By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
(CNN)–For centuries, the Vatican has required celibacy from its priests.
It is a vow the Catholic Church says not only underscores the commitment of seminarians to their vocation but also is a model of Christ’s own celibacy.
But with the election of a new pope, many church watchers are wondering whether church teachings could change to allow all priests to marry.
Currently, the Vatican allows married Anglican priests who join the Catholic Church to become ordained as priests. Young Catholic seminarians, meanwhile, must remain celibate, and church leadership seems unlikely to move on the issue.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that while changes to church law on celibacy might be discussed, it is unlikely to change soon.
“It startles me sometimes (when people) say why doesn’t the church talk about married priests,” he said. “I think we talk about it; I can’t get my hair cut without my barber asking me about it. (But) I don’t think there would be that kind of change.
“For a pope, the mission statement is to conserve in the best sense of the word … preserve the spiritual patrimony of the church, the timeless teaching that’s taught to us from Jesus to his apostles through 2,000 years of the Church.
“Now that doesn’t mean he might not change the way it’s presented.”
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For the Vatican, the debate on celibacy is nothing new; it has been going on in various forms since the Reformation of the 16th century – but the past 50 years has put new pressures on the priesthood.
The Vatican reaffirmed its commitment to continuing the practice at the height of the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s.
In 1967, Pope Paul VI, who charted the Catholic Church through the difficult shoals of the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, published an encyclical, or open letter to the church, entitled Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Latin for “Of the celibate priesthood”).
In it, he outlined the reasons for keeping the tradition of celibacy a part of church teaching: it was a superior way of achieving grace, it freed priests from familial obligations in order to devote themselves to God, it mirrored heaven as a place without marriage.
“In any case, the church of the West cannot weaken her faithful observance of her own tradition,” Pope Paul VI wrote at the time.
Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, told the BBC in February that many priests struggle to cope with celibacy and should be able to marry and have a family. Just three days later he was forced to resign over allegations of a 30-year-old sex scandal with seminarians in his charge. O’Brien later admitted his conduct had “fallen below the standards” expected of a priest.
“I’d be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should be married. It’s a free world and I realize many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood, and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family,” he told the British news agency.
O’Brien is not the first or the highest ranked Catholic to question the tradition of priestly celibacy. In 1993, at a weekly audience, even Pope John Paul II said celibacy did “not belong to the essence of the priesthood.” Even so, he qualified this, saying there was “no doubt about its suitability and indeed its appropriateness to the demands of sacred orders.”
Celibacy in the Catholic Church is a law, not a doctrine, and can be changed by the pope at any time. Despite this, Pope Benedict XVI made it clear during his tenure that the traditional practice was unlikely to change.
The Rev. Joseph Fessio, founder and editor of the U.S.-based conservative Catholic publishing house Ignatius Press, told Boston’s The Good Catholic Life radio in February that while celibacy is a discipline and not a dogma, it made it no less an important part of the Catholic Church.
“People say celibacy is only a discipline, but it’s not only a discipline,” he told the radio program. “It’s something the church in its wisdom for 2000 years has recognized as a closer, more exact, more profound following of the example Jesus set us.”
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In the meantime, the arguments against celibacy have been mounting.
Opponents argue that Jesus did not require celibacy from his apostles, that sexual repression has led to the sex abuse scandals currently racking the church and that celibacy has been responsible for the dwindling numbers of young men taking up the vocation.
Sister Chris Schenk of the Ohio-based Catholic reform movement Futurechurch believes that celibacy should be made optional.
“Around the world there is a severe shortage of Catholic priests and over 50,000 churches have no pastor,” she said. “While the number of Catholics is rising, the number of priests is in decline – mandatory celibacy can deter quality candidates from entering the priesthood.
“According to the Vatican yearbook, between 1975 and 2010 the world's Catholics increased by 59% from 709.6 million to 1.96 billion, but the number of priests increased only 1.8%.
“In 1975 there were 404,783 priests worldwide compared with 412,000 now. Forty-six percent of the world’s priests are in Europe but only 24% of Catholics live there ... and the number is diminishing.”
It seems her view may be supported by a majority of American Catholics.
