Tuesday 25th November 2014

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

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

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: www.RaymondeSouza.com.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal Burke: Church teaching on sexuality must be clarified, and only Pope Francis can do it

In an interview with Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTE, one of the Catholic hierarchy’s most outspoken defenders of life and family and the Church’s sexual moral teachings again indicated Pope Francis needs to “clarify” that divorced and remarried Catholics, and active…Continue Reading

Pope Appoints New Bishop For Gary, USA

(Vatican Radio) The Holy Father has named an Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, Donald J. Hying as the new Bishop of Gary, USA. He succeeds Bishop Dale J. Melczek, whose resignation Pope Francis accepted upon having the age limit. On Monday…Continue Reading

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Fidelity to Bishop of Rome crucial to evangelization, US bishops say

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2014 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Pope Francis on Monday, the U.S. bishops vowed fidelity to the Holy See and voiced hope that Pope Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families…Continue Reading

Nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore Monday

Nearly 300 bishops from across the nation will determine the coming year’s agenda for the American Roman Catholic church when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins its annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. The bishops will spend four days…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 subscribe 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

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Urges A “lonely” “Self-absorbed” Europe To Recover Its Soul

pope671

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called on a “haggard” and “lonely” Europe to recover its role as a world protagonist, its identity as a defender of the transcendent dignity of man, the poor, the migrant, the persecuted, the old and the young, to recover its soul: Christianity. Emer McCarthy reports: In a lengthy address– the first of two on his one…Continue Reading

Pope at Santa Marta: Everything For The Lord And Others

pope669

(Vatican Radio) When the Church is humble and poor, then “it is faithful” to Christ, giving all it has for the Lord and others, leaving nothing for itself said Pope Francis at morning Mass in  Casa Santa Marta Monday. Pope Francis based his reflections on the Gospel of the Day which recounts the episode of the poor widow who gives…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Homily For Christ The King Canonization Mass

pope670

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Mass celebrated in St Peter’s Square on Christ the King Sunday, during the course of which he canonized six new saints: Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal, Amato Ronconi, Giovanni Antonio Farina, Nicola da Longobardi, and Ludovico da Casoria. Below, please find the full text of the official English translation of the…Continue Reading

Pope: All Christians Called To Be Missionaries, ‘Not Just The Few’

pope668

(Vatican Radio) All Christians and “not just the few” are called to intensify their missionary spirit and go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, said Pope Francis.He issued the call on Saturday in speaking at the Vatican to a group of more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, which was organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference…Continue Reading

Giving Thanks

By DONALD DeMARCO The word “thanks” is etymologically rooted in the word “thought.” With this in mind, G.K. Chesterton could say: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Chesterton had a genius for expressing expansive ideas in a concise way. Many of his…Continue Reading

Changing Their Tune

By PHILLIP DEAN (Editor’s Note: Music has always been especially important to Phillip Dean. Gifted as a singer and musician, the high school sophomore leads a Wednesday night youth band at his Rock Hill, S.C., church. And, though he completes his academic coursework online from home, he played for the last four years in the…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “The Birth Control Pill: Unintended Consequences”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a CD containing hundreds of patient information pamphlets showing that the most common methods of birth control are abortifacient in their actions, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen…Continue Reading

The Synod And The New Evangelization

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Detailed Studies Of Galileo

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Finocchiaro, Maurice. The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents, translated and edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2014. Pp. xii+160. This book draws upon Finocchiaro’s previously published works, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989) and Retrying Galileo: 1633-1992 (2005), at once making those masterful works more readily accessible,…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . Some Bishops Are Beginning To Find Their Voice

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK In recent weeks the Pope hosted the “Humanum” conference in Rome. In his remarks of welcome he clearly reiterated his commitment to the right of children to have both a mother and a father while stating that marriages and families cannot be redefined by or subject to manipulation by ideologies. (See p. 4B of this…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

Reading And Interpreting Scripture

By DON FIER We ended last week’s installment by launching into a discussion on a question of critical importance: “How is Sacred Scripture to be read and interpreted?” The significance and the relevance of this question become apparent if one examines findings outlined in the 2012 “Status of Global Mission” report, a publication of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Why does the Church celebrate a church building in Rome? — P.R., Massachusetts. A. Because the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom and is the church of the Pope, not St. Peter’s Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built in the fourth century…Continue Reading

Be Watchful And Alert

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-17 In the first reading today we hear of the conflict that has tormented humanity from the very beginning. The problem is that we blame God for everything. Isaiah cries out to God in a lament, “Why do you let us…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Catherine Labouré

By CAROLE BRESLIN A miracle is a sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or to testify to someone’s sanctity. During His life on earth, Jesus performed many miracles. Miracles did not end with Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. They have continued to be performed throughout the history of the Church.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

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