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Defending Celibacy

Someone who was defending celibacy in the priesthood said that it is not necessary to the priesthood, but that it is always preferable. I would disagree; with the first part, not the last. I would say that it is necessary to the priesthood (corporately speaking), but that it is not always preferable (individually speaking). I know that might sound like a bit of a contradiction, so please let me qualify. Celibacy is necessary to exist within the numbers of those whom God calls as His priests, and probably should be the vast majority. This is so because Christ was celibate, and there should always be those men among the priests who are living examples of this sacrificial life that our Lord showed us. This does not mean, however, that celibacy is necessary for every man that God calls to the priesthood as we can see from the fact that not all priests in the early Church were celibate [yes, I know the arguments to the contrary, but they are presumptuous and unconvincing], and the Eastern Catholic Churches have had married priests as far back as we can trace.

Those who exemplify the celibacy of our Lord are essential to the life of the ministerial priesthood; those who exemplify the commitment to family are also essential (though somewhat less so) to the life of ministerial priesthood. Therefore, it would be just as wrong for the Church to require the custom of celibacy in the priesthood to be an absolute permanent dogmatic practice as it would be for the Church to require the abandonment of celibacy. Those who today try to insist that all priests must be celibate are revealing that they are confused about history, ignorant of the ancient practice of the Eastern Catholics, and do not really grasp what the priesthood is supposed to symbolize. Yes, celibacy must be the norm for the priesthood, but let us make sure that we see that God works in different ways with different men. "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Cor 12:4).


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