According to a survey of American Catholics by the Pew Research Center taken after Pope Benedict announced his resignation, 58% of congregants favored allowing priests to marry. Even so, the figures showed the divisive nature of the debate: Of those who attend Mass regularly, only 46% supported marriage for priests while 66% of those who attended less regularly supported marriage.
One former seminarian, who did not want to be named because he is still active in the church and not authorized to speak publicly, told CNN the vow of chastity was one of the chief reasons he dropped out of the vocation.
“I had strong issues with celibacy and, at that time, wanted the freedom to get married and didn’t know why there could be Lutheran pastors that led perfectly normal family lives and also ran their congregations.
“I certainly understood the celibate side to priesthood and had a certain respect for it – strangely I still do – but I just felt that you should be given options.”
He said the diocesan college he attended in the United States – a type of minor seminary – was designed to prepare students for their commitments at major seminaries if they decided to continue their studies.
“They were obviously making changes from the middle of the century – in the '30s, '40s and '50s - when the seminaries were packed full, but probably after the whole peace revolution and the sexual revolution guys obviously started having a lot of second thoughts,” he said.
He said he saw little evidence of the kind of sexual abuses that have recently come to light and derailed the Catholic Church.
“When you’re young, growing up in a big, serious Catholic family - and I went to a Catholic grade school, I was essentially raised, socialized and educated by nuns and priests - that has a very deep impact especially if they’re good role models.
“I never had any sleazy nuns or priests when I was growing up, at least none that I knew about,” he said. “When you’ve got such good role models, both nuns and priests, who are celibate, that makes a big mark on you.”
Thoth: "If there were a god, and 'he' created man in 'his' image...."
5ive: "Maybe by God's image, we are like God in that we have awareness. God created the sun – and it is amazing force of power. God also created human beings. We have awareness of the sun. The sun doesn't have awareness of us."
Thoth: ok '5ive', your 'maybe' is as valid as the next person's guess. But I'm curious on what authority do you claim that 'God has awareness, that God created the sun, and God created man'? Also, how do you know that the Sun has no awareness?
Any organization where it's leaders wear dresses is just gonna have trouble.
Gawd, hopefully they'll leave the little kids alone if they families of their own
Men who have families of their own are MORE likely to abuse children. Fact.
Eastern Rite Catholic churches allow married clergy. they are all under he pope yet the pope somehow has a double standard when it comes to the Roman Catholics..
@ Ray: I think you mean Eastern Orthodox. They broke from the Catholic church in 1054.
No Russ, Ray is referring to Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with the Pope in Rome, who allow their priests to marry:
So yes, there is totally a double standard here inside the Catholic Church.
@ Adam: interesting. I was not aware of that. As a Protestant, obviously I disagree with the Catholic view here.
Why is there such a concern on whether or not priest should be allowed to marry? If your motivation is that more will join the ranks then your hopes are empty. If that were the case, other denominations or rites would be busting at the seams with men who want to serve. The fact is that men don't want to make the commitments to priesthood, fatherhood, marriage or anything else that demands sacrifice. Our world is producing wimps not men of character and purpose.
Generalize much, Spa ?
No Russ ray is correct. Eastern Rite Catholics in full communion with Rome do have married priests. There are also married Latin Rite priests who came over from other religions. It is not a matter of a double standard however. The practice is fullfilling Christ's words that celibacy is a gift given to some for the sake of the Kingdom. He says this in Matt 19. Yes, celibacy is a git to the Church. We need to appreciate it. The world would never have been brought to Christ had missionaries been married.
Well said SPA. White children are where black children were 30 years ago with 30+ percent of them growing up in single parent familes. 60percent for blacks. And this does not take in to account that 1/4 of our children are aborted. Devestating. We wonder why we have economic problems.
When you point that out it looks like the authors used incorrect terminology here. It seems it's correct only to say that the Latin Catholic church requires celibacy of non-convert priests, not the Catholic Church as stated here or even. Even Roman Catholic would not be correct.
"Ordination . . . configures the priest to Jesus Christ the head and spouse of the Church. The Church, as the spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive manner in which Jesus Christ her head and spouse loved her." —John Paul II
if celibacy is uniformly expected of leaders, why are church officers clearly expected to be married?
