Married priesthood, celibacy, and the Amazon Synod: An Eastern Catholic priest’s perspective

The tradition of the Eastern Churches reminds us that the mutually exclusive dichotomy is not between marriage and priesthood but between marriage and monasticism.

I am an Eastern Rite Catholic priest of the Byzantine Rite of the Ruthenian jurisdiction. While I myself am a celibate priest, I come from a long line of married Byzantine Catholic priests on both sides of my family. It is with great interest that I am following the apprehension among many of my Latin Rite brethren that a potential outcome of the upcoming Amazon Synod is the restoration of married priesthood in the Latin Rite of the Church, a practice that also existed in the Latin Rite during the first millennium of the Church.

It is the jurisdiction of each particular Church, East and West, to determine for itself whether or not the discipline of mandatory celibacy, or an adaptation of this discipline, ought to be the required norm for all men ordained to the priesthood. Since the Latin Rite Church has maintained the custom of mandatory celibacy for priests for over a thousand years, any hint at change in this regard does indeed warrant the utmost prudence, honest scholarship, and wise discernment.

For the sake of clear discernment on this issue it is critical to avoid erroneous foundations upon which arguments for mandatory priestly celibacy are often founded. For a further treatment of these arguments I would also refer the reader to Dr. Anthony Dragani’s essay titled “Is Mandatory Clerical Celibacy an Apostolic Tradition?”

The ontologizing of celibacy and priesthood

What the Church really seeks to preserve in the ordained ministry is the eschatological dimension of our Faith—our ultimate destiny as the mystical bride united eternally with the Bridegroom Christ at the Wedding Feat of the Lamb in Heaven. The discipline of celibacy and total continence is one way to preserve and give witness to that eschatological dimension, but it is not the only way. Historically and theologically, priestly celibacy—while a worthy and powerful witness to the Eschaton—is neither necessary nor indispensable to the priesthood itself.

The tradition of the Eastern Churches reminds us that the mutually exclusive dichotomy is not between marriage and priesthood but between marriage and monasticism. Celibacy is intrinsic to the very character of monasticism but not to the sacramental priesthood itself. Yet even here, as Saint John Paul II articulated so well in his Theology of the Body, celibacy and marriage interpenetrate and subsist in each other (cf. TOB 78). They are essentially two sides of the same coin to love and live in the Spousal Mystery.

Where there is a tradition of married priests in the Eastern Churches there are ancient rules concerning continence between a priest and his wife in regard to the celebration of the Eucharist. In this way the married priest (in cooperation with his wife) can give witness to the inherent eschatological dimension of the priesthood. The Eastern tradition also reminds us that it is actually the monastic who is most perfectly configured to the person of Christ and not the priest.

Is Celibate priesthood is holier and superior to married priesthood?

Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 teaches us that celibacy (or continence) is ‘superior’ to marriage only in the sense that Heaven is superior to life on earth. Celibacy makes already present on earth what marriage only anticipates—the Eschaton and our being the one bride of the Bridegroom Christ. The celibate priesthood in and of itself is not inherently holier than the married priesthood.

There is also a danger that this erroneous position has a certain rootedness in Manicheanism and related heresies in which physical matter, the human body, and related things (such as sexuality), are disconnected from any spiritual value and are therefore of a more banal character. The priest who abstains from sexual relations is not more ‘pure’ than the priest or layperson who engages in the one flesh union of Sacramental marriage.

The holy and profoundly self-donative lives of Eastern Catholic and Orthodox married priests, particularly during the Communist persecution in Eastern Europe, certainly demonstrates that a married priest is not inherently less holy than a celibate priest. Many of these married priests shed their own blood in faithfulness to Christ and His Church.

How can a priest have two wives—the Church and a woman?

A married priest does not have two wives anymore than a married lay couple has two spouses because they too must have Christ the Bridegroom as their first “spouse”. For the married priest it is a matter of sharing in two sacraments of marriage and ordination, of being “espoused” on the sacramental level and on the mystical level.

Part of a ‘progressive’ agenda, along with women’s ordination

Rightfully so, there is always a hearkening back to the Eastern Churches for any consideration of theological developments in the Latin Rite Church. However, the venerable tradition of married priests in the Eastern Churches should not be used as a proof text to justify a married priesthood that is lumped together with other items of a so-called progressive agenda that includes women’s ordination, among other things. It is not enough just to say, “Well look at the Eastern Churches. They have married priests so why can’t the Latin Rite Church?”

The unbroken tradition of married priests in the Eastern Churches has to be seen in the context of the nature and character of Eastern Churches and even in the cultures in which these Churches have existed. There was and is a cultural support for married priests both within and outside of the Eastern Churches. Most of the women who would become the wives of an Eastern priest came from priestly families themselves. Married priesthood cannot just be a matter of a woman (particularly a career woman) being married to a man who just happens to be a priest, as though he has his career and she has hers.

The ecclesial structure of Eastern Churches is usually much more local than in the Latin Rite Church and deals with small closely knit communities. In these communities the wife of the priest even has titles that imply that she is indeed the spiritual mother of the community.

Can a married priest be present both to his parish and to his own family?

While there will be times when the wife and children must know that “Daddy” has to choose his priestly duties first and foremost, in practice the married priest can be even more present to his wife and children than most lay fathers who spend a large part (maybe even the best part) of the day at work away from home and family. However, for the children of a married priest to see their father chooses first his obligations to God and service to others is a valuable and formative lesson.

Except when running errands, sick-calls, and so forth, the married priest is basically a “stay at home Dad.” Rectory life with the priest family is something akin to today’s homeschooling families. Furthermore, “Dad” can always take Mom and/or children along with him to some of “Dad’s” duties—a great way to foster vocations from the priest’s own family! In Eastern Christian parishes the wife and children often become in-house ‘staff,’ and are not a distraction to their priest-father’s ministry but rather share in his ministry and can act as a support system.

Having an all-celibate clergy does not guarantee that pastors will be present to their people either. Sufficient support systems for the celibate clergy is an area that needs attention in the Church today. Lacking sufficient support systems, celibate clergy can themselves often be less present to their parishes as they involve themselves in all manner of distractions, hobbies, trips, or even addictions in attempts to cope with loneliness, lack of intimacy, stress, or futility.

Can the parish afford to support a married priest and his family?

There are certainly financial challenges for the family of a married priest. Yet, the married priesthood has survived for 2,000 years. God will provide and bless that which is done according to his will and for his honor and glory.

While celibacy in and of itself is not the root of the clergy sex scandal, nonetheless an all-celibate clergy has indeed exacted its own financial strain upon the Church through millions of dollars in lawsuits, and rehabilitation programs.

Where should the Church, East and West, go?

In no way is this essay intended to convince the Latin Rite Church that it should have married clergy. Rather, I seek to be of assistance to my Latin Rite brethren in hopes that their discernment on the topic of married clergy for their own Church will be fully in accord with the will of God. Historically, the Church has in fact modified its discipline of mandatory celibacy such as the ordination and acceptance of former Anglican or Protestant clerics as Catholic priests. These men were not required to break up their marriages or to stop having marital relations with their wives as a requirement for the Catholic priesthood.

Priestly marriage and priestly celibacy are not callings that automatically offer solutions to the challenges clergy face today. The focus ought to be on how to form men to see their priesthood and their authentic manhood and fatherhood as defining each other.

