On Catholic priestly celibacy

As Mr. Thompson points out, in many parts of the world it\’s more honoured in the breach than anything else.

In some parts of the world it\’s heterosexual marriage, in others the discreet \”housekeeper\” approach (a favourite in rural Ireland for a long, long, time) and today in urban areas homosexuality of a more or less discreet kind.

But the real argument against said requirement for celibacy is the way it came about in the first place. It was power politics, not anything to do with doctrine.

As the Church became a large and powerful landowner then there was concern that the inheritance of church property would lead to the fragmentation of that power. The answer thus being to not allow marriage among the officers of the Church. Any children that were begot (and it was indeed common) would be by definition illegitimate and thus not able to inherit.

This is not, to put it mildly, a concern of the current Church.

In essence, a sensible and reasonable thing to do would be to go back to the division pre-11 th and or 12 th centuries (it was around then, can\’t quite recall). The monastic orders are celibate, the priesthood in general is not.

11 comments on “On Catholic priestly celibacy

  1. Yes, 1054, the Great Schism, is the date you want. The Orthodox and the Eastern-Rite churches in communion with Rome still have married priests but celibate bishops. You have to make the choice before you become a deacon. Either the joys of matrimony or the prospect of promotion.

  2. WKPD: “… while the fact of being married was formally made a canonical impediment to ordination only with the 1917 Code of Canon Law …”.

    More generally, over the last few centuries every major reform (bar two) by the Roman Catholic Church seems to boil down to admitting that Luther had been right. If anything, the two major exceptions (Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception) make Luther’s case even stronger.

    How long will it be before post-Luther reforms set in – women priests, I mean. I can remember an Anglican friend being astonished when I told her that the Kirk had women ministers – “just you wait” said I.

  3. ….Either the joys of matrimony or the prospect of promotion…..

    As a married man who would love a promotion to cover the ever escalating family budget, one wonders what the point of promotion is for the celibate?

  4. A spin-off benefit of “celibacy” was the lack of an hereditary priesthood. Appointment could be more on merit than by birth.
    On another point: I read somewhere that mediaeval villagers used to lobby the bishop to ensure a new priest came with his own woman. Otherwise he would go after theirs.

  5. I seem to have the comment problem too.

    So, trying w/o HTML …

    “A spin-off benefit of “celibacy” was the lack of an hereditary priesthood.”

    Ah, yes, “nepotism”. From the Italian for nephew. Or, for those priests who were less careful about how they broke their vows, ‘nephew’.

  6. There is no evidence I know of that there is a wide spread tolerance of sexual relations among priests. It is true that some people’s vocations have been collapsing since the 1960s but no more. Nor do I see giving in to the demands of the modern world sensible. The accusation that the Church has been proving Luther right is absurd. But even if it is so, what is the point dearieme? The Lutheran Church is in a state of collapse beyond recovery. The Church can hold to eternal truths and survive, even as a small sect, or it can vanish into a puff of post-modern bullsh!t. Up to them.

  7. It isn’t just the Ordinariate that has married Catholic priests – there’s also the Greek-rite churches (the Uniates), like the UGCC. Greek-rite Catholics are allowed to marry after ordination, unlike the Ordinariate.

  8. “The accusation that the Church has been proving Luther right is absurd.” Possibly, but it’s not what I said. Read again.

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