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Mark Wilden wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am attempting to gain a better understanding of God's Word. I have found your comments to be informative. I am not interested in judging one particular branch of the Church of Christ over another.  I believe that if any church is a Bible-believing church and that it also believes in the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, then it is part of the body of Christ's Church.

  • Nevertheless, why are the leaders of the Catholic Church not allowed to marry?

I cannot find any Scriptures that prohibit them.

  • It does say we are to be set aside for the purposes of God but why no marriage?

God made Eve to be Adam's helper. Women have a very important role in support and in protecting the heart of a man.

Mark Wilden

  { Why aren't your leaders allowed to marry as in Genesis 1-2 and what is the Scriptural basis? }

Mike replied:

Hi Mark,

First I want to affirm and agree with your first two statements:

You said:
I believe that if any church is a Bible-believing church, that also believes in the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, then it is part of the body of Christ's Church.

I ask for your patience as I digress a bit. These churches are indeed part of the Church! To the extent that we both agree on the Holy Scriptures and on the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus, this is good, and something we can celebrate in unity together as Christians.

As Catholics though, we would also say there is more to the fullness of the Teachings of the Lord than what we have agreed on above. For that reason, we would encourage those outside the Catholic Church to look into Church history, and strive to understand what we believe as Catholics. The Church does still teach that "Outside the Church there is no salvation".

This means two things:

  1. Those that know the Church to be the True Church, this includes a cognitive understanding of Her teachings, yet refuse to join Her, can't be saved, yet ...

  2. Those who:
    • have never heard the Gospel of Christ, or
    • heard the Gospel and have persevered and studied to the best they can, with the intent of entering the True Church, but never end up joining the Church

    can be saved.  It is through the graces of the Church, however, and their intent to follow the Truth which God had revealed to them by which they are saved by desire.

This last "intent" is often referred to as baptism of desire.

On faith journeys like these, it can be tempting to think that as long as I go to my local church each Sunday, read the Holy Scriptures and live a good life, I'm OK. I don't have to be open to considering other Christian faiths.

An attitude can develop where one plans to chide God on Judgment Day, as if we can rationalize why we didn't have more of an open mind to other Christian faiths.

Non-Catholic Christians are called to study, read and develop a formed Christian conscience,
as are Catholic Christians. This can best be done by:

The formation of a solid Catholic Christian conscience is something that is lacking at many parishes. Many of the problems we have in the Church today Mark, stem from having members within Jesus' own Church: teachers, preachers and lay parishioners, who, willingly or unwillingly, don't keep up with the knowledge of Church Teachings.

Now on to your question.

You said:

  • Nevertheless, why are the leaders of the Catholic Church not allowed to marry?
  • I cannot find any Scriptures that prohibit them. It does say we are to be set aside for the purposes of God, but why no marriage?

God made Eve to be Adam's helper. Women have a very important role in support and in protecting the heart of a man.

  • I do not understand why your leaders are not allowed to do that which God Himself planned for from the beginning of the world?

Let me give you the Scriptures, then comment on it:

Matthew 19:1-12 (especially verses 10-12)

1 Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the territory of Judaea on the far side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him and he healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees approached him, and to put him to the test they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?' 4 He answered, ‘Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female 5 and that he said: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh? * 6 They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.' 7 They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?' * 8 He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard–hearted, that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. 9 Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife—I am not speaking of an illicit marriage—and marries another, is guilty of adultery.'

10 The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' 11 But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. 12 There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'

The Church distinguishes between issues that are disciplines, or practices of the Church that can change and doctrines or teachings of the Church that cannot. Practicing Catholics have to believe the doctrines of the Church in order to justly call themselves Catholic.

Married priesthood in the Church is a discipline and can change. We have always had a married priesthood in the Eastern Rite of the Church. The perception is that because most members of the Church belong to the Latin Rite, the Catholic Church doesn't have a married priesthood; this is generally true. (i.e. for new seminarians) Nevertheless, a provision has been granted for married Protestant ministers who wish to join the Latin Rite Church and also become Catholic priests.