It is providential that the very Churches that have had a married priesthood are the very Churches that gave the Church celibacy. Monasticism, with its inherent celibate character, grew up in the Eastern Churches of the Egyptian deserts. In addition to the rediscovery of the mystical dimension of manhood, fatherhood, celibacy, and priesthood there will have to be the rediscovery in priestly formation of the ascetical disciplines of monasticism. As St. John Paul II said in his Apostolic letter Orientale Lumen: “Monasticism is the reference point for all of the baptized.” This means dying to self and dying to the tyranny of our fallen passion and living instead for Jesus Christ—whether we are married or celibate, male or female, adult or child.

The homes from which vocations spring will have to rediscover the spirituality of the Domestic Church and raise children on a sacramental ethos of gift, wonderment, and gratitude. The home is where the ethos and skills necessary for the vocations of marriage and religious life are learned first and best.

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About Fr. Thomas Loya 2 Articles
Fr. Thomas Loya is pastor of Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish in Homer Glen, Illinois. He is also the host of “Light of the East,” a radio show that can be heard across the United States on several Catholic radio networks.


  1. Fr. Loya is to be commended for offering many important insights into the tradition and practice of married priests in the Eastern Churches. He does so with a true love for the Universal Church and with no political agenda. Yet his claim that the married priesthood is a 2,000-year tradition cannot go unchallenged. Significant post-Vatican-II historical and canonical scholarship over several decades: Cochini, Cholij, Stickler, Heid, etc., supports the finding that clerical celibacy was the norm from apostolic times; only in the sixth century or so did the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches officially relax that discipline to allow for married priests. As an elderly Ukrainian Catholic nun with several academic degrees once quipped: “Our Lord never said, “Pick up your wife and follow Me’!”

    • Fr Loya’s assertions are seriously defective, both historically and theologically.

      First, while it is true that the Church had married priests for close to a millennium, it is equally true that those priests (and their wives) had to practice perfect continence (thus, the issue is not marriage as much as it is sexual abstinence). St. John Chrysostom (an Eastern Father) says that a priest who has sex with his wife is guilty of incest. Why? Because he is having intercourse with his (spiritual) daughter!

      Further, Fr Loya talks about periodic abstinence of married priests and wives prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. And when has that been observed? I don’t know of a single married priest, Eastern or former Anglican (now Catholic) who holds to such a “norm”. And wouldn’t observance of that be a reflection of the Manichaeism that Fr Loya deplores?

      For the moment, last but not least, in this entire discussion does anyone consult the wives of married clergy? I have not met a single wife of a priest who would recommend that a woman marry a priest! And the vast majority of married priests I know are, to a man, opposed to optional celibacy.

      No, the Eastern Church(es) took a wrong turn historically by allowing their married priests to engage in sexual intercourse, contrary to various conciliar decrees (like Nicea II). The Roman Church considered that total continence within marriage was not only very difficult and unrealistic but even a near occasion of sin and thus opted for a celibate clergy. It is not an accident that those churches with a married clergy (both Orthodox and Catholic) have never engaged in any serious evangelistic missions, too.

      To put any even finer point on all this: I believe that Pope John Paul II (with a very paternal heart) made a huge mistake by letting the camel’s nose in the tent by permitting married Anglican clergymen to present themselves for Catholic ordination without requiring a firm and public commitment by them and their wives to live in total continence — in accord with the ancient canons of the Undivided Church. Now, people of bad will attempt to use that precedent to push for married (and uneducated) men to be ordained for the Amazon — and then Germany, then Holland, then Belgium, etc.

      Anyone interested in a serious treatment of this issue is invited to read a book I edited some years ago on this topic, published by Newman House Press. I should note that all of the contributors — save myself and one other — were all either converts or current Protestants, all concluding that abandoning mandatory celibacy would be exactly what neither the Church nor the world needs at this juncture of history.

      • “For the moment, last but not least, in this entire discussion does anyone consult the wives of married clergy?”

        While the theological questions are being handled by the priests, I cannot remain indifferent to this sociological dimension. The Eastern rites are founded on strong historical ties to particular places, and they have well-established cultural norms about family life, convention, and other practical matters. I can see that the priest’s wife in those rites would have preeminence among families in the parish, and her life would be dedicated to helping everything flourish — perhaps for the sincere love of God, or perhaps more to facilitate her husband’s work.

        Unfortunately, in the rough-and-tumble of the Latin Rite, none of that is possible. The people come from myriad backgrounds, widely divergent ideas of family life, and often have a mere grudging respect for the priest, himself. Thus, they would be deeply troubled by efforts by his wife to manage parish affairs — even should she simply want to help “build community.” I’m not proud of the fact that we don’t hold communion (or even the common good) in higher regard, but if a priest can’t do it for his parish, there isn’t a snowflakes’ chance of his wife doing it. (And that assumes that she share’s his view of the faith and has the time and inclination to collaborate!)

        • Genevieve perhaps cynical better seen a blessing considering the present state of priesthood in the Latin Church celibacy at least spares us from Levite ignominy when, “Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lament” (Ps 78:64). The Levite priest’s reward was not properties rather revealed as God himself. That injunction was to be radically fulfilled in the Latin celibate priesthood by far the more dedicated by its nature in missionary zeal and imitation of Christ. Satan has sullied it with homosexuals though a remnant remains to witness to the end.

      • I’m shocked and saddened at these responses of Latin Rite clergy. Yes, those backward Eastern Churches..for centuries making saints with their married clergy…for centuries preserving the Sacred Liturgy and ancient Traditions…for centuries evangelizing whole nations. Thousands of married clergy shedding their blood for Christ under Communism. And the Latin clergy, whose Church who is having a veritable liturgical and moral meltdown, again plays the card that the East is the backward one. Amazing. Is the East imploding? Is the East Protestantizing itself? After 50 years of liturgical innovation and rampant modernism, the Western Church is not one to talk about preserving Tradition.

        • The assault against Rome facilitated by entrenched homosexuals is due to where Christ has ordained the center of authority and the spread of Christianity to the world. There is no belittling Eastern Catholicism here rather it indicates two functions. The East has done well in containing the faith the West is paying the price to Satan for advancing it. At this point in history we are likely witnessing that what’s occurring at the Vatican and with this Pontiff was foretold by the Apostle John on Patmos, who thought the Antichrist enemy was emperor Domitian. Domitian like many thereafter were merely types. The indications now all point rather to what the Apostle described in 2 Thess 2 and the Lawless One. This is not the moment for finger pointing rather for unity in one faith presently under assault as never before. Insofar as the Latin priesthood the commitment to Christ alone is a call to a contemplative mystical relationship. That is its unique significance let no man discredit it. Those who have mainly homosexuals seeded during the night in attempt to destroy the Church within will succeed only in destroying themselves and those foolish enough to follow. Myself and other Latin priests stand fast with Christ with his grace to the very end, yes unto death if necessary we pray and call upon our Eastern brothers to join us and cease from defaming what Christ ordained. The battle lines are clear let us stand together.

        • I wouldn’t be too surprised, Latins tend to be elitists. I mean actually knowing their own tradition is pretty thick when you consider Fr. Stravinstas is one of the very few people in print to try to argue the Novus Ordo is organic developmen.
          Bottom line, centuries ago we came back into communion with the Bishop of Rome and by taking back a right that was granted to us is the reason why so many left communion in the early 20th century. If it wasn’t for this the majority of Eastern Christian’s in the US would be in communion with Rome instead of Orthodox. Not only that the Orthodox are able to successfully point to this and show that Rome is untrustworthy when they give us rights that facilitate the union only to take it away when they feel like it.
          Also that perfect continence argument is rubbish bad scholarship in a generally good publishing house, but you can see why they use it since it backs up a conservative Latin perspective. It’s not monolithic. It depends which Church in Catholic Church we are referring to. For instance very early on the Latin Church did have unmarried celibate clergy. We dont try to force married clergy on them they shouldn’t try to force it on us. In fact the Latin Church does have married clergy now who don’t practice perfect continence. So perhaps he should lecture his own Church which does have that tradition before lecturing the East about traditions he’s ignorant of but thinks he knows because he read it in one Ignatius press book. Oh and to add insult to injury, a married man can become a priest in the Latin Church only if he’s converting from a heretical sect, and not Latin cradle Catholics.

