Friday, October 02, 2009

Forbidding to Marry

There is a very old error that derogates marriage and attempts to forbid marriage. In its extreme form, it forbids marriage of all Christians. In a less extreme form, it forbids marriage of office holders. It is that form that we see in the Roman Catholic church today.


1 Timothy 4:1-3

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Nuns, Monks, Priests, and Bishops are forbidden in Roman Catholicism (for the most part, though there are a few married priests in some of the other rites besides the Latin rite) from being married. This is an error and a point at which, while it has a lengthy tradition, the Roman Catholic Church stands against Scripture.

I know the usual objections, and they each have been answered.

Objection: No one is forced to be a priest.

Answer: Agreed. And yet, if one wants to be a priest, one is forced to sacrifice marriage. Furthermore, if God is calling a person to the ministry, one is not free to disregard that call.

Objection: It's not a requirement.

Answer: Yes, it is a requirement. It's a condition precedent to obtaining office.

Objection: No one has a right to be a priest.

Answer: If God has called a man to the ministry, then the man does not simply have a right but the duty to answer God's call.

Objection: It's not against Scripture for the church to ordain only those men who are celibate.

Answer: Yes, it is against Scripture. It's clear from the Scriptural requirements given for the offices of deacon and elder/presbyter/bishop that such men are anticipated ordinarily to be married men who have children (1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; | Tit 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. ). To eliminate all married men from consideration is to render Scripture void through one's tradition.

Objection: So, you're saying that celibacy is evil.

Answer: No. Not at all. In fact, celibacy (if a gift given by God) can be a great help to ministers and especially to missionaries.

Objection: So, you're saying that renouncing marriage is wrong.

Answer: Not exactly. It is, of course, wrong to make an unconditional oath of celibacy, because God does not promise the gift of celibacy to every man who asks it. Furthermore, Scripture plainly teaches that it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.) Therefore, an unconditional renunciation of marriage is a sinful oath, and one that ought to be violated (through marriage, not fornication) to honor God, if one later discerns the absence of the gift of celibacy.

Objection: Celibacy of bishops/priests/monks/nuns is just a discipline, not a dogma.

Answer: There is errant doctrine that informs the errant discipline of celibacy. If the Roman Catholic Church followed the doctrine of Scripture, especially as taught in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, then it would not have this particular discipline.

Objection: The Early Church Fathers did it!

Answer: Agreed. The practice seems to have crept in rather early. It was wrong of them to do it, and it is wrong for folks now to follow them in doing it. Our moral authority is not ancient practice but Holy Scripture. Yet, if it were ancient practice, we'd be guided not by the Early Church Fathers, but by the Apostles who (for the most part) married:

1 Corinthians 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

That was the apostolic practice and Paul affirms that it is an elder's right to marry. It is his "power."


The practice of requiring those who wish to have office in the church to be celibate is wrong. It is contrary 1 Timothy 4:1-3, it is contrary 1 Timothy 3:2, it is contrary to Titus 1:6, it is contrary to 1 Corinthians 7:9, and it is contrary to 1 Corinthians 9:5. It was wrong when Rome used to require deacons to be celibate (an error that has been corrected, without - of course - admission that is was an error) and it will be good when Rome ceases to make that same requirement of priests (though we cannot say how soon that will happen, there are significant pressures pushing Rome in that direction). Rome is wrong to require such celibacy, Rome is wrong to forbid men and women from marrying, and Rome is wrong to teach that unconditional vows of celibacy are good. On this matter, Rome stands against Scripture. Perhaps this area is an area where Rome can heed the correction of Scripture without admitting its mistake (as it has with respect to deacons). Nevertheless, it should serve to demonstrate to the reader that Rome is not an infallible interpreter of Scripture.



Mamie Farish said...

I agree with you that celibacy with ordained priesthood is a discipline, not a doctrine. The Eastern Orthodox Church does allow priests to marry,however; bishops cannot be married. At least, that's my understanding.

So why celibacy if marriage is so good? And why did Jesus call some to live celibate lives for the Kingdom of God? I was taught that "virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other (CCC1620)." It has been the wisdom of the Church to maintain celibacy discipline for ordained priesthood throughout the centuries.

