Debate about Married Priests
- Pages: 9
- Word count: 2184
- Category: Marriage
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Marriage among catholic priests is considered a taboo by many faithful and adherents of the Roman Catholic Church. This is in the light of vows taken and the tradition of the church that has been going on since time immemorial. Whichever perspective the issue is looked from, it is an unacceptable practice that threatens to divide the church right in the middle given the sensitivity and volatile nature of the issue. A priest is regarded as a servant that serves both God and human beings and therefore his integrity should not be questionable which means that he should be above reproach (John, 2004). Before they are ordained to be priests, there are vows that are taken and among the prominent ones we have the vow of celibacy and chastity. Closely related to this vow is putting priorities the other way round where God and his service come first. Violation of these vows is tantamount to lessening credence that should be accorded God. Allowing this practice to continue among Catholic priests would give a lee way for the society to slide slowly but sure into an abyss of moral decadency especially by Catholic faithful (Stanley, 2009).
Pro and Cons on Both sides of the Issue
The most fundamental issue here is finances whereby most parishes can barely support the priests that serve there. In most cases, they live under alms and donations from well wishers and parishioners. When a priest goes ahead to marry and increase his expenses, then there is going to be a problem because a family comes with increased financial obligations. On the same, the priest would be forced to move out of the parish and rent a house out there for the family which then means that he would not be available twenty four hours in order to serve the people that he solemnly swore to serve. Nobody who is working would accept to live poor lives and subject his/her family through a life of struggle and more so a priest that has his life exposed to the public. We would not blame them when they opt to go for mortgages, nice car and anything that would make their life comfortable (Diane, 2005).
Basically there are things that come first in someone’s life. Priesthood and family are equally important and therefore choosing one over the other can be quite an arduous task. Both these two are vocations and callings that are supposed to be taken all throughout life and combining them can be equated to serving two masters. Married clergies from other churches have admitted to going through a lot of struggle in trying to fulfill their obligations to their families and church. This would not be an exception to the catholic priests and therefore the people who designed for things to be like this (celibacy) had foreseen the challenges that come with married people. Other people have argued that married priests would be better placed to solve problems that associated with marital problems but this is hardly the case. The American society is plagued by many divorces and many of these divorces are procured in protestant churches which then obliterate this argument (John, 2004).
People who join priesthood do so at their own free will and that is a choice that they make in life. The debate about married priests should not come about because it was not in the original contract that people sign to become priests. Proponents of this argue that many people are marrying and have been marrying in secrecy all along claiming that they are observing celibacy (Diane, 2005). Every basket of apples has got one or two rotten apples and they should not be the basis of doing away with the all lot of apples in the basket. The few priests that have been doing that can not be compared to thousands of the priests around the globe that have been faithful to their vows. Another popular argument is that allowing priests to marry will lower the case of sex scandals that have been associated with catholic priests. These scandals are just isolated cases that happen and therefore generalizing the problem and allowing priests to marry will only serve to increase more scandals and infidelity among church members and the priests. The priests who were faithful will be opened to new chapters of their lives that were non existent before (Stanley, 2009).
Many people have been calling for ‘married priests’ and it seems they have other ulterior motives behind their arguments. These are the same people that are calling for ordination of lady priests. This would then mean changing the fundamentalism upon which catholic priesthood is based upon. In any organization there are usual people that agonize every decision that is made for the good of all. Drawing of parallels between Catholic priests and priests from other denominations is not right because their definitions and understanding of priesthood is different. People therefore have a choice to make between remaining priests the catholic way or moving out of the church and going to start their own forms married priest’s churches (Delamothe, 2009).
Argument Against married priests
There is a difference between the life of a clergy and normal people who look upon the clergy for spiritual nourishment. A close analogy can be exemplified through the way that people who changes to vegetarian lifestyles later in life. This is quite a hard task to comprehend fully because the thought of a meal without meat is not appealing and neither is the thought of changing the lifestyles. A life of celibacy and chastity is quite a normal life only that the place of a wife and kids has to be overhauled by other things that are more important to the priest than them (wife and children). There are many ways that have been prescribed to deal with this void in priests’ lives but the most common way is to live life normally and take a closer look at the vows that one takes as priests so that they may live up to the expected (Stanley, 2009).