      • Perhaps Ireland should never have been evangelized because St. Patrick should not have been born from a priestly family.
        Must reading: “Celibacy-Gift Or Law” by Heinz-J. Vogels

      • The purpose of marriage is procreation: “go forth and multiply” commanded by God Himself in His second command to Adam and Eve. Deliberate celibacy in the sense of seeking closer companionship with Almighty God would be a personal decision. Disobedient? Not if done with deliberation and spiritual guidance as a kind of martyrdom seeking to be closer to God even here on earth.

      • “St. John Chrysostom (an Eastern Father) says that a priest who has sex with his wife is guilty of incest. Why? Because he is having intercourse with his (spiritual) daughter!”

        Guys, really?

        Is John C. or any of them the pinnacle of reasoning? This isn’t exactly state of the art.
        It seems you’ve got bigger fish to fry than being bogged down in some pedantic existential conversation that completely misses the practical paths you need to take.
        Those *in the Catholic church seem to actually have the most obstructed view in the ballpark.
        The last description people would give of your organization if a Light to the world.
        Very few inside, especially the lay people, are even aware that much of the public sees you as a horror show.

        Catholics are carrying on arguments about the Pope’s decisions, feast days etc, like nothing has happened, as the world whistles past a graveyard.

        The CC has been damaged(and obviously their victims) so severely by these gay clans and depraved rapists that who would allow their children near you? Why can’t you see that?

        Doesn’t the discussion & quote by John C, as if *that’s what is important, demonstrate that you just do not grasp how you’re viewed? It seems you need to make sure your not adding to the idea that homosexuals are hiding in the church. It was never a good idea and it’s fruits are obvious.


      Let us summarize recent studies on priestly celibacy in a few words. Recent scholarship proves quite definitely that priestly celibacy is of apostolic origin: it goes back to the time of the apostles and indeed to Christ himself. Recently, Prof Laurent Touze wrote a well -received book entitled “L’avenir du celibat sacerdotal” (“The Future of Celibacy”). In a June 8, 2010, interview with Zenit News Agency, Prof. Touze asserts: “One hears the word ‘medieval’ and it is often bandied about. Too often people ignore the recent developments in the historiography of clerical celibacy.” I think Fr. Loya is one of them.

      I am thinking of the brilliant classics in this field: Alfons Stickler, Christian Cochini and, more recently and more extensively, Stefan Heid, as well as Gary B. Selin, Mary Healy and many others. Fr. Thomas Loya’s article, “Married Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Amazon Synod: an Eastern Catholic Priest’s Perspective” is passé. He relies on a dated study by Dr. Anthony Dragani: “Is Mandatory Clerical Celibacy an Apostolic Tradition?” Dr. Dragani, too, needs to review the latest studies in this field.

  2. The unbroken tradition of married priests in the Eastern Churches

    One tradition that the East has broken is the requirement that married Priests observe perfect continence. The Eastern Rites required it until the Quinisext Council of 692 when they threw in the towel and 86’d that discipline because so many were failing to observe it.

    Historically, the Church has in fact modified its discipline of mandatory celibacy such as the ordination and acceptance of former Anglican or Protestant clerics as Catholic priests. These men were not required to break up their marriages or to stop having marital relations with their wives as a requirement for the Catholic priesthood.

    They are however, required to adopt the discipline of celibacy if their spouse precedes them in death. That applies to both those who are ordained under the 1980 Pastoral Provision – Anglicans – or those ordained with a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy – other married protestants. Married permanent Deacons must also adopt the discipline of celibacy if their spouse precedes them in death.

    The focus ought to be on how to form men to see their priesthood and their authentic manhood and fatherhood as defining each other.

    The actual focus needs to be enforcing the ban on ordaining, let alone admitting to seminary, homosexuals. Until that occurs any other “solution” will simply amount to the business as usual relativism that brought us to where we are today.

    • Re: Quinisext

      Setting aside the questionable historical claims preceding it, it cannot be used as a universal characterization of the position of the Eastern churches, or, to be more accurate, the other Apostolic Churches. The so-called Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrians had nothing to do with Quinisex but they nonetheless uphold the possibility of married men becoming priests and subsequently exercising their “conjugal rights” as a part of their received traditions.

      • Yes.
        The Church of India never even heard of the Quinisex Council, yet when the Portuguese arrived in India, they found a healthy Eastern Church founded by St. Thomas the Apostle with…gasp… married clergy.


          They did what all the Protestant denominations did: they took the path of least resistance. They didn’t have the oversight of the Bishop of Rome to keep them in line. I’m so thankful that the priests of the Latin Rite are “the eunuchs for the Kingdom of God” that Jesus talked about in the Gospel, after the example of Jesus himself.

          • A clueless, even slanderous, remark, on all grounds: theological, doctrinal, historical. The Catechism:

            In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry. (par 1500)

            Vatican II’s Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches:

            The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers (1) and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church. (par 1)

            If you had any clue at all about what so many in the Eastern Catholic churches have suffered over the centuries, not least in the 20th century, you’d realize how insulting it is to talk about “path of least resistance”.

    • Well said of aiding the young men for seminary to discover or reinforce their “manhood” to fortify them to embrace the decision for Christ’s ministry the choose to embrace. Celibacy is a manly choice that requires a prayerful attitude and a true connection to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. A man without prayer, is a priest without true inspired commitment. Thus, the failures in post- ordination among so many.

  3. Some reflections:

    (1) Neither Jesus nor His Apostles were monks but they were all in fact celibate priests.
    While there exists an intrinsic
    link between monasticism and celibacy there is no intrinsic link between monasticism and priesthood. One can be a monk without being a priest. Priesthood is intrinsic to Our Lord’s essence but monasticism is not. Therefore, the one who is most fully conformed to Christ is not the celibate monk per se but the celibate priest — the essence of whose ministry is to offer sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins in imitation of the God-Man.

    (2) The ordained priest belongs forever to the Order of Melchizedech, priest and king of Salem, whose human origins were unknown. Melchizedech, is a type of Christ. Melchizedech was celibate. Ergo, it makes sense that Melchizedech’s spiritual sons in the Ministerial Priesthood of Jesus Christ would likewise be celibate.

    (3) Once Our Blessed Lord called the Apostles (all were presumably married except John) they immediately left their wives and jobs (e.g., fishing; tax collecting) to follow their Master wholeheartedly and unreservedly. Their radical discipleship of Christ, which necessarily entailed separation from their wives and children, commenced long before their priestly ordination at the Last Supper. The practice of celibacy was an integral part of the Apostles’ priestly formation in the first seminary (as it were).

    (4) Celibacy is what set the Apostles free to be the most like Jesus not only in their discipleship but in their public ministry (missionary preaching to the ends of the earth)– which culminated in the supreme witness of their bloody martyrdoms.

    (5) On Calvary, the Virgin Lord, the Great and Eternal High Priest, entrusted His Virgin Mother to the Virgin Disciple, St. John the Beloved. Thus, according to Johannine theology, celibacy forms part of the nucleus of the nascent Church.