But the question is, "Why is that so? How are these two vocations inseparable and how do they reinforce one another?" There are several answers, but the one I like best comes from Peter Kreeft, Boston College. I'm going to be paraphasing him here. Before you can ask the question, "Why celibate priesthood," there's another question, Why will there be no marriage in heaven? Kreeft explains it this way. Imagine a 10 year old boy who is given a choice: would you like a piece of chocolate or kiss a girl? Typically the boy will choose chocolate and think kissing girls is yukky. He hasn't matured yet to understand that one day he'll desire kissing a girl over eating a piece of chocolate. Similarly, tho marriage is good, it's a pale imitation to the intimacy with God in heaven who we will see face-to-face. Marriage on earth is boot camp for us to get to heaven. God gives us a sign in his priesthood to point us to heaven.

When one of these vocations weakens, the other weakens. Witness the sex revolution in the 60's and the priest scandals. I'd like to suggest, when you visit a place where there are healthy marriages and strong families, you will find a healthy, vibrant priesthood. The fruits of the Holy Spirit will be evident. We need each other!

Tony Costa said...

Hi Tur8infan, Tony Costa here. Great article and I agree with you completely. Just a question, based on the injunctions in the Pastoral Epistles to be an elder/bishop in the church with the requirment that they be married, would this not disqualify the Apostle Paul himself from being an elder seeing he was unmarried? Would this suggest on the other hand that Paul may have been married (and was now widowed) in the past and could qualify to be an elder?

Turretinfan said...

Your understanding about the EO churches is essentially correct. I think a more accurate statement is that its married men can be ordained to the priesthood (rather than priests marrying).

It may seem like "wisdom" but the problem is that it is contrary to Scripture to make celibacy a requirement for office.

God didn't ordain that the officers of the church be celibate. So, while celibate men may remind one of heaven, that is not a sign from God, but a tradition that came later.

We don't *need* celibate men in the ministry, though celibacy *can* be of help to such men (men in the ministry).

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Costa,

Yes, Paul may well have been a widower rather than a bachelor. Celibacy was not something highly prized (quite the contrary - marriage and children were the expectation) among the Pharisees with whom Paul trained before being converted.


Mamie Farish said...

You are in agreement with Luther, who felt the same way.

It is interesting to note that Luther encouraged married priesthood and large families. this was O.K. in a rural society, but hard to practice in our modern society, especially for pastors and their wives. By the early 1900s, parishioners could see that the families of pastors were becoming smaller. It was obvious that pastors and their wives were contracepting. Highly embarassing. The Lambeth Conference of 1930 issued a statement that it was morally correct for married couples to contracept. They based their decision on the opinions of doctors, eugenists, government officials. Their decision wasn't based on scripture or the 1930 years of tradition.

I used to rail against church teachings about issues like this. Now I look back and think, "Wow. Thank God, for the Church, for her wisdom."

Still, you are in company with many who feel the way you do.

Anonymous said...


Celibacy in the Latin right is a gift from God, much like the priesthood is. Becasue of the nature and essence of the priesthood itself, Celibacy seems a natural outflow if one is going to be a priest.

In the second place, there are some married priests in the Latin Rite. In fact I have had the pleasure to work with some of them. One was an former Anglican, another a former Luthern minister. Celibacy is the Norm, but the Church does allow exceptions to the norm.

I myself and grateful for the gift. I don't see how I could possibly be fully devoted to God and His people if I was married with a family. I do not see how I could truly and fully express the reality of the priesthood if I was married.

Father Dave Bechtel

Anonymous said...


I note that these comments by and large center around the creature's and not the Creator's Will!

The rebellion that is in our flesh is shallow, on the surface, flesh; and deep, the inner soul; and is a part of every particle of our beings. Life follows "death", "burial" and "resurrection". That's how it goes!

For instance, Mamie, you wrote:::>

"....Marriage on earth is boot camp for us to get to heaven. God gives us a sign in his priesthood to point us to heaven....".

That saying only goes for "married" souls. There are a great many more souls who are unmarried that those words would simply not apply. For instance, everyone at any age who is not married, from infancy in the womb to the death bed of a single soul.

I believe this issue is so much a part of our soul because God is Triune.

