Thursday 8th October 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Priestly Celibacy: Unnatural? Or . . . Supernatural? Celibacy In The Teachings Of St. Paul

January 18, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Part 4

St. Paul was not one of the twelve, but he is known as “the Apostle,” certainly because of the richness of his apostolic zeal in teaching, possibly more than all the other apostles put together. He was educated in the faith by Jesus Himself, and after that intense training, he became as zealous as the fiery prophet Elias — who wouldn’t, after spending years alone with Jesus in a monastic atmosphere receiving His teachings?
St. Paul understood very well the distinction between commandment and counsel, taking from Jesus’ exhortation to the rich young man to leave everything and follow Him. Jesus said: “if” you will be perfect. It was a counsel, not a commandment.
Some people in Corinth had asked him about various things, including on chastity and celibacy. St. Paul replied:
“Now concerning the things you wrote to me about: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor. 7:1).
Stop right here, St. Paul! What on earth are you talking about? Weren’t you the same man who wrote to the Ephesians praising marriage to the skies? Didn’t you compare marriage with the union between Christ and the Church, “a great sacrament,” etc., etc? How can you now turn around and say that it is good for a man not to touch a woman? Do you want to make all of us celibates? The Church will die out in a couple of generations for lack of children!
St. Paul ignores my objection and continues; “But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. . . . Defraud not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer. And return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency [periodic abstinence]. But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment.”
Okay, that makes things clear: celibacy is a state of perfection for some, not a commandment for all. And even within marriage, St. Paul recommends periodic continence.
But he returns with his exhortation to celibacy: “For I would that all men were even as myself: but everyone has his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.”
See how he insists on telling people to follow on his footsteps of celibacy? Does he by any chance wish that all men were as celibates as he was? He’s really pushing it too far, isn’t he?
In 1 Cor. 11:1 he openly says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Come on, St. Paul: Do be reasonable! Christ was celibate! And He praised marriage!
The former Zealot goes on to exhort the unmarried to remain celibate and the widows not to remarry: “But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I.”
But in the end he admits that they can marry if they so wish: “But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt” (1 Cor. 7:1-9).
The reader will forgive me if this article contains mainly quotations from St. Paul, but what else can I do but cite in full the Apostle of celibacy par excellence?
He goes on to emphasize the distinction between the commandment and the counsel:
“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy from the Lord, to be faithful. I think therefore that it is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a man so to be. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you take a wife, you have not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she has not sinned” (1 Cor 7:24-27).
The Corinthians certainly receive a great teaching from St. Paul on celibacy. He goes to describe the situation of a man who is unmarried and exclusively dedicated to the service of God, as a priest is expected to be, without any solicitude or concerns outside of his mission:
“But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.”
Here we see how the discipline of celibacy is most suitable for the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He then refers to young women who are considering their vocation, either to be consecrated to God or to marry: “And the unmarried woman and the virgin think of the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. But she that is married thinks of the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.”
He concludes his teaching by giving to widows a counsel, not a commandment, to remain unmarried:
“A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty: let her marry whom she will; only in the Lord. But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God” (1 Cor. 7:32-40).
This last sentence does suggest — and strongly so — that St. Paul’s very precise teaching on virginity, chastity, and celibacy are inspired by the Holy Spirit, the very Soul of the Mystical Body of Christ.
An interesting question to deal with here is the discipline about digamy: A married priest becomes a widower: Should he be allowed to marry again and still remain a priest?
Tertullian defended the monogamist view, that is, that a priest or a bishop of the early church who becomes a widower must remain celibate:
“Peter alone [among the apostles] do I find married, and though mention of his mother-in-law. I presume he was a monogamist. For the Church, built upon him, would for the future appoint to every degree of orders none but monogamists” (On Monogamy, post AD 213).
Where did he get this discipline from? None other than St. Paul: “It behooves a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behavior, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher, not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not quarrelsome, not covetous, but one that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity. But if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:1-5).
The same discipline applied to deacons: “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, who rule well their children, and their own houses” (1 Tim. 3:12).
Next article: The faith of the Early Christians.