    (6) In the Upper Room, the Eleven Disciples gathered around the Blessed Virgin Mary (Regina Apostolorum) not around their own wives and children to await the coming of the Holy Spirit who then empowered them to engage in the First Evangelization unencumbered by earthly concerns such as marriage and biological fatherhood.

    (7) Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is an integral teaching of Christ in the Gospel. Jesus is the primary model of priestly celibacy followed by St. Paul.

    (7) The overwhelming witness of the Apostolic Tradition (e.g., Fathers of the Church) underscores celibacy as a special charism or divine gift which most fittingly characterizes the life of the priest who is conformed ontologically and not merely symbolically to the Son of God Incarnate so that he may function “in persona Christi capitis,” (“in the person of Christ the Head”) as an “alter Christus,” (“another Christ”).

    (8) The maleness of Christ as well as His celibacy are essential aspects of the Mystery of the Incarnation which are intrinsically linked. No Manicheeism here! Therefore, should not ordained priests likewise embody those same incarnational principles in their own lives?

    (9) Practically speaking, allowing priests to marry means that priests will now have to contend personally with moral problems associated with marriage: divorce; artificial contraception; in vitro fertilization; sterilization; abortion etc.

    (10) Wives of priests are very often resented by other women in the parish.

    (11) Married people often feel very comfortable in confessing to celibate priests or seeking their counsel with regards to marriage precisely because they feel that the celibate priest has an unbiased view of these issues.

    • “they immediately left their wives and jobs”
      This would have made an awkward visit when Jesus came to Peter’s mother-in-law… who lived with Peter and his wife. Clearly there is an aspect of domestic life here that the Bible did not see fit to comment on… Unless you take some statements literally while others figuratively.

      • I would like some proof that the Apostles left their wives. I can’t find any wife of any Apostle ever mentioned in Scripture ANYWHERE. Peter – who presumably was the oldest Apostle – is said to have had a mother-in-law. Many widowers have mothers-in-law. There is not mention of Peter’s WIFE being alive. When Peter’s mother-in-law is healed of a fever SHE gets up and waits on the guests in the house. Where was Peter’s wife, who, as the wife of the ‘man of the house’ surely would have ALREADY waited on the guests before Peter’s mother-in-law was raised up from her sickbed (especially if the wife of an Apostle/priest was supposed to be a spiritual mother to the community).

        I simply see no evidence of any Apostle leaving his wife. It would have been an act of grave injustice in those times, when a woman needed to have a man to take care of her financially. (Note that Jesus does not leave his mother a widow with no son to support her, but turns her over to the care of John.)

        When Peter questions what he and the Apostles can expect for having given up everything to follow Jesus, the Catholic New Revised Standard Version of the Bible does not mention wives in Matthew’s Gospel:
        Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?”
        * n Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
        And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.

        Other translations include ‘wives.’ Interesting that the Catholic translation does not: does it mean that abandoning a wife to poverty, lack of care, being alone is OK with Jesus ‘for the sake of the kingdom’, but divorce is not? How could Jesus have prohibited divorce in one breath (Mt 19:3-9) and then speak of abandoning one’s wife for his name’s sake in the next breath (Mt 28-29)?

        All of this talk of abandoning family – but not wives – is in the context of the teaching about being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching [prohibiting divorce], but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can’ (Mt 19:11-12).

        In Mark, wives are also conspicuously absent from what the Apostles have given up for the sake of the kingdom. (Again the conversation occurs immediately after Jesus institutes marriage as an unbreakable sacrament): Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”
        Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
        who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

        Why would Jesus teach in one moment on the indissolubility of marriage and turn around in the next moment and approve abandoning one’s wife for Jesus’s sake. The injustice of it – not to mention the patent illogic of it – is telling.

        I would like some proof from Scripture that the Apostles left wives behind. A mother-in-law, yes; but a man who outlives his wife can easily have a long-lived mother-in-law. I simply can’t find ANY mention of ANY Apostle’s living wife in the Scriptures. Someone help me, please if any Apostle’s living wife is mentioned as being present at ANY point in the Gospels or Acts of the Apostles or Peter’s or John’s letters.

        • Luke 18:29: “[Jesus] said to them [the Apostles], “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”

          • “Who said to them: Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left home or parents or brethren or wife or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, 30Who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

            Yes, He did say that; but He did not say that they had all left wife and children; only that any man (not just them) who left home OR parents OR brethren OR wife OR children would receive much more.

        • To answer a couple of your concerns: A marriage is not dissolved should the couple choose to redefine and embrace it in a higher form, i.e., the Josephite (spiritual, continent) marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Secondly, in a communal, practically collectivist society, such as existed in the time of the Apostles, provision could easily have been made for relatives and clansmen to provide for any wives “abandoned”. It is doubtful that the apostles took wives and children along with them on their dangerous missionary journeys in any case.


          “Nel” writes with capital letters: “I would like some proof that the Apostles left their wives. I can’t find any wife of any Apostle ever mentioned in Scripture ANYWHERE.”

          Like a good teacher, Fr. Gary Selin sits “Nel” down and curtly but respectfully administers a much need lesson in Scriptural exegesis by simply quoting Luke 18:29:

          “[Jesus] said to them [the Apostles], “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.” There!!

          Fr. Selin knows whereof he speaks, having recently written a much acclaimed book on priestly celibacy entitled: Priestly Celibacy, 2016, CUA Press.

      • Reading at random , the interesting comments , not particularly opinionated either way ; this one may be the catch for my pick – 🙂 – the fascinating first page from the book by Cora Evans , Peter might have been a widower , the depiction of Peter and Lord in that fishing scene , enough to get the hearts to desire for more ..
        The Church in India had fallen under the heretical Church of The
        East unknowingly ,till after the arrival of the missionaries , to bring the life blood of communion that kept them from going under enemy powers .
        The practice of marriage among clergy , if it did exist , is what likely also contributed to the adoption of the caste system from the prevailing pagan faiths , leading to may be lukewarmness in seeking out conversions , esp . of those most in need – those who were seen as low caste .
        St.Francis Xavier did tremendous work to correct the error and his footsteps being followed more diligently through out the Churches there now , even as the resistance is also higher .

  4. This “struggle” is an equal justice under the law debate that as lasted for centuries should no longer be a paramount concern. It seems that sex is continually debatable. Sexuality is a never ending dilemma in the Catholic Church. Sexual expression is natural, celibacy is not! Women hold a second class citizenship place in the church, much like the Muslim and mid-eastern religions retain there “control” of their women.

    When I was a young Catholic man it was a mortal sin to even think of sexual urges when seeing a beautiful woman. Now that could not have been in God’s plan for the men aggressors he created!

    • morganB:”Sexual expression is natural, celibacy is not!”

      I’m a Catholic widow with 8 children. Celibacy is a moral requirement for my current station in life as a single Christian woman. How is that not fitting or natural?

      • My dear Mrscracker. Celibacy may be your choice based on your difficult situation of being a single mother. However, I beg to differ for one reason. If everyone chose celibacy it would be unnatural in God’s plan and mankind would be no more.

    • Don’t presume to speak for me or for any other woman. Women do not hold “a second class citizenship place in the church.” What a twisted and sick vision of the Church and Her mission you have.

      “When I was a young Catholic man it was a mortal sin to even think of sexual urges when seeing a beautiful woman.”