Family on earth is a direct reflection of this Eternal Nature Whose purposes are always "Now" and carry an "Eternal" purpose.

There are temporal purposes. There are "Eternal" ones too.

When our frame of reference in fact is now as it should be from the Triune and Eternal point of view, one can see the necessity for both celibacy and marriage.

Being single and being celibate are quite different though they reflect in form only the nature of being solely the Lord's soul.

The mistakes of the RCC might never come to the Light of Eternal Knowledge even though many of this diabolical organization have made "self" celibate when the Truth lies elsewhere.

It also brings up another issue, that is of the RCC, which, for me is more disasterous, for not only the Faith, but for the world it operates in. It does not reflect God or the Word of His Grace, which, according to Paul are the two Eternal Realities that build us up and give us by them our place before all of Eternity in the Kingdom of the Gospel and not the kingdom of Satan and his fallen angels:::>

Psa 140:9 As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
Psa 140:10 Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise!
Psa 140:11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!
Psa 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.
Psa 140:13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Here, the Kingdom of the Gospel, for which I comment:::>

Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Turretinfan said...


Right. Some are sort of "grandfathered" in.

"I don't see how I could possibly be fully devoted to God and His people if I was married with a family. I do not see how I could truly and fully express the reality of the priesthood if I was married."


If you have a beef with married clergy, take it up with the Scriptures that make married deacons and presbyters the norm.


Turretinfan said...

Ms. Farish:

I'm not sure if you're under the impression that the rest of the "Protestant" world takes its orders from the Anglicans.

In case you are, we don't.

Not all of us think contraception is ok, nor is that really germane to the topic of clerical celibacy.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

Didn't Christ tell the apostles that eunuchs who made themselves so for the kingdom of God were blessed?

Doesn't Revelation have a those who refrained from intercourse with women sing a special song to the Lamb that only they can sing?

And isn't it the case that the early Christians who were witnesses to the writing of Scripture, or taught by witnesses to the writing of Scripture, are in the best position to interpret that same Scripture?

You know neither Scripture nor the power of God. You are quite wrong.

Walter Hampel said...

Thank you very much for this article. You made two points which really hit home for me. You wrote: "To eliminate all married men from consideration is to render Scripture void through one's tradition." It had never crossed my mind that the current Roman Catholic practice of enforcing celibacy for their clergy prevents 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:6 from ever been fulfilled (if you're Catholic). I ask in a humble and clear way: If a Catholic wants to make the case for enforced celibacy for their clergy, what then must be done to these passages of Scripture?

The last point I need to make is about your comment: "Our moral authority is not ancient practice but Holy Scripture. Yet, if it were ancient practice, we'd be guided not by the Early Church Fathers, but by the Apostles who [were] (for the most part) married."

This reminds me of a quote which my pastor has used. He says that many Catholic practices go back a long way in history but do not go back far enough.

A good word in due season. Thanks Turretin Fan!!!

Viisaus said...

In my opinion, the Eastern Orthodox ban on bishops (and officials higher than that) to marry is just as wrong as the marriage-ban of parochial priests by the RCs.

Many Protestants have the idea that EOs are somehow better than RCs in this regard, but the wrongness of their position is just lesser in degree, not in kind.

The same Pastoral verses that clearly sanction the marriage of ordinary priests and deacons clearly sanction the marriage of bishops as well.

Paul prophetically warned that forced celibacy would be one of the trademarks of coming apostasy. And indeed, overt promotion of celibacy was just the sort of issue that would be SEEMINGLY pious and praiseworthy. Who could oppose it without looking like loose-liver himself?

One writer (can't remember who) poetically commented that after the fall of pagan idolatry, Devil put on his "angel of light" camouflage and started to promote celibacy and asceticism to Christians.

Mamie Farish said...

The Catholic position regarding celibacy for its ordained priests is reasonable, even though you may disagree with it: "All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from aomong men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate 'for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 19:12).' Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to 'the affairs of the Lord'(1 Cor 7:32), they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God." (CCC1579)

Turretinfan said...

The Roman Catholic position is not only not reasonable, it is (and this is more important) not Scriptural. In fact, Scripture suggests that ordained servants are normally called from the ranks of married family men.


Turretinfan said...

Steve: A response to your comments can be found in a new post (link).