+    +    +

(Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; EWTN program host; regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for Human Life International [HLI], president of the Sacred Heart Institute and a member of the Sovereign, Military, and Hospitaller Order of the Knights of Malta. His web site is:

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Canadian Catholic Schools Defy Archbishop on Transgender Policy

DMONTON, Alberta, Canada, October 8, 2015 ( – A Catholic school district in Canada is planning to approve a transgender policy contrary to its archbishop’s guidelines. The Edmonton Catholic school district in Alberta wants to push through a radical transgender…Continue Reading

Synod Showdown Report—October 5, 2015

We’re just out of the first press briefing of the Synod 2015, and things have pretty much picked up where they ended last year. The lead story, if you want to say there’s a lead to this, was a question…Continue Reading

Gov. Brown signs controversial assisted-suicide bill

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, signed a measure Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths. Brown appeared to struggle in…Continue Reading

Someone is Lying About the Pope’s Meeting with Kim Davis

Papal spokesman Father Thomas Rosica flatly denies Kim Davis met privately with Pope Francis when he visited Washington, D.C. which stands in flat contradiction to Davis’s claims. In Roscia’s telling Davis was part of a large number of people as…Continue Reading

Top Universities Defend Research Using Body Parts From Aborted Babies

Some of America’s top universities have signed a letter urging states not to support legislation that would ban the sale of aborted babies for research. The letter comes after ten videos surfaced exposing Planned Parenthood’s organ harvesting business, along with…Continue Reading

Catholic Hospitals Sued For Refusing Emergency Care To Pregnant Women

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced that it is suing Trinity Health Corporation, which operates 80 hospitals nationwide, for refusing to provide pregnant women suffering from life-threatening emergency complications with abortions. Trinity Health hospitals have “repeatedly and systematically…Continue Reading

Too Scared to Pray? ISIL Cancels Prayers for Fear of Russian Airstrikes

The Islamic State terror group cancelled Friday prayers in the Syrian city of Raqqa and emptied mosques there out of fear of further Russian airstrikes, according to activists and city residents. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,…Continue Reading

Putin defends Russia’s ban on youth-focused gay propaganda: ‘I believe we should leave kids in peace’

MOSCOW, September 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – In 2013, Russia passed an amendment to the country’s Child Protection Law against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors,” which also safeguards children from being adopted by homosexuals. Western governments, led by the…Continue Reading

EXPOSED: The billionaire Planned Parenthood donor who wants his donations kept very, very secret

Sept. 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Three weeks after I left my job at the clinic, Planned Parenthood took me to court. I am always asked, “Why would they take you to court? Did they have something to hide?” Well, yes.…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke Brought Back Into Roman Curia By Pope Francis

Raymond Cardinal Burke has been re-appointed to Congregation for the Causes of Saints from which he had been removed in December of 2013.

The Secret Meeting of the Papal Trip

Washington, D.C. One meeting during Pope Francis’ whirlwind trip to America has remained secret. Until now. It was, arguably, the most significant meeting, symbolically, of the entire trip. It should, therefore, be brought to the attention of the public, both…Continue Reading

Angry Pope Blasts Mayor of Rome as a ‘Pretend Catholic’

Pope Francis raised eyebrows in Italy on Tuesday by slapping down the left-leaning mayor of Rome as someone who “pretends to be Catholic”. The unforgiving assessment of Ignazio Marino — a man the Italian media love to hate — further…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 4

(Vatican Radio) On Thursday Oct. 8 Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckley of Accra, Ghana, said that the world needs to be patient with Africa when it comes to dealing with issues like homosexuality. “Give countries time to deal with issues from our own cultural perspectives,” he said. He added that the dignity and rights of all God’s son and daughters need to be upheld. The Synod Fathers continued to work in groups on Thursday. Archbishop Edoardo Menchelli…Continue Reading

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 3

(Vatican Radio) At the press briefing today the Holy See Press Office announced that the Synod Fathers had elected chairpersons and moderators for their “circuli minori” (small groups). The thirteen groups were determined by language. The groups began to work on Wednesday morning on the first part of  Instrumentum Laboris which outlines the context in which contemporary family life is lived. Jesuit Father and director of the Holy See Press Office, Federico Lombardi, was joined…Continue Reading

Pope Francis makes first direct intervention; was Cardinal Erdö undermined?