      Bilge. You must have been the world’s most clueless student if you think a brief thought of sexual urges, banished as soon as possible, was described to you as a mortal sin. Wilfully dwelling on those thoughts is another matter, and was (and continues to be), sinful. Perhaps you missed what Jesus said: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. “

    • You SERIOUSLY need the help of the Theology of the Body. I strongly recommend finding some of Christopher West’s materials, such as the four-CD set, ‘Our Bodies Proclaim the Gospels’ or going to one of his week-long seminars on the Theology of the Body. Women are by NO MEANS of lesser status in Christianity – absolutely NOT Scriptural and NOT Christian teaching.

      This article is not about the mortal sin of fleeting sexual thoughts, immediately banished, so it’s very curious that you should turn it into that. Furthermore, there is no hard-and-fast set of sins that are always mortal with some clear-cut list of punishments in every case being the same. Any well-formed confessor can tell you that habit, training, psychological problems, stress, etc., can always lessen the culpability of an act. No sensible confessor would ever say that a fleeting sexual thought about a woman, immediately banished and repented of, is a mortal sin.

      So someone gave you wrong information and it seems to be a besetting issue with you, because this is not the point of the article. Seriously, do find some of Christopher West’s information, because he is open about how badly sexuality was ‘treated’ in the past (total repression or mortal sin) in some contexts, and offers a far more true and beautiful – and thoroughly orthodox and utterly human – Catholic view of sexuality. Well worth any amount of time you devote to it; many people have been healed of deep guilt, anger, bitterness toward the Church, etc. when they’ve learned the truth from Christopher West (who learned from John Paul II).

  5. Did not Paul tell us, the married woman makes busy pleasing her husband and the married man to please his wife. The Anointed as well as the Consecrated have a divine spouse. A priest told me, “you want a holy priest, you also should be a holy priesthood as well.” The Church is battered in the biggest fight with Satan, “the last battle about family and marriage”. The Church is divided. The Church is reigned by anti-Christs. This is not the time to get more comfortable, but to love Christ more and to radically imitate and follow Christ. My son-in-law is Orthodox. JPII said, “The Church breathes with two lungs, east and west.” But it is a time for prayer, penance, sacrifice and supplications. Come Holy Spirit enkindle the fire of your Divine Love in your Church again and unite us.

  6. There’s a CNA article reprinted in the National Catholic Register where Bishop José Luis Azcona, a missionary bishop emeritus of Marajo in the Amazon River delta, says the region is quickly becoming non-Catholic. In some areas the Pentecostal Christian majority now reaches 80%.
    He goes on to say the Synod is missing all the real problems actually facing Catholics in the Amazon.
    It’s a worthwhile read. And it seems to strengthen the argument that this is more a tool of European clergy to further their own agendas. Not so much a desire to aid the Amazonian people or spread the Gospel. I suppose the Pentecostals are busy with that…

  7. To take on the mantle Celibacy, is to confront human nature head on, that is why Jesus says “he who can” as it has the potential to open one to the sin of Pride (Image). It is defiantly not obligatory for a Shepherd, to say so would be a manifestation of arrogance, as it contradicts the Divine Word (Will)

    A holy Church is a humble Church and by definition a Holy Priesthood is a humble Priesthood.

    Image lies at the root of many problems within the Church today, as It could be said that ‘Image’ reigns supreme on the ‘Worldly’ plain, as it creates the power to award both honour and shame. Clericalism the vehicle that carried our Christian endeavours throughout the ages, has manged, assisted by a ‘Worldly Faithful,’ to maintain an ‘Image’ of Holiness/goodness, before mankind. This Image of Goodness (Only God is good) has now been shattered. So now how can the leadership and all of us, embrace this shattered Image?

    The precursor to understanding Jesus’s mission, is to know, that a humble heart is the one and only state from where the ongoing transforming action of The Holy Spirit can take place, as it marks/creates a necessary separation of the Church/Faithful from ‘The World’

    But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. All had witnessed many miracles, while Peter James, & John had also witnessed The Transfiguration, while hearing the voice of God. It appears “all seemed to have missed out on radicle conversion” And for this reason Jesus taught us ‘all’ to pray not to be led/put to the Test, rather “but deliver us from evil” “For the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”

    True sincerity of heart before God, transforms our failings, no matter how tragic, into humility, and this can be clearly seen in Peters chosen means of martyrdom.

    We can only walk His ‘Way’ in humility
    “Learn from me I am meek and lowly of heart and you shall find rest to your souls”

    I believe that the Shepherd leader for a new invigorated Church will be a humble one, with the capacity to discern and direct the potential in others, leading them also to become (working) Shepherds, who together hold each other responsible for their combined actions, underpinned by total honesty, the serving of the Truth in all situations would be the binding mortar holding these new emerging structures together.

    The essence of Love is Truth we all fall short in the actions of Love, but no man or woman can excuse dishonest before their brothers and sisters who would serve the Truth, for to do so would be an attempt to destroy the mortar (Humility) of that unity.

    It is said you cannot be what you do not see/envisage, we need to see our Shepherds holding the bright lamp of Truth high above their own vulnerabilities, teachings us by example, in humility, how we are also to be made holy (Sanctified) as in

    “Sanctify them in the Truth; thy Word is Truth as thou didst send me into the world so I have sent them into the world and for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth”

    It could be said, that for true emotional inter-dependence to come about with others, we need to show/tell our vulnerability, for when we do so, it confers authenticity, a place from where we can truly share the communal meal and our life with others.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • Kevin,

      You used up 600 words in your screed. What in the world are you trying to say about celibacy for the Kingdom of God? Jesus spoke glowingly about it. So did St. Paul. The Church considers it a gift to the Mystical Body of Christ. In the next life, we’re all going to be celibates.

      • Thank you Gino for your comment, firstly I am not against celibacy and would acknowledge that those who have truly committed themselves to it, for the ‘Kingdom of God’ should be applauded, provided that they have been given the grace to do so. But sadly as my post states the ‘Image’ of the Priesthood (all male celibates), has been found lacking, as the downward spiral of the institutional Church (Clericalism) continues.

        What I am attempting in my (Screed) post, is to promote a way forward, as in a working (Out in the world) Priesthood a priesthood that holds each other accountable for their actions, actions that might bring the Church into disrepute, while supporting each other in close communion, in order to build up the Body of Christ.

        This often self-proclaimed statement/idea that an all-male celibate priesthood is somehow a higher state, than the lay state, is to project Image that deviates from this teaching

        “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”

        ‘Jesus appears to be conveying that His disciples do to take honor (Image) to themselves, which did not belong to them; nor even choose to be called by such names, as would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them, and take off of their dependence on God the Father, and Himself, as these titles the Scribes and Pharisees loved to be called by, rather look to the mandate given at the last super, to those who would lead in His name’

        As previously stated a holy/humble Church incorporates a humble Priesthood

        If I were a Sheppard what would I do
        In trust, a bowl and towel I would bring to you
        A Bondsman to the one above
        To All, this must be truly understood
        In spiritual poverty, we only serve love/Truth
        Water with grace to clean your heart feet and face
        As I wash your feet, the Masters heart I will seek
        Your heart to mine will surly speak
        No one can divide if in the light of the Spirit we reside
        Our opinions are no longer truly our own
        The Word (Will) of God is all we own
        To Bishop on his throne we will take our towel and bowl
        As we wash his feet, his heart we will seek
        ‘No one hides’ from where Christ truly resides

        Father! with tongue and flame give us unity again.

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

  8. The celibate priesthood is the primary reason why it is the Latin Rite that to this day predominates in all parts of the world outside eastern Europe and the middle east. But for the celibate priesthood, Christendom would still be largely confined to those regions.

