Friday, July 07, 2006

Dialogue on Objections to Clerical Celibacy (vs. "Grubb")

By Dave Armstrong (7-7-06)

"Grubb" is a friendly Baptist who frequents my blog. His words will be in blue. My older cited words will be in purple.

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Now, if an institution simply states that "we want our priests to be drawn almost exclusively from that class of men who are called by God to be single, so that they can give undistracted devotion to the Lord [1 Cor 7:35]," then your objection is irrelevant, as the Church is not forcing anyone to do anything, but simply holding that its priests are required to be from this class of those already called in such a manner by God.

In doing this, the RCC is presuming that only celibate people (except for .001%) are called to be priests.

I don't believe that the Eastern Catholic portion of Catholicism makes up a mere .001% of the whole. Moreover, since we accept the legitimate ordination of Orthodox priests, we clearly acknowledge that there is such a thing as a married priest (and that celibacy is not absolutely fundamental to the definition of priest). But the prevailing tradition in Catholicism is that, ideally, priests ought to be celibate, for the sake of a more undistracted devotion to the Lord and their flocks.

Either that, or they're intentionally preventing some who have been called by God to the priesthood from fulfilling their calling.

Not at all. Like I've always said: such a person is free to become a priest in the eastern Rites of Catholicism, or to become Orthodox.

The first option isn't Biblical as Ken has pointed out and you seemed to agree;

We're not preventing anyone from doing anything. It's as if you are arguing that the military "prevents" 80-year-old women from serving in military combat, or that Major League baseball "discriminates" against myopic individuals who wish to become umpires. The fallacy here lies in your thinking, because you can't prove that our position on this is contrary to any biblical teaching.

and the second option goes against a God-given calling. Neither of these options seems desirable.

When you fallaciously present the options in these terms, of course it is "undesirable." But the fallacy lies in your false premises.

Every institution has a right to determine its internal rules of discipline and requirements for admission to its offices. This is self-evident.

God has given us all kinds of freedoms, but that doesn't mean we should exercise every one of them.

That's correct. Sex is a wonderful freedom within the moral bounds of marriage, and there is nothing wrong with it there, but some men can willingly choose to sacrifice that freedom for the love of God, to be married to Him (Matthew 19:12).

God has given us the freedom to sin, but to embrace that freedom is unwise and hurtful. We have the freedom to make rules contrary to scripture and say the right to do so is "self-evident", but exercising this freedom is both unwise and hurtful to the RCC.

You haven't shown to the slightest degree that our rule of celibacy is contrary to Scripture. But we have repeatedly shown that it perfectly squares with Scripture.

As for pastors having rebellious children, my pastor has five and none of them are rebellious (the oldest is 19, the youngest is 7).

This "PK" and "MK" thing will always necessarily be based on anecdotal evidence. But there can be trends observed. One can always produce exceptions to the rule, as with (I am presuming) your pastor. But one thing we can all agree on, I think, is that if a pastor's job requires him to often be out of his home in hours beyond the usual daytime work hours, this will almost certainly have an adverse effect on his family, because everyone knows that less time with wives and children is not a good thing, if it is ongoing. We need not argue that.

Jethro showed leaders how to balance church life with family life when he saw Moses wearing himself out being judge over everything.

This doesn't support your case. Moses was doing everything, so Jethro counseled him to divide the labor up a bit. But this usually doesn't happen with pastors. Sure they have assistants and so forth, but if they are unpaid, they do relatively little and the lion's share of the work falls back on the pastor. If the assistant pastors or elders are paid, that is only possible if the congregation is quite large, so that funds are available, in which case the labor remains almost what it was, with each one having to deal with so many congregants. It remains, therefore, difficult for the pastor to juggle family responsibilities with pastoral ones.

The same principle applies (analogously) to much of modern-day working conditions. More and more, workers are required to either relocate (which disrupts extended family and friendship ties) or to take frequent business trips (which disrupt nuclear family life and places an undue burden on both spouses). Modern labor and working and business practices run contrary to traditional family solidarity, just as the excessive burdens and responsibilities of a married priest or pastor could and usually does.

Traditionally, families worked together (as on a farm), or the father was at least near the home, working on some trade or craft. After the Industrial Revolution, men started traveling away from home to their jobs, and the trends have continued to be almost consistently hostile to healthy, thriving marriages and family life. I think this has some part in the breakdown of family life we see today (along with many other factors; especially the Sexual Revolution).

Excessive materialism or economic mismanagement (of the larger societies and/or of individual families) have now led, oftentimes, to both parents working away from home, with infants being raised by relatively emotionally unattached daycare workers rather than their own parents, for much of the day. All of these things (including married pastors) mitigate against the ideal, most healthy family life.

He taught Moses to set up a hierarchy, and Paul confirmed that when teaching Timothy. My pastor has excellent elders who have excellent deacons, and this all makes the pastor's job so much easier.

If indeed they allow the pastor to be less busy after "working hours," then this is a good solution which could work in some cases. But that still wouldn't by any means "prove" that celibacy of the clergy is not also a worthwhile or preferable option to solve the same problems of time management and divided allegiance between flock and family.

