With all of these cases [of priests leaving for women], it brings up the arguments to allow priests to marry. The practice of celibate priests, I believe, did not happen until the middle ages in the West. Our first Pope, Peter was married as many priests in the East have been since the beginning. What is the opposition to allowing married priests? It seems it might solve a lot of the lonliness and depression problems a lot of Western priests have as well as sexual impropriety. It seems to be a self-imposed cross of the Church on its clergy in the West.
My European Legal History professor was of the cynical view that the celibate priesthood in the West was begun so that priests could not pass on their money to children or wives upon death in order to keep the money and property under Church ownership.
There was a preference for celibacy going back to St. Paul and the early Church. There is even evidence that married priests practiced celibacy. Jewish priests practiced temporary celibacy during the time of their service to the temple; the difficulty with Christian priests was that their service was perpetual. There were many early attempts to impose mandatory celibacy in the West, as is evidenced in the Lateran councils and various synods. The definitive point came in the eleventh century. The ruling was not simply to protect Church property but to raise the moral and spiritual caliber of clergy. Celibacy was such a serious sacrifice that it was thought that it would help weed out the worldly ambitious and those seeking monetary gain. The Church essentially made the monastic model the framework for her priests in the West. They would not promise poverty like religious, but they would often live a simple life and promise obedience and celibacy. We should not look at celibacy merely as a deficit or as a tragedy. It is a wondrous gift that God makes possible through the faith and service of the man and the empowering gift of grace. This does not mean that married men could not function as priests, only that the single-hearted love of celibate clergy is a different kind of priesthood, yes of a higher order.
Married people also know loneliness and depression. Married intimacy and sexuality is no absolute protection in this regard. The celibate priest is often too busy to feel sorry for himself. In any case, most priests I know are happy men. They belong to the people they serve. They are comfortable with “aloneness” and if they are ever tempted by loneliness, it becomes part of the priestly identity, resonating with Christ’s agony in the garden as he awaited his betrayer and passion. I do not think married priests would solve the Church’s problems. Then we would have to deal with alienated spouses, marital and family scandals, etc. If you do not believe me, look at the Lutherans and Episcopalians. They have their rascals, too; although, our sinners seem to get more publicity than theirs.
Regardless of its origins, I think it’s time the archaic celibacy rule for Western Priests was abandoned. Eastern Rite married priests, to my knowledge; do not suffer from the problems of Western celibate priests to the same degrees. They have proven it works. Not only those, but many Protestant ministers with big congregations have families and do well. One argument I’ve heard is that priests are on call 24/7 but so are doctors and many other married professions. In addition, allowing married priests would help solve the priest shortage, therefore reducing the work each priest has to do.
I absolutely and totally… disagree with you. One of the hallmarks of a traditional Catholicism is the celibate priesthood. The Protestant reformers were quick to discard celibacy because it is such a hallmark of a Western priest’s identity and fidelity. He belongs to the Church. He goes where the bishop sends him. There is no wife and family that can be used as a manipulation against him. There is no reservation to sending him to the missions or to a poor parish where drugs, crime and murder surround him.
The numbers of Eastern rite clergy are very small and even they admit their problems. The bishops themselves must be celibate. Protestant ministers may have large congregations and serve well, but they are not priests. Indeed, they are not even deacons, and among these men we have many married clergy. It shocks me that you would compare Protestant ministers to Catholic priests. Trustees control their churches. They compete for the churches that offer the best salaries and benefits. Episcopal bishops often only have minimal control, and that in a church where holy orders is generally counterfeit and doctrines and values blow about like leaves in the wind. A minister cannot absolve your sins. A priest can take a damned man and make him a saint! (He knows the sins and secret lives of others, pray God a married priest would not talk about such things in his sleep and into his wife’s ears!) A minister can give you grape drink and buns. But a priest can give you the body and blood of Jesus Christ, humanity and divinity, raised from the dead! Does he need to conceive a child with a woman when he can consecrate God at the altar? In any case, you are quite wrong about married clergy in other churches. Over half of the men in the Lutheran churches are divorced and remarried. The Methodist churches allow for married men and yet most new candidates in seminary are female. The Episcopalians are not always in the news but there are countless cases of adultery, pederasty and pedophilia, and incest thrown in besides. Indeed, the past president of the Episcopal Church USA left his wife and lived with his gay lover. You would hold them up as an example for us? Pleeeeeease!