      • For every one married man you can find who is willing and able to permanently relocate many times during his marriage, you can find a thousand unmarried men who are willing and able to permanently relocate many times during their celibacy. Colonialism is beside the point. No imperial power ever really colonized Scandinavia, for example, in the way that Europeans colonized the New World. But the Latins reached Sweden and the Greeks didn’t. Planting the Cross across Europe didn’t require any monarch’s patronage or oceangoing vessel for either group; it only required apostolic availability. Generally speaking, families simply do not get up and migrate like single men do.

        • Colonialism/imperialism is not besides the point as it was the vehicle for getting Latin missionaries to the New World and also for intruding into Asia. The other Apostolic Churches usually relied upon monks to be missionaries. I am merely correcting your triumphalistic Latin narrative.

          • Who is demanding that all priests must be married? I do not deny that monoastics or other celibates have historically been behind the missionary impetus. I just deny your Latin triumphalistic version of Church History. Latin colonialism in Ibero-America has ended up in caste system of which the Latin churches have not extricated themselves, as well as poorly-evangelized indigenous peoples, which is related to the first problem.

        • p.s. Be it remembered that it required celibates like Cyril and Methodius, Eastern Catholic heroes who were mistreated by most Latins other than the Popes of their day, to finally evangelize the Slavs, and hence Russia. You see, this is not about East or West, generosity or selfishness, appreciation of human nature, or any such red herring. It is about the radical availability that celibacy affords and marriage does not.

          • And as for the red herring of colonialism:  If that is what it took to get Catholic Jesuits and others over here (Isaac Jogues and his radically available brethren) to finally put an end to the human sacrifice and similar mores of the indigenous peoples of the lower Great Lakes, Mexico, and the Amazon basin, then we should all — from the Pope and the fathers of the Amazon synod on down  — thank God for colonialism.

  9. Correct me if I’m wrong but the Eastern rite and Orthodox cannot have sexual relations with his wife before the Mass, 24 hour time span including the mass in the middle.
    Apparently, the Orthodox have only one mass a week. Never knew that but that is what I read. The Catholic Church has daily masses…therefore it would mean that the priest has to be celibate the whole year.

    • Helena has the right answer! Celibacy developed in the West along with the tradition of the daily mass. The communion fast, which is binding upon both the clergy and the laity, precludes a married priesthood if the mass is celebrated daily.

      In Orthodoxy, daily Divine Liturgy is found primarily in monasteries, which have celebate clergy, and not in most parishes.

  10. From what is available on the internet, it would seem that Laurent Touze’s _L’avenir du celibat sacerdotal_ is more a work of theology than of history, relying instead on Cochini and Heid, both of which are disputed by non-Latin historians. Does the author recognize that it was not always the case that bishops were celibate and unmarried, despite the preference of most Apostolic Churches now for such episcopal candidates? One article records his claim that that married priests in “Oriental rites” (not the Oriental Churches) would eventually disappear [sic] as people slowly return to the “Tradition” of the “Church.” (
    ) Such a Latin chauvinist view should not be unsurprising from an Opus Dei priest-academic.

    Regardless of the theology to justify the current Latin discipline, Rome recognizes that the discipline is not a divinely-given precept but one that is ecclesial. As such, its non-observance by those priests who are not obligated to follow it is not a sin, nor is the belief that the discipline is mutable heretical. Latin theologians may justify their preference for the discipline through theological arguments, but theological arguments do not create a new divinely-revealed precept, and the judgment based on such argumentsthat the current discipline is better for the Church, that is the patriarchate of Rome, does not fall under any hitherto accepted Latin notion of infallibility. At worse such theologians, when denigrating the legitimate discipline of other Apostolic Churches in favor of their own ecclesial tradition, give the appearance of being like those whom our Lord criticized as elevating the customs of men over the Divine Law.

  11. As evidenced in the comments, people throw out statements as if they are factual. Truth be told, there is little historical data to back it up. A statement, for example, all the apostles lived celibate lives or that Melchizedek was celibate. In reality, no one knows! Where is that historically documented? Those are speculative statements. Fort he sake of truth and clarity, please stop! In addition, to say that the wife of a priest causes resentment in the parish is another speculative argument. Unless a person has taken a survey of the vast majority of parishes with married clergy, again stop throwing out specious statement to win an argument. It is neither objective or scholarly. Fact – there are wonderful examples of pastors who are married and celibate. Fact, there are examples of unworthy pastors both married and celibate.

    Historically, we know for certain one apostle was married and that is it. Saint Paul, however, does make reference that other apostles were married. We do know also: no where does the Lord mandate celibacy for the priesthood. It was left to the individual person to choose, and it was to be lived for the Kingdom. It had nothing to do with priesthood. As identified in Sacred Scripture, whether one reads the Gospels or the Letters of Saint Paul, no where was celibacy associated with the priesthood. Celibacy was associated with a vocation, just as marriage. The common denominator in both states is that a vocation should be lived in community, every vocation is ecclesial! Christianity is the experience of the Trinity. The Trinity is a Community of Persons united in love. The two vocations of the Christian are therefore really to be married or monastic (in the West another form of monasticism evolved called consecrated life.)

    Since the earliest of days of Christianity, priesthood has been associated with ministry. The teaching about a priest being radically conformed to Christ is a late development and has brought about many problems in the West. Scripturally and according to the early Church all the baptized are conformed to Christ, it is the universal call to holiness. Again, priesthood is a service for the building up of the Body of Christ. Otherwise, one of the pitfalls is to view the priesthood somehow as a higher state of life than the lay state, because the priest is more conformed to Christ. Automatically that excludes women from being more perfectly configured to Christ and for that matter all the laity.

    First conclusion, on the one hand, as evidenced in the early centuries of the Church, both East and West, a priest could be married or celibate. Nevertheless, it did not effect his ability to minister the sacraments and preach. On the other hand, men and women who have the grace to live more radically the Gospel and be configured to Christ could choose freely to live the radical state of celibacy, however, in community! One side note, looking at the tradition, all Christians are expected to live some form of celibacy throughout their lives- even the married person.

    What we know as well: the Old Testament priesthood married, and the Lord chose for sure one married man, Peter, to be an Apostle, priest and bishop. The Lord did not come to abolish but fulfill the Old Testament. It would seem in continuity with the Old therefore to maintain a married priesthood in the New Testament; again, because priesthood is a ministry in service to the Church – old and new. In the comments above, certain persons remarked that the apostles became celibate. That is speculation and no one knows how that may have looked. Therefore, comments about living with their wives, living separately, living continence are sheer conjecture. Commentators also make another egregious error. They associate and interchange the words apostles and priesthood and make the unverifiable claim that priests in the early church lived as the apostles. The New Testament and early Church writings however do not make such an association. According to the tradition there was a genuine distinction between an apostle and priesthood.

    We know also that Saint Paul encouraged those who could live celibacy for the Kingdom to do so, but it was a personal opinion of his and was not a divine commandment. A married clergy has been around since the beginning, but mandatory celibacy has not. That is factual and historical! The cited authors, above, such as Cochini and Stickler document it. There is historical evidence of perfect continence among the married clergy. Nonetheless, they were married. Mandatory celibacy was a slow evolution over the course of centuries; it is a Church and man-made discipline for good or ill -nonetheless, it is not a divine commandment. Thus, a married clergy is of apostolic origin. Mandatory celibacy evolved and is an ecclesiastical discipline; it is not apostolic. Both the Eastern and Western Churches emphasize different aspects of the tradition, and a married clergy is one of those examples. As noted in some comments above: there have been many noble and dedicated Christ-like priests who have served the Church that were married and celibate.

