Tuesday 27th January 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Priestly Celibacy: Unnatural? Or…Supernatural? The Biblical Foundations Of Celibacy

December 27, 2013 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 1

Years ago in New Zealand I listened to a talk by Scott Hahn where he told the story of a conversation he had had with a young man from Steubenville University.
The youth has shared his desire to go to the seminary to become a priest. Some time later, the same young man found a lovely young lady on campus and realized that priesthood was no longer for him, since he now wanted to marry his newly found love. Scott’s reply was masterly: If you attend Steubenville where you find a large number of virtuous, Godly young ladies, and you do not fall in love with one of them, there’s definitely something wrong with you!
Scott then proceeded to explain to the young man the purpose and glory of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. The youth went to the seminary.
And this is the reality: To be a priest one must be a man, a real man, who understands human nature and offers a sacrifice to Heaven for the sake of a higher good: the promotion of the glory of God and the salvation of souls, acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, in the imitation of Jesus Christ as perfectly as possible, including in Jesus’ celibacy.
Jesus affirmed that the holiest man born of woman was John the Baptist, the celibate forerunner who preceded Christ our celibate Redeemer. Since the early Church days, men have been called by Jesus to follow in His footsteps in every possible respect. The priest follows Jesus’ counsel to walk the extra mile of celibacy.
Luther abolished celibacy in the church he founded. True, in his day there was much corruption among the clergy — it seems that history has this funny habit of repeating itself — and many priests did not lead a celibate life. I remember one priest in particular, very fond of beer, who made a scandalous marriage, by living with a runaway nun in a convent — Martin Luther himself.
Over the centuries, Luther’s followers of every color and modality disagreed among themselves in many ways because of their individualistic and relativistic interpretations of Scripture, but they also had many things in common — among those stood the abolition of celibacy.
Several times I have come across people who claim to live by the Bible and quote the Bible against the Catholic discipline of celibacy. Their most common quotation is:
“In the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their conscience seared, forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful, and by them that have known the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:1-4).
When one quotes a text of Scripture out of context, one makes a pretext against the Church, as the saying goes. Those who oppose celibacy based on St. Paul’s teaching fail to appreciate the historical context in which the apostle was writing. As John Henry Newman wrote once, “to know history is to cease to be a Protestant.”
Citing only the Bible without the historical context leads many to ignore the fact that in the early days of the Church there were Gnostic sects attempting to poison the minds of the faithful with their weird doctrines. Among them were the Marcionites, the Encratites, the Manicheans, and other ancient heretics.
In simple terms, many of them believed that there were two principles in the universe: one good and one evil. The good principle created the spiritual beings, whereas the evil principle created the material beings. So, every matter was from the evil principle, whereas spirit was from the good one. Now, since in marriage children are begotten, and children are made of flesh and bones — matter, therefore — marriage was seen as bad because it propagated matter.
Therefore, they forbade their followers to marry and imposed fasts (and possibly even vegetarian practices) as they saw fit. I’ve met some misguided Protestants who saw in these things the origin of celibacy and of Friday fasting in the Catholic Church. They err, not knowing the Scriptures.
In order properly to understand celibacy, one must understand the nature of the Catholic priesthood. This is so because the Priesthood of Jesus Christ is part and parcel of the mystery of salvation.
The Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary defines the word priest as coming from the old English preost, from Greek presbyteros, elder. The priest is the minister of divine worship, especially in its highest act, sacrifice. Since a sacrifice is offered in the name of a whole religious society, its minister must be appointed by the competent authority. Thus, priest and sacrifice are correlative terms.
Here is the big difference between the Catholic priest and the Protestant minister: The priest is not a mere president, chairman, facilitator, minister, preacher, leader, elder, etc. No. He is the one who offers sacrifice.
In Scripture we can distinguish three kinds or three stages of priesthood: the natural priesthood, which was common to Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, etc; all males, especially the heads of families, were called to offer sacrifice.
Then came the Levitical priesthood, established by Moses and that lasted until the times of Jesus. The priests offered sacrifice in the tabernacle and later in the Temple.
Finally, the sacramental priesthood, instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, when He transubstantiated bread and wine into His Body and Blood while He was alive — thus the Eucharist has also the presence of His Soul and Divinity. He commanded the apostles to “do this in memory of me.” The apostles had to do it precisely as He did, and not in any other way.

