April 26, 2010
Nowadays, Clerical Celibacy is a very sensitive issue to be addressed. The Protestant church in general is in disagreement with this teaching and practices of the Roman Catholic Church for theological reasons, while Protestants believe the idea to be absurd, Catholics have evidence that try to prove a teachingthat is clearly in the Bible, in which the Protestants have a problem with. We can find different opinions about the origins of Celibacy in the Catholic Church ministers, some theologians have the conviction of its divine origin and others state that it is a mere discipline of ecclesiastical institution. In order to achieve a better understanding of this institution this paper will touch on sometheological principles that support celibacy and others that are completely opposite. Therefore, as a reference history will be included as a human base and the word of God, the Bible, as a divine base.
First of all in order to have a better understanding about Celibacy, we first have to define the concept of Celibacy. Therefore, Celibacy is defined as “the renunciation of marriage implicitlyor explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders in any of the higher grades” (Thurston, H. 1908). Actually, celibacy is a unique characteristic of the Roman Apostolic Church, and probably one of its most controversial teachings in this changing world of religions. Celibacy is basically the abstinence or sexual continence, in otherwords refuse marriage voluntarily. In eschatological terms Celibacy means:
Voluntary celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is the sign of a new order in which marriage is no longer, as it was in the Old Testament, necessary to assure a holy progeny to Abraham, the father of all believers. For in the Church, our being children of God and the fellowship of believers are of the spiritualorder (Thurian, n.d).
Also, we can say that Celibacy is a lifestyle of the priests; the ministers of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) have to leave everything they have in order to respond to the invitation of Christ’s ministry as his apostles. So, in this way they become closer to Christ. For the Roman Catholics this is the real motivation to accept celibacy; there are some other reasons that will bementioned later.
The RCC clearly acknowledges that there are no apostolic law existing that imposes celibacy; however there are arguments at least in the Western church that this practice was understood and has been in place since the late Fourth century (Frazze, 149). Many Christians, men and women, in the early centuries began to practice the evangelical counsels’ chastity and obedience, aswell as those who observed were considered important. This is understandable, because nowadays we can see church leaders who are not married exercising leadership even if they are unmarried; it is natural that few priests remain single. The history about priestly celibacy law dates back to the fourth century. History shows in detail the following; considering only the most important dates ofcouncils, where they discussed this issue. The Council of Elvira, the oldest canonical declaration took place in 306 AC, in Spain. This council stated in Canon 33 "Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and others with a position in the ministry are to abstain completely from sexual intercourse with their wives and from the procreation of children. If anyone disobeys, he shall be removed from the clericaloffice "(Thurston, 1908).
Other councils and decrees were very influential in celibacy, for instance, the second Lateran council (1139) and the decretals of Pope Siricius. This is well-known because during this period of time a law of abstinence was placed for married priests. Where texts clearly stated that the discipline of continence or chastity was for the bishops, priests and deacons, including...