Celibate priests?

Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:32-36 are used to defend the idea of preists needing to be celibate.

Lets us look at these.

Matthew 19:11-12

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

This does not say the apostles renounced marriage. It says some have renounced it because of the kingdom. But it only for those who can accept it. The evidence of priests abusing others and having children out of wedlock shows not all priests can accept it.

1 Cor 7:32-36

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife –  34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

What I find interesting is that Paul said why it is good to be single, but then said he was not adding a restriction. And the Roman Catholic Church decided that what Paul wrote was not good enough – they had to go farther than God did by requiring celibacy.

You’d think following the example of Peter would be good enough. Peter was married.

Matthew 8:14

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.

Peter was not only married, but took his wife with him.

1 Corinthians 9:5

5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas

Also, given the problems that ‘celibate’ priests have had, you would think the church would follow the rest of what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 7:1-2

1 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

You know, Paul also wrote to beware of people who forbid marriage.

1 Timothy 4:1-3

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Sounds like the Roman Catholic Church.

The defense that this is not actually required is shown to be false, given that it is required for all people who wish to enter the preisthood or be bishops.  Yes, it is ‘voluntary’, but if you feel called to be a priest or a bishop, you cannot unless you accept the requirement of making a vow of celibracy, because the vow of celibacy is enforced upon priests.

“The Church simply elects candidates for the priesthood (or, in the Eastern rites, for the episcopacy) from among those who voluntarily renounce marriage.”


I agree a celibate person can focus more fully on the Lord. But not everyone is called to this. However, many are called to ministry and leadership in the church. To require celibacy to be in leadership is to force people to choose between a manmade rule and what God has called them to do, or at best to accept a manmade rule in order to do what God has called them to do.


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