(1 Tim.3:2,12; Ti.tus 1:6)
Israel is the name of the bride. Always was, always will be. The potter reformed the clay into a spiritual bride. It works out good for God because He's Spirit.
As stated previously, celibacy is a law of the Church and not a doctrine. Therefore, it can be changed. And I do believe that, over time, the celibacy law will be overturned so that potential candiddates for the priesthood will be given the option of remaining celibate or marrying and perhaps having a family. The real problem, as I see it, is the Church's willingness , or lack of, to change and adapt. And the only way to grow is in the willingness to change.
No there is good reason for celibacy. Jesus gives it in Matt 19 and Paul in 1 Cor 7. Jesus says that some are given the GIFT of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. Paul similarly says it is for fuller devotion to and service of God and his Church. Removing celibacy will not achieve the goals everyone suggests.
Question: why only Catholic priests? Why aren't ALL adherants of Christianity not celibate, if they are not married?
I appreciate the fact that the church doesn't adapt and change according to cultural influence. To do so would make it just another victim of moral relativism and bankrupcy.
Unfortunately, SPA, there is already some moral bankruptcy involved with the Church...evidenced by the different scandals that have been covered up.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OR THE AMERICAN TALIBAN. DON'T GET ANY AND UTERINE CONTROL.
A rather unintelligable statement.
castrate them, end of story.
Bad idea Mo. No sir – that might just wind up hurting more. Their hormones would slowly begin to screw up and eventually their heads would spin all the way around around and spew green vomit and then they would start raping people with their crosses.
castrate you. You are more likely to be a child molester than a priest since you are a part of the general public and 7% of the general public is a child molester while 2% of the priesthood or less has committed this crime.
So that's the excuse to cover it up, gerry? Because it happens outside of the church also? Weak. 'Sides, if they're castrated, they're celibate...win win.
if Catholic priests do not want to practice celibacy, why do we care? S ex is a spring, more you compress, more higher it jumps.
Prove Christ was celibate.
If there were a god, and 'he' created man in 'his' image....well then how exactly are there two distinct genders? Furthermore, if you believe some god created man/woman then you must by default accept that he also created the hormones that drive instincts, including reproductive instinct. Why would a god bother with creating the hormones? In fact why would god bother created two genders? Let me guess....it's all part of 'his' plan and we aren't supposed to understand it...right?
That god is an hermaphrodite is usually skipped over in theology schools...
not included, would never have worked.....
Thou shalt not fvck thyself.
lol... "life can only come from life" must mean god would've had to give birth to adam and eve. He could have been some parthenogenetic organism, but no, they insist we're made in his image so their god must have sex organs. If he has sex organs and gave birth to adam god must have been a shemale which impregnated itself.
@If there were a god, and 'he' created man in 'his' image.
Maybe by God's image, we are like God in that we have awareness. God created the sun – and it is amazing force of power. God also created human beings. We have awareness of the sun. The sun doesn't have awareness of us.
"Maybe by God's image, we are like God in that we have awareness."
That's a thing argument, but sure, I suppose your maybe is as likely as my maybe, that god is an hermaphrodite. Of course you know what'll solve this for both of us? Honesty and truth - your god doesn't exist. Now neither of us have to guess.
God is real and is still creating.
You said, "God created the sun"
Bullshit. The sun was created by the Easter Bunny. The cloud of flatulence caused by a few bad eggs formed the sun.
Men and women complete and complement each other. Thus there are things in manhood that are godly and things in womanhood that are. God is in fact neither male nor female. That does not make him hermaphodite either. That is silly.
I am a creature (and have a creator).
So wouldn't god need a female to be complete?
After all, Adam was made in his image and Adam needed Eve.
Now, if the holy ghost was the first blow up doll, that would explain a lot of confusing scripture and give it some context.
God is not male. Why would he need a female. We are not complete without eachother. God is.
If god doesn't have a gender then we were not made in his image.
And why is he always referred to as 'he'?
