Celibate Priesthood

The celibate priesthood has drawn fire from many modern non-Catholics because they feel it trammels on the human need for sexuality and reproduction.  Nothing in the human psyche seems more deep-seated (especially among men) then the urge to copulate.  Contrary to the world, the Church teaches that the human urge for sexuality is incredibly disproportionate to the good of the goal (reproduction of the human race, and unifying love between spouses).  Lust for sex is a result of original sin and the fall of mankind, as such the Church believes that all men and women are called to lives of chastity and must use human reason and will to restrain their weakness of the flesh.  In short, all people are called to live chaste lives.  Sex is to be reserved only for married couples who wish to express their love for each other by procreation.

Celibacy needs to be viewed in the light of chastity; priests freely choose celibacy so that they can concentrate all their efforts on the salvation of their parishioners rather than on the immediate needs and wants of a wife and children.   St. Paul recognized the value of a celibate life when he wrote, “he who is unmarried is concerned with God’s claim, asking how he is to please God; whereas the married man is concerned with the world’s claim, asking how he is to please his wife (1 Cor 7:32-33).  Since a priest chooses duty to God and his parishioners over duty to a wife and children, it follows that in the light of chastity a priest must be celibate. 

Celibacy is not for all people.  Christ said, “some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:12). Thus, some or called to the vocations of marriage, others for the single life, and some for the celibate religious life.  The Church teaches:

 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”  Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to the “affairs of the Lord,” they give themselves entirely to God and to men.  Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. (CCC 1579)

 Celibacy is not a dogma or doctrinal teaching of the Church; rather it is a disciplinary teaching that can be changed if the Church’s leadership feels it is necessary.  Members of the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church are permitted to receive both the sacrament of Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony in accordance with their rite’s long and ancient history of married priests.

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