The vows that they take of chastity, celibacy and obedience are held in place by chastity which is the greatest of them all and problem starts when priests have to abide by it in order to maintain their vows. This then follows that the problem lies here where it is hard to conceptualize a life without romance and family. The debate has been blown out of proportion by the skewed reference to sex and celibacy. Celibacy is quite a big challenge which was actually initiated by Jesus Christ Himself although many of his apostles that followed were not. At the same time we can not compare the times that these apostles lived to the modern times that we are living in. The first big difference comes when we consider time. The apostles were the pioneers of Christians and as such they had not laid down the ground work and rules as to what pertained to priesthood. Nowadays proper structures have been put in place and priesthood redefined and therefore celibacy comes as a package of priesthood (Ronald, 2002).
A married man’s life duty and obligation is to the family that should come in the fore front because at his wedding he pledged that. For a priest, things are different because they are neither a wife nor a family to be indebted to but God and the body of Christ (Church) should take precedence over all other earthly duties. Obedience therefore is of essence here because the life of a catholic priest revolves around the lives of the parishioners who might prove to be more challenging than a family. Among his many duties is administering sacraments, celebrating masses daily and sometimes even more than once. Counseling sessions are also included in the daily activities of a priest and sometime these sessions can drag on the whole day. Sometimes these duties take away the priest from his station of work for long periods that can stretch into weeks or even months (Delamothe, 2009).
Poverty has been associated with Catholic clergies which is arguable because poverty is relative. To Catholic priests, poverty does not necessarily mean lack of the basic needs but it simply refers to detachment from earthly pleasures like marrying and owning property (Ronald, 2002). This coordinates very well with a life of celibacy which is supported by chastity. When one is single, there is no need to have the need of owning property because it is only your life and the little needs that you may have as a person can be easily taken care of by the parish. This can be regarded as a triple vow (chastity, poverty and celibacy) and what Roman Catholic priesthood stands for and thereby altering it would mean bringing about a different meaning and confusing people more. Even the bible that all Christians claim to follow states clearly that the path to heaven is narrow and only accommodates few and leaving these vows among priests is simply preaching water and taking wine. This does not mean that all people live a life of chastity in order to get to heaven but there is also a code of conduct that they are to observe and live by (Stanley, 2009).
The Catholic Church is an institution that believes in the family as an important institution that should be upheld by all and therefore those who join priesthood do so voluntarily without coercion. For non Catholics, abolishing the celibacy part is not a big deal since they have been not been practicing it but to the Catholics it is a tradition that forms the basis of priesthood. Despite there being a few cases of sex scandals involving priests and some allegations of pedophile priests molesting young boys and girls sexually, it should not be the basis of changing a culture that personifies the Roman Catholic Church priesthood.
Delamothe, T. (2009). Catholic priests: It is better to marry than to burn, Bound Medline Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, p. 89- 96. Describes about the many sex scandals that have been witnessed in US and many of them are involving clergy men. The article argues that it is better for the priests to change or they forfeit claim to priesthood than bring shame to the body Christ (church). The alternative is the Roman Catholic church changing laws on celibacy because many of those priests not upholding their chastity vows risk going to hell.
Diane, K. (2005, Jan 26). Australian Roman Catholic priests urge Vatican to drop celibacy rule, AP world stream, P. A3. Describes the Australian Catholic Church and its mission to negotiate with the Vatican in order to allow priests to marry so that they may attract more young people to join in priesthood. This comes about as a result of declining number of priests as the old generation is being phased out but there are no new recruits. The solution they give to the persistent problem in Australia is repealing to the laws that govern celibacy which then can allow priests to marry and stop immorality among the clergy at the same time attracting new priests.
John, A. (2004). Goodbye Father: The Celibate Male Priesthood and the Future of the Catholic Church, Theological studies Journal, vol. 65, p. 198-204. Describes how the die hard support of celibacy by the Roman Catholic Church is affecting the modern church and its implication for the future. It traces the roots of this practice in the Catholic Church and how it has been beneficial or the negative side of the practice. Among its strong recommendation is upholding the practice in order to survive a wave of onslaught attacks by people against the Catholic faith.
Ronald, N. (2002). The unnatural law of celibacy: One man’s struggle to become a Roman Catholic priest. New York: Continuum International Publishing group. Describes the desperate attempts by Ron who wants to become a Catholic priest. His problems concern the law that allows protestant men who can be ordained as priests once they change their faith and become Catholics if they desire to become men of the cloth. He has been involved in parish work all his life which relishes his dream to become a married priest although he is a Catholic to start with.
Stanley, A. (2009, Aug. 1). An interview on the debate of married priests. The discussion focused on the moral and ethical issues that govern the issue. His personal stand was that he did not support the prospect of having married catholic clergies and therefore those that thought they had enough of celibacy, they can opt out. Only those that can stand by their vows should be allowed in the church.