    To equate celibacy with missionary zeal is a bogus argument, exemplifies western ignorance and insults the East. It was not the western church that evangelized the entire asian continent; it was the Churches of the East – the ones with married clergy. The eastern Church evangelized much of Eastern Europe, all of the Middle East, Russia, parts of Africa, Japan and Alaska, not the Church of the West. The Eastern Churches had evangelized parts of China and Mongolia long before Poland was evangelized. That is a lot more territory than the West ever evangelized. The collapse of missionary activity was due to one major factor: Islam. The Christian East went from a thriving, evangelizing Church into self-preservation mode. Read also the history of how the Irish clergy in the late 1800s and early 1900s treated the eastern Catholics in the United States. It was pretty disgraceful and oppressive!!!!!! Please westerners set aside your biases about the East. The first one thousand years was dominated by the East in so many ways and provided the foundation upon which the western Church was able to build in the second millennium. As so common, the western church evolved and developed doctrines and practices that actually deviated from the more ancient traditions upheld by the East. One case in point a mandated celibate clergy.

    Finally, the East has a better appreciation of human nature and its theology emphasizes better and more correctly the Communitarian God. If a man chooses to live celibacy he should be living in a community of other celibates and in a ecclesial- life that respects, understands and supports the gift of celibacy. Why? Man is made in the image of a Triune God. The human person, including the priest, should be living in some kind of ecclesial community or domestic church rather than as individuals isolated, disconnected and alienated, which is the common experience of diocesan Latin Rite priests in the United States, today. Due to such isolation and alienation, many celibate priests live their celibacy selfishly – to spend it on themselves – to deal with the harmful effects of loneliness. They turn toward alcoholism, materialism, excessive traveling, sex, etc. The human person is social, communitarian by nature and needs intimate friendships, i.e. a community of some sort whether it be marriage, an oratory or a monastic group. Personally, I have found more times than not the Eastern married clergy much friendlier, humane, human, healthy, kind and down to earth than the Latin celibate clergy who tend to come across cold, institutional, bitter and defensive. Worse, in the celibate monarchical structure of the diocesan life too many priests live lives with little accountability to anyone. They live as bachelors. They tend to live better than most of their parishioners and do not have to make the sacrifices married men must for the sake of their families or a celibate living in a community where there is accountability and sacrifice. Married men who own their own businesses have the demands 24/7 of running a business along with the demands of family life and all the burdens to meet the family’s financial burdens. They are fortunate to have maybe one day to rest. Meanwhile, the celibate priest has a fairly comfortable life – guaranteed employment, guaranteed salary, guaranteed health insurance, guaranteed place to live, and takes one to two days off, takes vacation time, and for all intense and purposes is not accountable to anyone, etc. Frankly, a married man – priest and layman – often times lives a life of greater sacrifice in this Country than the celibate priest.

    Second conclusion: God is Trinitarian – Communitarian. In Genesis, God created Eve so that man would not be alone in his mission. Even the Lord had Twelve Apostles with Him during His entire public ministry and before His death He entrusted Mary, His mother, to John. If the western Church will continue to mandate celibacy of her priests, the Institution needs to be reformed on how it is lived. It should never be lived in isolation, otherwise, such a state lends itself to becoming a psychological burden and a source of loneliness. In a culture predisposed toward rugged individualism it has taken a serious toll on the priesthood in the United States. What is more, the Church by nature is ecclesial and the the baptized person is called and made to live in community. Might this be part of the discussion!!!

    • “Personally, I have found more times than not the Eastern married clergy much friendlier, humane, human, healthy, kind and down to earth than the Latin celibate clergy who tend to come across cold, institutional, bitter and defensive. ”

      I am assuming from your unending post, some of which I read, that you are of the Eastern clergy. I have known many priests of the Latin rite who are friendly, human, human, healthy, kind, and down-to-earth. I’m not acquainted personally with any Eastern-rite priests, but with you are the example before me I have to consider them a smugly self-satisfied lot whose instant reaction to everything is “Latin rite bad! Latin priests bad! Celibacy bad!”

      It’s odd; almost as if the identity of the Eastern-rite people who post here is entirely a negation, as if they wouldn’t exist if they weren’t bad-mouthing the Western Church.

    • Clearly my previous post was not intended to include Mr. Olson or the other Eastern Rite Catholics who post here without ranting about how bad the Catholic Church is. Just the ranters.

    • Saint Paul, however, does make reference that other apostles were married.
      Only if you are relying on a corrupted text to base that assertion on.

      • Why do you call it a corrupted text?
        The Greek word is γυναῖκα. Are there some ancient Greek manuscripts or papyri that do not contain the word? It means literally a woman of any any age: virgin, married or widow. A second meaning is a betrothed woman. The RSV, translating from the Greek, renders the word “wife.” The Greek Interlinear, again, translating from the Greek, renders the word “wife.” The Latin Vulgate uses mulierem which can mean woman either married or not. The Douay Rheims, referring to the Vulgate, translates the text as “woman.” Msgr. Knox while using the Latin Vulgate also referred to the Greek. In the text he chose the word “woman” however he added a commentary, “‘Woman’ may also be translated ‘wife’; and that may be the sense intended. We know that St Peter was married, and his wife, if she was still alive, may have travelled with him on his missionary journeys. But it is not impossible that he, or other apostles, may have been cared for by pious women, as our Lord Himself was.”

        Following the Greek rather than the Latin, it is not incorrect to translate the word “wife.” It is not a corruption of the text, as the well respected English Scholar and Priest Monsignor Knox explains.

  12. Funny that a number of commentators bring up the work of the former Fr. Cholij who wrote a book and other works on priestly celibacy.

    He left the priesthood to marry! How ironic.

    As to the other authors, in different places clerical marriage was lived differently. Regional or local councils often seemed in opposition to each other.
    But the ultimate question is people are starving without the Sacraments…which was given to the Church? Did the Lord institute and make mandatory Sacraments or celibacy?


    Mr. Olson,

    The truth is never slanderous. My remarks were not slanderous theologically, doctrinally or historically, as you suggest, when I said that “they took the path of least resistance.”

    You must know Vittorio Messori, perhaps the most brilliant Catholic writer in Italy, a scholar and a historian. He is an excellent Catholic. He has probably written fifty books, many of them best-sellers and translated into many languages, including English. He has studied this matter of priestly celibacy for many years and has recently published four or five classic studies of this matter. On July 17, 2014, he was interviewed by the well-known Italian magazine “Il Timone” (in Italian). In the interview Messori says:

    “It’s clear that, during the first centuries, the discipline of the Christians in the East was consistent with that of the Christians in the West: the Church, undivided in this matter, required virginity, celibacy, continence from its ministers. But an obligation of this kind, so much in contrast with natural instinct and therefore so difficult to observe, required an authority, an organization, a constant control, a vigorous and central Magisterium: all things that were lacking in the Eastern Churches, deprived of a papacy.”

    You, Sir, have slandered me. You were trying to be politically correct, as it were ….

    • I didn’t realize that the Eastern CATHOLIC Churches were deprived of the papacy. You are aware of the difference between the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics? This is the sort of clueless, sad nonsense that Eastern Catholics have to deal with constantly.

      Did you even note that the two quotes are about Eastern Catholicism? From Vatican II and John Paul II?