The discipline in the Latin Rite Church could change, but I personally don't think it will, nor should, for very good reasons.

Many look at an unmarried priesthood as something that is strange. My reply would be:

  • Jesus was a celibate priest. Was Jesus strange?
  • St. Paul was a celibate priest. Was St. Paul strange?

Neither Our Lord nor St. Paul were strange; they were just dedicated to the proclaiming the Gospel to the world on a 24/7 basis. A married priesthood would have little, to no, time for parishioners because they would have to put their physical family over their spiritual family.

Our Lord is the Holy Model who all priests are called to follow.

I don't believe minor debates within the Church about which is better, an unmarried priesthood or a married priesthood, is helpful. The Church guided by Christ and the Holy Spirit allows both.
That's good enough for me.

In my opinion, in the Latin Rite, the unmarried priesthood is a blessing. Plus, we have to remember, no one is forcing seminarians in the Latin Rite to be celibate. It is their free choice and no one else's.

As our Lord stated:

11 ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. 12 There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

Matthew 19:11-12

So some are called to a celibate priesthood and some are not.

  • Can someone called to the married life, or to the chaste, single life as a lay parishioner, understand this?

Of course not, it is not their calling. This doesn't mean their calling is bad or better. It just means it is not their calling.

  • Some are called to the married state.
  • Some are called to the single, chaste life state.
  • Some are called to be "other" Jesus' and priests of His Church.

Three different callings, all good, all with a purpose and mission within the Church. The Catholic's job is to pray and discern the vocation, and then carry it out.

You said:
God made Eve to be Adam's helper. Women have a very important role in support and in protecting the heart of a man.

You are referring to the married vocation, which most of us are called to!

I totally agree with you. Husbands are called to give their life for their wife, but wives are also called to give their life for their husbands.

I hope this answers your question.

If not, please follow up.

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Mark —

Thanks for the question.

It is a legitimate question you ask.

First, you must understand the difference between:

  • a pastoral discipline
  • a doctrine and
  • a moral teaching.

For a Biblical understanding of discipline versus doctrine, I refer you to Acts, Chapter 15.

In this chapter, we see the Apostles meeting in what is now called the Council of Jerusalem.
At this Council the question was:

  • What must Gentiles do in order to enter the Church?

Some believed they had to follow the entire Mosaic Law, including circumcision and temple sacrifices. Paul on the other hand disagreed.

Peter, speaking as the universal Pastor of the Church (the Pope), made the doctrinal statement that circumcision and observance of the Mosaic Law were not prerequisites for entrance into the Church. Then James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, added a discipline and a moral teaching.
The discipline was a provision that the Gentiles not eat the meat of strangled animals. The moral teaching dealt with sexual morality.

Now later on in Scriptures, Paul reverses this restriction on food. You see, there was nothing doctrinal about it; food is food. James had originally imposed the discipline, because Gentiles eating certain meat would have scandalized the Jewish believers. Later, this discipline no longer made any sense. In fact, to this day, non-Catholic Christians can eat what they want. Catholic Christians can eat what they want as well, except during certain Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, and during all Fridays of the year, provided they follow the norms of Penance set down by the bishops.

To your question: Well, a celibate clergy is not a doctrinal issue either; it is a pastoral matter. The Western Catholic Church has for centuries believed that a celibate priesthood made it easier for the priest to serve his flock, but there are exceptions. When Anglican priests convert, they are often ordained regardless of their marriage.

  • Why is this so?

Because it is not doctrine. It's just something we in the Western Church found works better.

In Eastern Catholic Churches, they still ordain married men regularly. They are no less priests and no less Catholic.

The Church trusts that the Holy Spirit guides its actions in matters of discipline.

Nevertheless, we also know that these things can change; further, we don't always get the disciplines of practices right. At other times, practices and disciplines were only meant to be observed for a period of time, like the prohibition that James put on the Gentiles, not to eat certain meats.

When it comes to doctrine or moral teaching, however, that is another story altogether. We believe the Holy Spirit prevents the Church from teaching error. Therefore, moral and doctrinal teachings cannot change.

I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

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