"........but also is a model of Christ’s own celibacy." – CNN Article
How could anyone possibly know if Jesus was celibate? Anything ever written about Jesus was written by someone who never met him. If he was as charismatic as people claimed, he could have been the Elvis of his day, attracting all the babes in Judea. They would have risked being stoned to death to "do" Jesus. The celibate idea was made up many years later by church leaders who thought s-ex was just way too much fun and must be a tool of Satan. Jesus, if he was a normal young man, if he wasn't married and wasn't g-ay, was probably getting all he could. At his age, he was most likely married.
We also call boats "she" and "her", but they aren't really female humans.
Gerry------>if god made us in [his] image, we shouldn't have specifoc genders, either.
"God is in fact neither male nor female. That does not make him hermaphodite either. That is silly."
You have no access to facts about god, no one does. Your assertion that god is neither gender is just as silly as my assertion that it is an hermaphrodite, except that I have used the church's position that we were created in his image to show that I more probably correct. Face it, your god is a shemale. Nothing wrong with that, right? Unless you have something against shemales?
Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.
Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.
In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.
One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.
One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".
One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.
One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.
Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.
Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?
Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):
Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.
Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):
If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.
Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Young priest making a run from it, smart lad!!!
If a priest wants to marry it looks like he should convert to Anglicanism and then convert back. I'm betting they're onto that one though.
His marriage would be nonsacremental and invalid. A Catholic MUST have his marriage approved by the Church and such a priest would ALWAYS be Catholic. Sorry. He would have to by layacized and then get his marriage validated in the Church.
Animals are made for fucking. End of story. Supression is unatural, hense the fucked up churth.
"Animals are made for fvcking"
I'm pretty sure the scandals are about pedophilia, not beastiality...
Deut. 27:21 “Cursed is anyone who has sexual relations with any animal.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
Some cowardly Christian stealing TTOO's handle I see. They are willing to do anything4Him.
How true......... ending too maybe.
I'm a slave of my desires. God help me.
We cannot discard celibacy. The simplicity of St. Paul's message has inspired a priesthood that's perhaps two thousand years old – that victory over sin is in the palm of your hand.
You should discard stealing someone else's handle. It's not that hard to think up an original one of your own.
Celibacy for priests. A hot issue for cable television and national newspapers!
Give it a rest,"End Religion";you sound more and more sadly pathetic every time you post your silly satire.We get it,now go play with your stuffed spaghetti toy and let the grown-ups converse...Now...Dolan and Fessio are perpretrating historical falsehoods;every reputable historian knows that the Roman Catholic Church didn't mandate celibacy for the priesthood until 1139 A.D.,and even then it did so for various reasons,not all of them spiritual.What's more,the concern about dwindling numbers of priests isn't just alarmist;isn't the priesthood mandantory for catholics in order to get into Heaven? Who else will micro-manage your presumed pathway towards the Beatific Vision? Doesn't the Church make it clear no catholic can enter Heaven without a priest? I thank Almighty God that as a Christian My Lord and Savior is MY PRIEST and the ONLY ONE I need,the only True Mediator between myself and the True and Living God,a place no mere human being can usurp-PEACE & LOVE in CHRIST JESUS!!
Give it a rest,"Laurence Ringo";you sound more and more sadly pathetic every time you post your silly satire.We get it,now go play with your stuffed jesus toy and let the grown-ups converse...Now...I thank Almighty FSM that as a Pastafarian My Lord and Savior is MY PRIEST and the ONLY ONE I need,the only True Mediator between myself and the True and Living God,a place no mere human being can usurp-PEACE & LOVE in THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER!!
You really don't go to any church? BS
Yo, Larry, I don't think you know much about Catholicism, and you should probably refrain from talking about it. You should also learn how to use the bloody spacebar, already. Your posts appear foolish.
Wow .... this should generate more than the fair share of idiotic comments ... let the stupidity fly.
....And you're the first! Well done!
