Celibacy, the priesthood and the authority of Scripture

Frank Bruni has an an interesting column about celibacy and the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. However, for all the arguments he makes, he completely misses the point. Human logic, reason and practical concerns should have nothing to do with whether or not Roman Catholic priests are required to be celibate. The only consideration should be what the Word of God has to say about the matter.

The church – whether it be Catholic, Orthodox or any number of Protestant denominations – is not a social club where the rules are decided by what is best for the organization or the membership. The church is the Bride of Christ, devoted to worshiping Him, leading souls to saving faith and working toward the sanctification of believers. The primary authority for the operation of the church is the will of God, given to us in Scripture.

So what does Scripture say about this matter? Does God require that priests be celibate? No, you will not find any support in the Bible for this requirement in the Catholic Church. The Apostle Paul assumes that ministers of the Word will be married, though they may not have more than one wife. (See Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2.) They are required to have well-disciplined children. The requirement for priests to be celibate is a human tradition that is not founded in the Word of God, and Jesus warned against holding to human traditions.

You see, God is practical. That’s why He assumes in His Word that ministers of the word and sacrament will be married. He knows that men and women are made to be together (because He made us that way) and very few people have the gift of celibacy. That’s also why God inspired the Apostle Paul to write the Corinthians urging husbands and wives to not deprive each other of sex, because of sexual temptation. We should not assume that we are wiser than God by implementing a human tradition that we find nowhere in His Word.

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