Why Do Catholics…Part 11 – Have Celibate Priests

We recently had Fr. Andrew over for dinner with the family.  The kids were so delighted to see him coming up the front walk!  The girls were hopping up and down with silly smiles on their face when they first saw him.  And he was amused, saying that he didn’t get a greeting like that at the rectory!  Of course, they believed that he was there solely for their entertainment.

We had a nice visit with him, enjoying food and company.  Sometimes we view priests as above us or at least above reproach – not ordinary people.  So it’s so nice for the children and all of us to spend time with him and see someone so truly devoted to his faith but absolutely normal, with everyday experiences.  He could talk about Star Wars with our son, complement our daughter on her Lego creations and comment on how he and his brother never had a Barbie dollhouse like our youngest.

But the question, after spending time with him, comes up about why don’t priests get married and have their own families?  Why doesn’t Fr. Andrew have a wife and kids?

What a great opportunity to explain the beauty of the priestly vow of celibacy!priest1

For us adults, some might argue that having married priests would solve some problems in the church:  If priests were married, the argument goes, we would not have the shortage of priests that we do.  We would not have priests breaking their vow of celibacy.  Some might even argue this point by saying that Peter, our first pope, must have been married because his mother-in-law is mentioned in the gospels, but I would disagree – even arguing that priestly celibacy has a Biblical basis.

It makes sense that Peter and maybe even some of the other apostles were married because not many Jewish men of that time chose the single life.  Jesus, on the other hand, did choose to be an unmarried celibate throughout his ministry.

Many times, did Christ talk about leaving everything behind, saying that those who give up everything to follow him will be blessed.

When the disciples questioned Jesus about Moses’ rule on divorce and Christ amended it, saying that divorce was unlawful, the disciples realized that it was better not to be married at all.  Christ responded by saying that choosing to be unmarried is not for everyone, but those who can accept it should.  (Matthew 19:10-12)

In addition, in 1 Corinthians 7, several times Paul talks about the benefits of being unmarried:

“To the unmarried and to widows I say: it is good for them to stay as they are, like me.”

“The unmarried man gives his mind to the Lord’s affairs and to how he can please the Lord; but the man who is married gives his mind to the affairs of this world and to how he can please his wife, and he is divided in mind.”

“In other words, he who marries his fiancee is doing well, and he who does not, better still.”

Christ tells the disciples that no one who gives up everything will go unrewarded in Heaven, saying “And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life.”

So we can tell our children that priests choose to marry the Church, so that they may have all of us as their children, rather than having families of their own.  Their dedication to the Lord and choosing celibacy in this life will bring them great rewards in Heaven.

And be sure you invite your parish priest over for a visit!  It’s a wonderful way for our children to connect to them and for us to remember they are just ordinary people who have chosen an extraordinary vocation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *