the Chicago Tribune this morning that the Lutheran Church in Norway is lossening its ban on Gay Ministers. So the Lutherans of Norway with their married clergy are going to allow Lavender Ministers.
    They do not propose celibacy for their ministers and yet the Lutheran Church in Norway is voting to allow this.
    Perhaps the real problem is the moral permisiveness of our society which is allowing a lavender clergy.

  12. Dan Arquilla is almost certainly correct in his assertion that if a change were made to celibacy requirements, it would be a shift to the Eastern Orthodox model. McGeean correctly clarifies the historical background behind celibacy and the priesthood (and the Jesuit's name is Cochini).

    It is also important to distinguish between diocesan priests and those who belong to religous orders. If a change were made to celibacy requirements, it would apply only to diocesan priests: while celibacy is not essential to ordained ministry, celibate chastity is an essential aspect of the vowed religious life (i.e., religious orders).

    Consequently, even if the Church altered the celibacy requirements, the Church would continue to teach that some portion of the faithful (a portion composed of people who could find fulfillment in marriage if they chose) has a vocation to embrace lifelong celibate chastity instead of marriage. Any view that rejects this teaching or that categorically disparages the idea of a vocation to lifelong celibate chastity would be heretical.