I am not saying that we cannot have married priests. We have some wonderful men, formerly Episcopalian, in my diocese. But it can make the priesthood a great deal harder and Mother Church would prefer not to place both the burden of a family and ministry upon our priests. The first man ordained in the Catholic priesthood after leaving ministry in the Episcopal church was greeted with great fanfare. A few years later his wife gave him an ultimatum– the Catholic priesthood or their marriage. She said that many years of service in the Episcopal church did not prepare them for the demands of Catholic priesthood. He remained a Catholic priest and she left him. Now, if not through a promise, then through her divorce he has joined the ranks of the celibate priesthood.
Despite having a married clergy, many mainline traditions are also having clergy shortages. The prospect of married clergy will neither solve scandals nor fill seminaries.
Most celibate priests I know are happy and want things to remain as they are. Honestly, we would appreciate it if the laity and others would just mind their own business and leave untouched the celibacy which we treasure in the priesthood.
God commanded us all from the beginning to be fruitful and multiply. Anyway, just some thoughts!
I do multiply… every time I baptize someone… every time I take a host and say, “This is my body.” The body of the Church grows. Christ extends himself in the sacrament. That is how I am fruitful… by being a good priest and caring for souls in the family of God. The sacrifice of not having a wife and children was and is a very serious one for me… but I think it was for the best… and I would do it again! I belong to no one family but to every family.
Franciscan friars aren’t celibate because they’re Latin Rite priests. They’re celibate because they’re Franciscan friars.
You are right that religious brothers and priests both take vows of celibacy.
However, the religious clergy I know still see their celibacy as an element of their priestly vocation. Indeed, they speak about it as such in their theological formation classes as a shared discipline with the secular or diocesan priesthood. If they were one of the newer faith communities which invite both celibates and married couples, then the candidate for priesthood would have to embrace celibacy before ordination. Diocesan seminarians pledge celibacy at their ordination to the diaconate. Religious brothers and priests are held to vows of obedience, celibacy and poverty. Diocesan priests make promises of obedience (at the ordination to priesthood) and celibacy (at the ordination to the diaconate). However, no matter when taken, celibacy is understood as something that is to be maintained perpetually throughout priesthood. The Church regards the celibacy of both religious and secular priests as part of the common discipline mandated by Church law.
It should also be noted that in practice it is a great deal easier for a religious brother or sister to be released from vows than for a priest (secular or religious) to be released from celibacy. Laicization regulations became more complicated under Pope John Paul II than with Pope Paul VI. Under the previous Pope, there were thousands of defections who received laicization. Not all of them were released from the obligation of celibacy which is a separate matter. Some men left the priesthood following Vatican II, not because of romantic relationships but because they could not relate to the new sense of identity in the Church and the reformed liturgy. Pope John Paul II revised the laicization process and now it more resembles the procedures for an annulment. Usually the first and maybe even the second request for laicization are turned down. There are long periods of seeming inaction on the petitions. The priest must assert that his ordination was a mistake and that he should never have been ordained. The Church can also force laicization upon a priest as a disciplinary measure, i.e. a pedophile abuser, a man ordained to traffic in drugs, etc. Both the Mafia and the Communists tried to plant their personnel in the ranks of the clergy; when discovered, these men were quickly removed.
If a religious priest, like a Franciscan, should want to become a diocesan priest, he must receive permission of his superior and the invitation of a bishop. After five years of service within that diocese he can be incardinated as a diocesan priest. He does not repeat his vow to celibacy which still binds him but he does promise anew and transfer his obedience from his superior to the diocesan bishop.
I have a dear friend who was a Carmelite and who faithfully served as a diocesan priest for many years. Such a change in direction is not infrequent and is often welcomed in dioceses where the priest shortage is particularly painful. Similarly, I have known men who went from the diocesan priesthood to the religious life, particularly as monks.