Up until recently almost all of the Protestant sects where against artificial birth control. So it was the Catholic Church that remained consistant, and others who changed their teachings. It is said that Pope Paul VI would have liked to have changed the position of the Church, but as it was the constant teaching of the Church he could not. This shows consistancy in the teaching authority of the Church.
The Anglicans where the first to change their teachings, at a semi-regular meeting they have called the Lambeth Confrence. (Lambeth is the palace given to the Archbishop of Cantebury to live in during his time in office, in the Anglican Church most of the Abps. of Cantebury retire after a period of time, allowing someone else to take the office.) At one of the Lambeth Confrences, (either just before or after WWII, I’ll have to check up on the year,) Anglicanism made the move to change the prohibition on BC.
Now some may ask isn’t BC something new, so how could the Church just come up with something. A glance through Archeology Magazine, (about 10 years back) and other books from historians who have done their homework, (and if Ron is lurking still, these where not exclucivly nor even a majority Catholic Scholars, and not supported or denied by the Catholic Church.) Found that ancient Romans and Greeks, as well as other Mediterranian cultures had herbal solutions to both prevent pregnancy, and devices much like our “modern” forms of BC, as well as knew of herbal preparations that would cause abortions. So BC is nothing new. While writings are scarce on the subject among the writings of the early Church, as they where more concerned with staying alive during persecutions than expanding and explaining the Faith and Moral teaching of the Church in the public arena, the early writers have the same message as the Church teaches today. It would make a good research project for someone who has the time, as I don’t have the issue of Arch. Digest any more.
As for priestly remaining celibate, it is really not that hard to defend. First not all Catholic priests are required to remain celibate. Eastern Rite Catholic (and their Orthodox counterpart) priests, (those ordained in Eastern and Western Europe but not the USA) are allowed to marry before ordination to the diaconate. If they are single when they are ordained a deacon, they as a rule may not marry after their ordination. So Eastern Rite priests and deacons can be married men. For over 1500 years bishops in the Eastern Rites have either been widowers or come from a monastic setting, Monks and Nuns obviously are not married. Some Protestant ministers who have converted to the Catholic Church who are married have been given special permission to be ordained and keep their wives. Another rare case is where a husband and wife who either have no children or grown children have been allowed to separate, she entering a convent and he into Relgious life or into the priesthood.
What needs to be distinguished is dogma vs custom. Dogma cannot be changed, even the Pope cannot change dogma. Dogma is something that is revealed by God and one must believe or one is not a Catholic, included in the area of dogma are such things as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, that Mary was a human, a creature of God wha was given the unique privilige of being concieved without sin, by and in anticipation of the Cross of Christ. Church custom or discipline of the Church is something we follow because Christ gave the Church, especially the office held by Peter and his successors the authority to bind and loose, or to enact laws and relax laws in areas that do not require absolute faith, like the dogmas mentioned above. So when the Church had problems with wives and children of priests who needed to be supported, during the lives of those priests, and after they died, when priests and bishops where promoted to the ranks of the clergy because their father held the post, and not because they where called by God etc, the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church imposed cleibacy on anyone in “Major Orders” which now are deacons, priests and bishops, but at one time (and in some places still) consisted of Sub-Deacons.
As far as pedophilia, there is a higher rate among Protestant sects than among Catholic Clergy, (per the Christian Science Monitor article published within the past 12 mos. and posted on a dfferent thread here.) Jewish Clergy, Orthodox clergy, Judges, teachers and others, most of them married have commited the same sins. So priests (at least the few who have tainted the names of the many) are not alone in this crime. St. Paul endorsed celibacy as a superior lifestyle for those who have the grace to live that life. A celibate priest can give himself entirely to the sheep entrusted to his care. While Protestant ministers, Eastern Priests, Doctors and others can serve their people while being married, a priest has an advantage in that he is not encumbered with these obligations. This is a rule that the Church can change, but it is not up to a popular vote.
Here I’d like to consider what the office of the priest really is. We must always remember that when we speak respectfully of any priest, it is not his humanity that demands respect but the priesthood that he has been intrusted with that demands the respect. He is still a man, but the priesthood he is entrusted with is the priesthood of Christ, our Lord shares that priesthood with the man so that Christ Himself can offer Himself in the Mass through the ministry of His priests, so that Christ can absolve sinners through the ministry of His priests, so that Christ Himself can be present to comfort a soul as each of us breaths our last. It is also well to point out that a minister (in the sense of a priest ministering to the Body of Christ) is one who is authorized to do something in the name of a person of authority who sends him to do what he is comissioned to do. To act on behalf of that person of Authority. Priests are authorized to minister or are comissioned with the responsiblity to bring Christ to the people in a special way, to dispense the Sacraments which Christ Jesus gave the Church in His Name and by His authority, we must remember it is Christ’s prieshood, not the posession of a priest that is at work here. It is truly Christ who acts in the sacraments, through His priest, not the priest’s actions or merits that bring the grace of the Sacrament.
A very good book, recently reprinted is Abp. Sheen’s “The priest is not his own” Priests who read and take it to heart will become better priests, and laymen and women who read it will know what they should expect from a priest who wishes to serve Christ Jesus.
More later…..(Abp. Sheens book can be found here, [url:t6l5jiru]http://www.ignatius.com/ViewProduct.aspx?SID=1&Product_ID=2364&SKU=PNHO-P&Category_ID=23[/url:t6l5jiru]