A Clean Oblation

In the Book of Genesis we learn that the first man to offer a sacrifice agreeable to God was Abel. According to a very picturesque Hebrew tradition (not Scripture) Adam and Eve had 32 sets of twins over their multi-secular existence. Each set was composed of a boy and a girl, who subsequently married and begot their own children. The only exception was Abel, who was born without a twin sister to marry, and who died a celibate man, whose sacrifice was agreeable to God. Could this be a first hint in Scripture that God our Lord wanted His priests to offer sacrifices agreeable to Him and die celibates?
A second hint about celibacy in the Old Testament is our friend Melchisedech. It is interesting to notice that the word priest (cohen in Hebrew) is mentioned for the first time in Sacred Scripture not in reference to Aaron, but to him, Melchisedech. He was that mysterious priest who did not offer a bloody animal sacrifice but instead offered a clean oblation of bread and wine — the first evident prefigure of the Holy Eucharist (Gen. 14:18).
In the Epistle to the Hebrews (7:1-3) we read: “For this Melchisedech was king of Salem, priest of the most high God, and who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him….Who first indeed by interpretation, is king of justice; and then also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but likened unto the son of God, continues a priest forever.”
Melchisedech was a “priest of the most high,” the first true Cohen in Salvation History, who imparted a priestly blessing in God’s name and who was a man with no recorded family — a celibate? Here is a second hint of how God the Father would be pleased with a celibate clergy in the future.
The messianic Psalm 109 prefigures the everlasting priesthood of Jesus: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech”— not the order of Aaron, who was married and offered animal sacrifice, but the order of Melchisedech, who was probably celibate and offered bread and wine.
In the next article we’ll take as look at other hints about celibacy during the Levitical priesthood, which started on Mount Sinai.

+    +    +

(Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; an 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.raymonddesouza.com.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Notre Dame theologian known for books, liberal stands, dies

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theologian known for his unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings and his popular books on Catholicism, died Sunday in his native Connecticut, according to the…Continue Reading

Bankruptcy case brings financial fears for Catholic schools

As president of an inner-city Catholic grade school that depends critically on donations, Helen Dahlman admits to an unconventional fundraising strategy. “We believe in miracles, so we pray a lot,” said Dahlman, who leads Risen Christ School in south Minneapolis,…Continue Reading

Cardinal: No pro-life victory without reaching the marginalized

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2015 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For the pro-life movement to truly succeed, it must fight not only abortion, but also the broader “throwaway culture” wherever life is being discarded, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston…Continue Reading

70 Churches Destroyed in ‘Anti-Charlie Hebdo’ Protests

The Christian community in Niger says it is in shock in the wake of weekend violence that has claimed the lives of 10 people and led to the destruction of dozens of places of worship and Christian homes. The protest,…Continue Reading

ITALY: Muslims smash, urinate on statue of Mary

A man was kneeling in prayer before the statue of the revered Madonna, with the photograph of a loved one in hand, in the small chapel of St. Barnabas in Perugia (Italy), when he was attacked by five “immigrants.” The…Continue Reading

At new in-flight press conference Francis says good Catholics are not required ‘to be like rabbits’

Catholics fail to practise “responsible parenthood” when they have too many children, Pope Francis has said during an in-flight press conference on the way home from Manila. He also denounced the teaching of “gender theory” in schools, likening it to…Continue Reading

CRUX’s “spirituality columnist” is “devastated” the Pope upholds Catholic teaching

Margery Eagan appears to be angling for a job as editor of National “Catholic” Reporter. Or perhaps spokesman for the LCWR: The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated. Goodness. Even…Continue Reading

St. Paul-Mpls. archdiocese declares bankruptcy in response to abuse lawsuits

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday, saying it cannot meet its financial obligations from an unprecedented wave of clergy sex abuse lawsuits. The move freezes lawsuits against the church, protecting the archdiocese…Continue Reading

Pope Francis strongly defends church teaching against contraception

Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.” Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued…Continue Reading

Bella Dodd, who rejected Communism in favour of faith, is a lesson for young jihadis

Her story shows how easily the best human impulses can be twisted to evil Having blogged last week about John Beaumont’s book, The Mississippi Flows Into The Tiber, with all the extraordinary, uplifting and grace-filled stories of conversion that it…Continue Reading

Fox News’ Bret Baier, actor Gary Sinise cancel on Catholic group after gay gripes

FOX News Channel’s chief political anchor, Bret Baier, has shown himself to have a thinner skin than might be guessed from his on-air persona.  Baier has caved in to pressure from the homosexual activist group ‘Good as You’ to back…Continue Reading

Federal judge strikes down South Dakota’s gay marriage ban

SIOUX FALLS – A federal judge has declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but has stayed the decision pending appeal. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier on Monday issued a summary judgment in favor of the six couples who filed…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

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 . . .