In other words, I could argue that this is one solution to the problem, and the Catholic celibate clergy is another, and that you have no grounds to say that the Catholic Church must choose either your solution, or to combine both methods, rather than to concentrate on one (with an allowance of or preference towards the other in portions of the Church). If 1 Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19 were not in the Bible, your case would be far stronger, but since they are, you are unable to rule out our approach and discipline, let alone deem it "unbiblical."

Yes, the stereotype of rebellious pastor's kids exists for a reason, but I believe the reason is that many pastors try to do too much rather than allow capable elders and deacons to do their jobs.

One of the reasons for that is that Protestantism (and Catholicism also; it's a general human tendency) tends to place too much burden on the pastor or priest and make him the guy who does all the "spiritual" work while the congregants and laypeople just sit there and benefit from that, rather than go out and participate in evangelism and charity and other necessary and worthy Christian endeavors.

Since pastors and priests are paid to do what they do, the ones who are unpaid tend to think that they don't have to do anything, or very little of "Christian" work. This is part and parcel of the mentality of western culture that the only worthwhile work is that which is remunerated (hence, the looking down upon of, for example, housewives or home-schooling mothers, because they don't get paid; one often hears women say, "I'm just a housewife . . .", as if they should be ashamed of the most important work in the world: raising and discipling children). All this being the case, the "PK" phenomenon will continue to manifest itself, whereas all that is eliminated with a celibate priest or pastor.

I agree with Ken's final comments. Celibacy is preferable if one is called to remain celibate,

Then you concede virtually all of the argument to us. We want our clergy to come mostly from the group of people who are called by God to be celibate.

but I also believe God calls many who are married to the "priesthood" (He certainly did in the Old Testament).

And he certainly does today: in the Eastern Catholic rites and in Orthodoxy. The question as to what ordination itself means is a different topic that I won't dive into at this juncture.

That's as biblical as celibacy, but to choose celibacy as the only way to the priesthood (with almost no exceptions) is unbiblical.

I don't see how. Neither you nor your friend Ken (or anyone else) has given any biblical verse which precludes a celibate priesthood. All you can do is rail against abuses of the system, as if that proves that the system itself is intrinsically null and void and "unbiblical." This is standard Protestant polemical practice, but that doesn't make it valid or legitimate as an argument, either biblically or logically.

Paul didn't do it,

Paul made no argument forbidding a celibate clergy. On the contrary, he wrote, "I wish that all were as I myself am" (1 Cor 7:7) and "It is well for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor 7:1) and "it is well for them to remain single as I do" (1 Cor 7:8) and "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage" (1 Cor 7:27; cf. 1 Cor 7:28-29,32-35,40). The overall thrust of his teaching favors the superiority of singleness as a state to wholeheartedly serve God without having the stress of "worldly troubles" (7:28) or "worldly affairs" (7:33) or "anxieties" (7:32) and "interests" which are "divided" (7:34).

So the Catholic Church (western, Latin rites) adopts this teaching of Paul as the ideal for its priests. Nothing "unbiblical" in that in the slightest . . . Paul also writes many times that we ought to "imitate" him. So how is it "unbiblical" (let alone "forbidden" in some mythical Bible passage) for the Catholic Church to hold that most of its priests should imitate the Apostle Paul and follow his advice for the ideal, highest, most self-sacrificing level of service to the Lord and others?

Jesus didn't do it,

Jesus said, "there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" (Matthew 19:12). Obviously, many Protestants cannot "receive" this inspired biblical teaching. We Catholics simply decided to select most of our priests from this class that was called by God to celibacy, and who, therefore, willingly renounced (for the sake of the kingdom and undistracted devotion) otherwise good married sexuality.

Peter didn't do it, John didn't do it, and none of the other Bible writers (who were writing God's words) did it. If they didn't, why would the RCC presume it knows better?

Peter and John taught neither that all priests should be married or that all should be single. Therefore, it is permissible to take a position that priests should be a class of men particularly devoted to the Lord and their flocks, to such a sublime degree that marriage is precluded, because it would divide that devotion, as Paul taught.

The Apostle Paul said, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." (I Tim 4:1-3)

Dave said the RCC simply draws its priests from the pool of people who have the calling of celibacy. That point is definitely contendable; how many priests would have gotten married if it was acceptable?

This is an excellent, indeed quintessential example of the fallacies and lousy reasoning under consideration. I'm delighted that you wrote this. Here is how the above reasoning fails:

1. The RCC simply draws its priests from the pool of people who have the calling of celibacy.

2. How many priests would have gotten married if it was acceptable?

3. Hidden premise of #2: "many priests who became priests with the understanding that celibacy was a requirement and that they were called by God to celibacy were not in fact so called, because they would have gotten married if they could have."

