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Celibacy of Priests
Until Christ came along (Mt 19:12), and then Paul (1 Cor. 7:32-35),
the only state of life known was marriage. The rabbis taught that a
man was only half a man if he wasn’t married by 20. But even in the
Old Testament some of the prophets, like Elijah and Jeremiah, chose
celibacy. By Jesus’ time the great rabbis spoke of the possibility
of “marrying Torah,” that is, dedicating their whole life to the
study of the Word. Paul was one who did, both before and after his
conversion. Jesus is, of course, THE WORD, and infinitely more
deserving of total dedication than the written word.
It should not be surprising, therefore, that Jesus should speak of
some who would remain celibate (“eunuchs”) for the sake of the
Kingdom of God (Mt 19:12). St. Paul not only continued his pre-
conversion celibacy as a Christian but recommended it for those who
would be dedicated to serving God in this world (1 Cor. 7:7, 17, 32-
35). He was speaking to a general audience and so he does not oblige
it. But observe what he says in verse 17, “Only, everyone should
live as the Lord has assigned, just as God called each one. I give
this order in all the churches.” This coincides with the admonition
of Jesus to follow the vocation given by God, whether celibacy (Mt
19:12) or marriage (v.11).
Now Jesus said that if one could accept celibacy for the sake of the
Kingdom one should and Paul says it is the best way for those
dedicated to the Kingdom, and BOTH of them lived this total
dedication to the will of the Father for the salvation of souls.
Given the mentality of the world, both Jewish and Pagan, it was
impossible at the beginning to find mature candidates for the
priesthood who were not already married. Only with the arrival of a
generally Christian milieu, where virginity and celibacy were
honored into adult life, would celibate candidates for Holy Orders
be generally available. Not surprisingly, then, the Church discerned
with time that the gift of celibacy from God (who alone can give
such a gift), together with the desire to serve God and His people,
was an indication of a vocation to the priesthood. THIS has not
always and everywhere been imposed in the Church, but almost
immediately in Church history we find it recommended and even
required in some places. Although Latin Rite Catholic priests for
the last 1000 years have had to be celibate, Eastern Rite Catholic
priests and priests of the Orthodox Churches (not in union with
Rome) do not. However, ALL bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox
Churches MUST be celibates. They represent Christ to the people in
their dioceses and Christ’s bride is the Church (Eph 5:21-33) not
someone else. So, it is entirely fitting that bishops not marry EVER
and that priests not marry either, though in some traditions it is
allowed PRIOR to ordination.
The fact that the apostles were married says nothing about the
practice, since they were Jewish and followed the practices of their
day, until Christ came along. Tradition affirms that they remained
celibates after they followed Christ.
With the grace of Redemption came the possibility of celibacy and
virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of God for more than the
privileged few. It is a total gift of self to the Lord, fitting for
those whose vocation is dedicated to love and service of God and
neighbor. Unfortunately, it is something the worldly who do not
understand the power of God have difficulty accepting, then as now.[/quote:mye6a4va]
Wonder perhaps ,why not have two priestly orders, a celibate order and a married order with each having differant priestly functions?