Former Pope Benedict XVI is releasing a book co-authored with Cardinal Robert Sarah defending clerical celibacy. The book comes as a response to the news that Pope Francis will be publishing his own thoughts on the subject.
Benedict’s book “From the Depth’s of Our Hearts” comes out in the midst of some bishops within the Catholic Church pushing for Pope Francis to consider allowing priests to marry.
It is my hope that Pope Francis will allow Catholic priests to marry and abolish this long-standing rule within the Catholic Church as I have never truly understood why it was ever a rule in the first place. I say this not as a smear on the Catholic Church as a whole, but I think it is unrealistic and cruel to strongly encourage ministers to deny themselves the joy of marriage just to serve as a priest. There is nothing unbiblical about a minister enjoying the blessings of marriage.
In fact, according to Catholic history and tradition, the Apostle Peter is considered the first Pope. We know that Peter was married because the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law by Jesus is noted in Luke 4:38-40. Yet, in the Code of Canon law 1087, it states that “ Those in sacred orders invalidly attempt marriage.” I fail to see how this is right or consistent with Biblical teachings.
It should be noted that marriage is not a Biblical commandment, so I am not saying that everyone who wants to live as a Christian has to be married. Yes, there are certain benefits that go along with choosing to remain single when it comes to ministerial work as one would not have the responsibilities that are associated with a marriage relationship and could devote themselves strictly to their duties as a minister. But it is also very important to understand that the Apostle Paul’s words in regard to abstaining from a marital relationship to devote oneself to the service of Christ is his personal recommendation and not a divine commandment. He makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.
1 Now as to the matters of which you wrote me. It is well [and by that I mean advantageous, expedient, profitable, and wholesome] for a man not to touch a woman [to cohabit with her] but to remain unmarried.
2 But because of the temptation to impurity and to avoid immorality, let each [man] have his own wife and let each [woman] have her own husband.
3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights (goodwill, kindness, and what is due her as his wife), and likewise the wife to her husband.
4 For the wife does not have [exclusive] authority and control over her own body, but the husband [has his rights]; likewise also the husband does not have [exclusive] authority and control over his body, but the wife [has her rights].
5 Do not refuse and deprive and defraud each other [of your due marital rights], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves unhindered to prayer. But afterwards resume marital relations, lest Satan tempt you [to sin] through your lack of restraint of sexual desire.
6 But I am saying this more as a matter of permission and concession, not as a command or regulation.
7 I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another.
8 But to the unmarried people and to the widows, I declare that it is well (good, advantageous, expedient, and wholesome) for them to remain [single] even as I do.
9 But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire]. (AMPC)
If you recall, in the Narrative of Creation recorded in the beginning chapters of the Book of Genisis, after God created man and the living creatures of the earth, he created woman so that man wouldn’t live alone. Therefore, marriage has to be a good and holy relationship that God has given mankind.
It seems a very harsh and legalistic burden to place on those who wish to become members of the Catholic clergy. It also seems rather silly that the Church would expect members of their congregation to take marital advice from men who, in most cases, will never know what it is like to be married to a woman.
It is my hope that Pope Francis will listen to the bishops asking that priests be allowed to marry, and abolish this practice, which is grounded in what seems to be a misunderstanding of Biblical teachings. It only serves to place unneeded restrictions on the personal lives of priests.
Christians of all denominations should support this, as the love between a husband and wife is an archetype for the relationship between Christ and the Church. As Ephesians 5:25 commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, it would be a good practice to encourage all people who have a desire to marry to model the love of Christ in this way.