      • For sake of historical clarity there was of course a hiatus of unity centering on Papal authority and doctrinal differences between the Latin West and virtually all Eastern Churches from the time of the Great Schism 1054 until the 15th century. The Maronite Church is considered the only one of the Eastern Catholic Churches to have always remained in full communion with the Holy See [although the Melkite Rite claims similar], while most of the other Eastern Rite Catholic churches unified from the 16th century onwards. Eastern Catholics in contrast to Western, or Latin, Catholics trace their origins largely to the failure of the ecclesiastical authorities at the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1439 to unite Christians of the East and West. Stimulated by this unsuccessful beginning, however, and encouraged also by the later missionary activities of such monastic orders as the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Capuchins, the proponents of the goal of the eventual reunion of Eastern and Western Christians began to achieve some elements of success (Encyclopaedia Britannica). My contribution here likely already known by some is that the Maronites who have married clergy [allowing married men to become priests but prohibiting priests to marry] were always in union with Rome and able to retain their tradition regarding priest celibacy and marriage. Perhaps also the Melkites. Rome apparently respected their tradition as a cultural,spiritual good although different than their own. My hope is that we move beyond our differences and stress what matters, our Apostolic faith in Christ.


        Mr. Olson says that my post “is the sort of clueless, sad nonsense that Eastern Catholics have to deal with constantly.” He apparently doesn’t know his Church history, when he writes: “I didn’t realize that the Eastern CATHOLIC Churches were deprived of the papacy. You are aware of the difference between the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics? This is the sort of clueless, sad nonsense that Eastern Catholics have to deal with constantly.”

        Mr. Olson, for over a thousand years there was one Church. Some (most of Greek culture and language) were in the Eastern Roman Empire under the Eastern Roman Emperor with the capital in Constantinople. Eventually, the Eastern Roman emperor increasingly meddled in the affairs of the Church, becoming the quasi pope of the Easter branch of the Church. In fact, the Emperor Constantine, the first Eastern Roman Emperor – not the pope – called the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

        The Christians of the Latin language and culture were in the other branch of the one Church and civilly under the Western Roman Emperor, but under the direct tutelage of the bishop of Rome

        Officially, until1054 A.D., (the year of the Great Schism) the Church was one and undivided. There were no Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics. They were all one Church. At the so-called Council of Trullo, held in Constantinople, in 692 under the Emperor Justinian II, and attended by 215 bishops, all Orientals (which was never recognized by the popes of Rome) the Oriental bishops decided that all clerics except bishops could marry and continue in wedlock.

        When Vittorio Messori says that “the Eastern Catholic Churches were deprived of the papacy,” he meant that, in effect, the influence of the papacy in the Easter Roman Empire was extremely weak and ineffective, in contrast to his influence in the Western Roman Empire.

        • You need some remedial Church History.

          There were splits before the split between the Chalcedonian Churches in the second millenium; i.e. the split with the so-called Oriental Orthodox and also with the Assyrian Church of the East. Trullo had nothing to do with either.

  14. The crux of this ongoing controversy is whether Rome favored the Eastern churches doctrine on celibacy or whether it was grudgingly accepted as inferior though tolerable in the interests of unity. Scholarly studies [Cholij, Cochini] indicate complete continence became the rule early on during the first millennium observance later diminishing. The earliest textual evidence of the forbidding of marriage to clerics and the duty of those already married to abstain from sexual contact with their wives is in the fourth-century decrees of the Synod of Elvira and the later Council of Carthage (390). The controversial Quinisext Council [many in the Latin Church refused its canons] addressed the issue of ‘facts on the ground’. The Council of Trullo Constantinople 692 Quinisext: Many of the council’s canons were aimed at settling differences of ritual observance. It also explicitly repudiated the Roman custom of not allowing married individuals to be ordained to the diaconate or priesthood unless they vowed for perpetual continence (canon 13). The Maronite church must have adopted if not already in practice the Trullan decrees. Although many prominent Latin Catholics particularly Pope Sergius I (687-701) Saint Bede (673-735) repudiated Trullo Pope Hadrian I [772-795] would later write favorably of the Trullo canons. Pope Hadrian recognized all the Trullan decrees in his letter to Tenasius of Constantinople and attributes them to the Sixth Synod. “All the holy six synods I receive with all their canons, which rightly and divinely were promulgated by them, among which is contained that in which reference is made to a Lamb being pointed to by the Precursor as being found in certain of the venerable images” (Hefele). Hefele’s [Karl Josef von Hefele 19th century Catholic German Bishop theologian, Church historian] summing up of the whole matter is as follows: (Hefele, Hist. of the Councils, Vol. V., p. 242). “Venerable images” is a reference to Latin veneration of the Lamb of God that the Trullo participants condemned and Pope Sergius I in reaction permanently inserted as the beautiful Agnus Dei in the Roman Canon indicating perhaps Pope Hadrian I was bending in order to accommodate an apparent Eastern animosity toward the West. Although not quite in respect to celibacy which he seems to honestly give approbation. Does mutual animus still linger? Do we all need to return to what unites us?.

  15. There is no evidence for the alleged apostolic obligation of perpetual continence until the third century, and that is contradicted by contemporary patristic evidence, e.g., Clement of Alexandria.

    Furthermore, as Vogels notes, ‘… present-day canon law teaching has to regard the fourth century law as void, since the Codex Iuris Canonici regards “the conjugal act which by itself is apt to produce offspring” (conjugalis actus per se aptus ad prolis generationem), as belonging to the enduring “essence of marriage” (ad quem natura sua ordinatur matrimonium), which is guaranteed by “divine law” and i co sewuence, cannot be removed by tbe ecclesiastical lawgiver (canons 1061 s 1; 1057 s 2; 1059 CIC/1983)’ Vogels, Celibacy – Gift or Law?, Kansas City, 1993, p. 42.

    • Here, Albrecht hit the heart of the matter and correctly stated, “There is no evidence for the alleged apostolic obligation of perpetual continence until the third century…” That’s right & even Cardinal Stickler (and Cardinal Sarah’s book with B16’s CONTRIBUTION to Sarah’s book) cannot find any evidence before AD 305. There is simply NO, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA evidence prior to AD 305 for ‘mandated’ continence. Clement of Alexandria in AD 200 said the Church accepts married priests and deacons who are saved in begetting children. The VERY FIRST evidence for mandated continence was the LOCAL Elvira Synod of AD 305 which had only 19 bishops from Spain. A forteriori, Elvira Synod (which carries the same juridical weight as the Amazon Synod btw) was a LOCAL and NOT UNIVERSAL act of a very small section of the Catholic Church. Thus, it is erroneous to hold that “married priests were expected to be continent” or that “obligatory continence comes from the apostles” bc of the Elvira Synod — THERE IS NO EVIDENCE BEFORE AD 305. One can say that continence “came from an epoch close to the Apostles” (which B16 did say while Pope), but scholarship shows that ‘mandatory continence’ does not come from the Apostles. We cannot be more traditional than Tradition. As B16 as CONTRIBUTOR (not co-author) CONTRIBUTED to +Sarah’s book, “love is essence of priesthood of Jesus Christ.” V2 said in PO16 that celibacy is “not of the essence of the priesthood” and Trent and theologians from Trent held that celibacy is NOT divine law. Thus, agape is the heart of the priesthood of the New Law, and all the debates about continence and celibacy are like the circumcision issue. The Church has the authority to declare and regulate celibacy and continence, to grant dispensations to the celibacy Latin norm and ordain married deacons to the priesthood as the Church see fits. The Church taketh away but the Church also giveth.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Married priesthood, celibacy, and the Amazon Synod: An Eastern Catholic priest’s perspective - Mama Mary - Our Loving Mother
  2. Married priesthood, celibacy, and the Amazon Synod: An Eastern Catholic priest’s perspective -
  3. MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit
  4. Celibacy: A brilliant jewel, a pearl of a great price – Catholic World Report

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