Pope Francis makes first direct intervention; was Cardinal Erdö undermined? There appear to be two main contingents at the Synod: one favoring the proclamation of the fullness of the truth to be taught with clarity and Christian charity; and the other favoring mercy at any and all costs October 06, 2015 03:00 EST Fr Nicholas Gregoris Pope Francis arrives for the morning session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct.…Continue Reading

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 2


(Vatican Radio) Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. opened the daily press conference by explaining what had happened in the morning session. He said that the general secretary of the Synod, Cardinal Baldisseri, had explained “certain processes of the methodology” and its new elements. Lombardi said that Pope Francis also thought it was important for him to make a contribution and so he too said a few words. “The Holy Father thought it important to say that…Continue Reading

Biblical Types Of Our Lady

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY A previous article looked at the role of Mary as the New Eve, and now we will look at some biblical types of our Lady, and see how the early Church fathers saw different types and prophecies concerning Mary in the Old Testament, that is, that particular incidents or artifacts pointed…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “What is Transgenderism?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For all of the previous Culture of Life 101 articles on homosexuality, e-mail him at + + + While those fortunate few who still possess a lingering sense of reality cringed at the bizarre…Continue Reading

Liberty Counsel Says . . . Pope’s Words And Meetings Support Conscientious Objection

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Liberty Counsel issued the following statement on October 2: Mat Staver, county clerk Kim Davis’ attorney, is the chairman of Liberty Counsel: + + + Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis…Continue Reading

A Book Review… The Ideal Artist

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY Santayana, George. The Life of Reason: Reason in Art. A critical edition, co-edited by M.S. Wokeck and M.A. Coleman. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2015. lvi + 276 pp. The Life of Reason is Volume VII, Book Four, of the Collected Works of George Santayana. Professor James Gouinlock of Emory University…Continue Reading

Why Isn’t Kim Davis A Hero To The Left?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK I have been waiting for weeks now for the keepers of the flame in the liberal establishment to express some begrudging admiration for Kim Davis’ decision to go to jail, rather than violate her conscience by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky. Or at least some ambiguity over what…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Choose To Serve Rather Than To Be Served

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11 Heb. 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45 In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that He came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. This is our hope for eternal salvation and, obviously, it is our hope…Continue Reading

Pope Francis In Philadelphia . . . Religious Liberty Transcends Places Of Worship

PHILADELPHIA (ZENIT) — Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave September 26 in Philadelphia, at a meeting with immigrants on the theme of religious freedom. ZENIT’s transcription and translation of his few off-the-cuff remarks are found in brackets. The Holy Father was in Philadelphia to attend the World Meeting of Families. ZENIT provided the text. All…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Pope Francis’ Visit Leaves Us Blessed And Strengthened

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The chair under me is rolling from starboard to port and back as I write to you this week because I do so aboard the USS San Antonio at sea. In my ministry here I am following through on something Pope Francis has asked of all of us: I am seeking souls at the periphery.…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . The Church Of Christ Is Universal, For Everyone

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 22 It is true that Jesus came first for the Jews. Many individuals accepted Him, like the apostles, disciples, and their converts, but as a nation they refused Him. So the apostles spread their mission to the Gentiles — that means, to our ancestors. But even if the Jews had accepted Him, the apostles would…Continue Reading

Mission Of The Catholic Laity: Priest, Prophet, And King

By DON FIER Thus far in our examination of the vocation of the laity in the mission of the Church, it has become manifestly clear that theirs is a role that is distinctive and indispensable. Characterized especially by their secular nature, it pertains in a unique way to the lay faithful “to illuminate and order all temporal things with which…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Pope St. John XXIII

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 1 Although rare, it is not unknown for a poor man, who had no connections and did not seek to develop them, to rise above all other men in stature and in influence over mankind. Such was the case of the sharecroppers’ son, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Throughout his ecclesiastical career, he was obedient and kind, but…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Thomas of Hereford

By CAROLE BRESLIN During the High Middle Ages the power of kings began to disintegrate, as shown by the Magna Charta, which was established in 1215. Although neither party of the agreement held up to its commitments, the beginning of more democratic rule had arrived. Three years later a noble family gave birth to a man who played a significant…Continue Reading