4. Therefore, there should be no celibate clergy.
The fallacy lies precisely in the gap between #2 (with its underlying premise #3) and #4: #1 cannot be contended against on consistently logical, biblical grounds. So what you do is try to chip away at its legitimacy by using the standard contra-Catholic Protestant polemical technique of railing against abuses and "throwing the baby out with the bathwater":

1. Catholic priests are supposed to be from the class of people called by God to be celibate (self-understanding and institutional understanding of the ideal, most heroic nature of the priesthood).

2. But some priests entered into the celibate priesthood without this calling to celibacy.

3. Therefore, #1 is null and void.

Of course, #3 doesn't follow as a "conclusion" at all. #2 does not cast any doubt on #1: not in the slightest. The fact that there exist some persons who abuse the understood system for their own ends, does not invalidate either the system or the biblical and spiritual rationale behind it. All it shows is that there are such unscrupulous or confused persons, or that there has been corruption in the screening process (as indeed there has been in many instances). No one claimed that either people or the Catholic promulgation of its teachings were perfect. But that casts no doubt on the principle itself; thoroughly grounded in the Bible, Tradition, and practical spiritual wisdom of 2000 years of Christianity.

Maybe not all, but definitely some would have. We know this is true, because some have left the priesthood in order to get married.

Sure, but that is irrelevant as a factor in critiquing the system, as just shown. By this "reasoning," I could just as well argue that Protestantism is disproven because thousands (like myself) have connverted to Catholicism. That proves nothing in and of itself; one has to make the case against Protestantism (or Catholicism, on the flip side) on other grounds besides simply stating that "thousands have found it wanting and have left."

Dave also said that the RCC doesn't forbid anyone to get married, but in a sense they really do. If a RC priest wants to get married, he must choose between the priesthood and marriage.

That's not true. He can become ordained as a married man in the Eastern Rites. At best, you could only say that he must choose between different liturgies. But since they are all fully Catholic, he doesn't have to choose between the priesthood and marriage.

And if he chooses to remain a priest, he's forbidden to get married even though he may want to.

If he wants to get married, then he obviously didn't belong to a class of men who are supposed to be called to celibacy by God (or is in a temporary struggle of accepting his call, etc.). Again, that casts into doubt either his own discernment or the screening process by which he became a (celibate) priest, not priestly celibacy itself.

They can play word games and play around with semantics, but the simple truth is men and women are forbidden to get married if they want to be a RC priest or Nun

But that is not adding anything, because you are saying, "If a person is called by God to be celibate, then they are 'forbidden' to marry." Well, yes, in a sense this is true, but it is a truism: the second clause of the second contains nothing that is not already implied in the first part. Celibacy entails no marriage. If that is deemed as "prohibition" or "forbidding" then so be it. But it forms no objection to the thing itself.

We don't normally talk that way about anything else. For example, we don't say that "Michael Jordan was forbidden to be a football player because God gave him the extraordinary talents he had to become the greatest basketball player of all time." I don't say that "I was forbidden to be celibate because I got married." Such statements are non sequiturs. They may work on a polemical, slogan-like, propagandistic level, but not on a logical, real life level. Jordan was "called" to be a basketball player; I was called to be married. Each person is to follow his own calling (1 Cor 7:7b,17,20,24,38 ). If they mess up in this on an individual level, that doesn't make the callings themselves invalid.

and are forbidden to get married if they're already a RC priest or Nun.

Yes; if they had not that calling, then they had no business voluntarily entering into such a life. If I want to be a composer, I have to have the ability to understand and compose music. If I cannot do the latter, I have no business claiming to be a "composer." But just because I can't do this, doesn't mean that there is no such thing as a composer, or that those who have no ability to compose should enter into that class and be called "composers" alongside the others who truly are called, based on talent from God and their own cooperation in cultivating their gift.

If a woman wants to get married, she is obviously not a nun, in the commonly-understood sense of the word. So, then, if she is a nun, she shouldn't or wouldn't want to get married; otherwise she has no business being there (just like Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music). That's why these callings have long discerning and "trial" periods so the person can be absolutely sure of their calling. But there are things such as Third-Order Franciscans, where married or lay persons can participate in the monastic life to some extent.

If a man is called to the priesthood and celibacy, the RCC acknowledges he has a calling to the priesthood (I know there are more requirements than that), but if his calling to celibacy was only for a season, the RCC then says his calling to the priesthood was only temporary too.

That's correct. The gift of celibacy is a lifelong calling. Temporary celibacy is more or less the single state of one who will eventually be married, or abstentions in times of illness or necessary separation, etc. That's not a calling' rather it is a difficult situation which goes against one's calling; therefore it is heroic to some degree if carried out.

They force him to either give up his calling to the priesthood or to remain celibate. So either they're forbidding him to get married, or they're forbidding him from fulfilling his calling to the priesthood. Which is it?

This forms no argument whatsoever against the celibate priesthood. All it shows is that the person was incorrect in his discernment of his calling.

I agree it's better to stay single for the reasons Jesus and Paul mentioned, but I also agree it's better to get married than burn with lust as Paul stated.

Of course; if you are called to be married. If you are not, then you are the sort of person whom the Catholic Church will choose to become one of its priests in the western, Latin rites.

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