I am a convert to the Catholic faith from Protestant Christianity. I am loyal to the Church, I am not liberal Catholic - I am a realist. I believe celibacy has its value, but it should be a choice. There is an estimated 80,000 non-celebrating Roman Catholic priests, who left to get married, and an estimated 20,000 of them in the U.S. Marriage is a sacrament – it should not disqualify a godly man from the ministerial priesthood. Most men are better men, with the loving influence of a woman. Woman is the heart – Theology of the Body (JPII). So, woman as wives of priests and as deaconesses have a rightful and useful place as a balance to the male-priesthood. There were women deaconesses in the early Church. There a many, many more reasons and good reasons to allow priests the choice to get married, than to not allow it.
"I am a realist"
If you were a realist, you wouldn't be religious.
While your intentions may be admirable, you apperently have never heard of the D.T.I., the domestic tranquility index.
Jennifer Atencio you might want to know this then..
Roman Catholic Church Se-x Abuse Cases
Take dash out of se-x if copy and paste
Jen sweetie, kind of screwed that up girl. Non-celebrating priests probably failed the ballroom dance lessons in seminary or the witty one liners that should be included in boring s-ex related sermons. Since you switched over have you noticed a total lack of humor in your new spiritual digs?
The Bible is quite clear when it comes to the role of women in Church – sit down and shut up.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
I Corinthians 14: 34
"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."
I Timothy 2:11-14
The whole reason we're in this "original sin" mess is becuase of Adam's rib clone.
"Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die"
Doc – The role of women in the church is not to sit down and shut up. In the Catholic Tradition, the Virgin Mary is front and center. She is the greatest saint of all because she is the only human being to walk on this planet other than Jesus himself that led a sinless life and in total obedience to God. Then of course there are the great saints thoughout the centuries if one were to read up on the life of the saints. In recent history we have the examples of Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica who started EWTN. These women achieve great things in the church and certainly did not sit down nor shut up. I think the biggest objection would be opening the role of priest to women and of course that is rooted in history and tradition. The role of a priest in the time of Jesus included sacrificing on the altar, a role better left to men at that time. Jesus, as a man, offered himself up as a human sacrifice and became the model example of priests to come. He became the "Lamb of God" which he transformed into Eucharist at the last supper. Unless history or tradition is revised, priests will remain male. However, women have a high calling which is to be life givers.
Doc – As far as the reference to the Adam & Eve thing, the truth of the matter is that this story is trying to illustrate that both Adam and Eve failed miserably because Satan always attacks our weakness and he's very smart. Infact, Eve seems to get a bad rap right from the beginning. Tthe question should be asked why didn't Adam defend her from Satan? Because to do so would have required him to step between her and Satan at great risk. Instead he let Eve take the fall but then gave in to her temptation of him. He chose loyalty to her over God and they both suffered for it. He was weak when he needed to be the strong one and then blamed her for it when comfronted by God. But what does God do, he picks a woman, the new Eve (Mary) to deliver a savior to the world. And what does Jesus do as the new Adam? He does confront evil unleashed by Satan and offers his life as ransom for the original sin of humanity. God did what man failed to do on his own to express his true love of his creation of the human race.
If Mary was the new Eve, why has God not lifted Woman's punishment for Eve's betrayal and made childbirth easy and painless?
The influential theologan Calvin described women as
"... more guilty than the man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading all to perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame."
Doc – Great question but pain is not something to be feared in our life. Most women I know that have given birth never focus on the pain of childbirth but rather on the love they now feel for their newborns. Man's punishment was never lifted either was it? In terms of the Calvin's quote, not every theologian out there has it right. Given that Calvin was anti-Catholic, I'm not surprised about his position on women. The protestant movement has led us to a system of theology that is based upon one individual's point of view in order to justify one's personal belief and behavior. If women are being taught this from the pulpit, then they are in the wrong church. This theology isn't a Catholic perspective.
It will be a good thing for them to be able to marry! That way they can live NORMAL lives except for the Fact that they'll continue to be Idolaters leading other Idolaters to Eternal Perdition. That’s because Idolaters will NOT enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
" Idolaters will NOT enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
Neither will ugly, mean, vindictive, judgmental folks like you.
EX catholic, you are an Idolater and will not enter Heaven until you repent and accept the Flying Spaghetti Monster as your Lord and Saviour. This is the One True path. RAmen.
I accepted the Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza delivery. :-D :-D
@ FAKE st. Peter,
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