Pope Francis: Women First And Foremost In Transmitting Faith

pope714

(Vatican Radio) The primary and indispensable role of women in transmitting the faith to new generations: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. On the day when the Church celebrates the memory of Saints…Continue Reading

Pope Angelus: Jesus Wanted United Christians

(Vatican Radio) On Sunday and before the Angelus, the Pope recalled the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and its theme, “Give me a drink”, the sentence uttered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman. He told the faithful gathered that the “desire for unity” of the disciples of Jesus is part of our “thirst not only material for water, but…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Religious who pray for Christian unity an “invisible monastery”

(Vatican Radio) The vital role that men and women religious of different Christian Churches play in the ecumenical journey was at the heart of Pope Francis’s meeting on Saturday with participants in a conference on consecrated life and the search for Christian Unity. The three day meeting, which concludes on Sunday, comes in the context of both this Week of…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Thursday Mass in Santa Marta

pope713

(Vatican Radio) The most important thing is not the grace of a physical healing, but the fact that Jesus saves us and intercedes for us: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks following the readings of the day at Mass on Thursday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Commenting on the Gospel of…Continue Reading

A Book Review… Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s Heroic Witness In Perilous Times

By STEPHANIE BLOCK My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Translated and edited by John Henry Crosby with John F. Crosby, Image Books (2014); $28.00; 335 pages. My Battle Against Hitler, a posthumously published memoir and collection of essays by “20th century Doctor…Continue Reading

“I Can’t Breathe”… The Plight Of The Preborn

By REY FLORES (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from www.all.org, the website of American Life League. All rights reserved.) + + + This past year has seen race relations decline as a result of a well-orchestrated attempt by a corrupt government that wants to divide us at all costs. And the propaganda peddlers known…Continue Reading

“Flee Immorality,” Church Unity, & Right To Life March

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 January 18 blog…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Christianity’s Gift To The World

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. viii + 434. Does it still make sense to still talk about the West in what some call a “post-Christian world”? Larry Siedentop, emeritus fellow of Keble College, Oxford, asks, “Can the West still be…Continue Reading

Author And Monk Thomas Merton Turns 100

By RAY CAVANAUGH The most famous Trappist monk of the 20th century was not originally a Catholic. Thomas Merton, born 100 years ago this January 31, was baptized first in the Church of England. Both of his parents were artists: His father was from New Zealand and his mother was from the U.S. Merton was…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World.. Papal Bloopers And Catholic Teaching

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Pope Francis continues to grab headlines, not only by setting a new record for drawing the largest crowd in history, but also by his question and answer sessions on the planes to and from his pastoral visits. On the plane to the Philippines, the Pope responded to questions about free speech and violent responses to…Continue Reading

Mary’s Perpetual Virginity . . . The Faith Of The Early Christians

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 6 What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the perpetual virginity of the Mother of Jesus? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned alive, racked, beheaded. Others were crucified, flayed alive,…Continue Reading

I Believe — We Believe

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks of this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we have been reflectively examining the characteristics of the indescribably wonderful gift of faith that Almighty God has so generously availed mankind. As so adeptly summarized in the Compendium of the CCC, we know that faith is “the supernatural virtue which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I remember a nun telling us back in Catholic school that after God ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He promised that He would eventually send them a Messiah. Where is that in the Bible? — M.R., Indiana. A. In chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis. Actually, the promise was made before God expelled our…Continue Reading

Joy And Fulfillment

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Deut. 18:15-20 1 Cor. 7:32-35 Mark 1:21-28 In the first reading today God makes a promise and a command. He promises that He will raise up for the people a Prophet like Moses. At the same time, He requires that the people will listen to that Prophet because…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Of Egypt, Abbot

By CAROLE BRESLIN While we can understand that God is infinite, it is difficult to comprehend the stretch of such infinity. Certainly our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend it. Hence, since our minds our finite, the more we have cluttering our minds with worldly affairs such as possessions, relationships, and activities, the less time and room we have in…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Stephen, Protomartyr

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the popular Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, a different gift is given for each of the twelve days of Christmas. This celebration of twelve days begins with December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen, and ends with the Epiphany, traditionally celebrated on January 6. The Catholic Church celebrates the Christmas octave, eight days of…Continue Reading