May 28th, 2009
03:49 PM ET

A case for celibacy for priests

Rev. Robert Barron
Special to CNN

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/15/barron.why.celibacy/art.barron.wordonfire.jpg caption="The Rev. Robert Barron says celibacy sets the priest apart as a symbol of the world to come."]

The scandal surrounding the Rev. Alberto Cutie has raised questions in the minds of many concerning the Catholic Church's discipline of priestly celibacy. Why does the church continue to defend a practice that seems so unnatural and so unnecessary?

There is a very bad argument for celibacy, which has appeared throughout the tradition and which is, even today, defended by some. It goes something like this: Married life is spiritually suspect; priests, as religious leaders, should be spiritual athletes above reproach; therefore, priests shouldn't be married

This approach to the question is, in my judgment, not just stupid but dangerous, for it rests on presumptions that are repugnant to solid Christian doctrine. The biblical teaching on creation implies the essential integrity of the world and everything in it.

Genesis tells us that God found each thing he had made good and that he found the ensemble of creatures very good. Catholic theology, at its best, has always been resolutely, anti-dualist - and this means that matter, the body, marriage and sexual activity are never, in themselves, to be despised.

But there is more to the doctrine of creation than an affirmation of the goodness of the world. To say that the finite realm in its entirety is created is to imply that nothing in the universe is God. All aspects of created reality reflect God and bear traces of the divine goodness - just as every detail of a building gives evidence of the mind of the architect - but no creature and no collectivity of creatures is divine, just as no part of a structure is the architect.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Faith
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Teresa, OH

    When men join the Catholic walk they know the score. God is to be your one true love. Married people make their spouses their "gods" and spouses become the ruling party in ones heart.

    @Wayne: I dont think we should blame the catholic church for cheaters and predators.... we've had those in every religious walk and non-religious walk.

    I really enjoyed Rev. Barrons explanation on the why celibate part... makes perfect sense.

    For me, I'd kind of like to think there are some men who can rise above physical lust and go for the purest love of all.

    May 28, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  2. Jim M

    Most women no longer cover their heads in a Catholic Church. The religious habit of nuns has all but disappeared. Married priests are accepted in the Eastern Rite of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The maintenance of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests in the Western Rite should be left to the determination of the individual priest.

    However, as a Catholic, I also believe that Cardinals should be appointed who are neither priests nor bishops. The last such Cardinal was appointed in the mid 1850's and died in 1899.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  3. marg mcneil

    re:I think the catholic church's stand on celibacy has more to do with money,or any claim by a family on it's funds. Why were popes allowed to marry?? I come from generations of catholics and I cling to my faith despite the rituals of the church.

    May 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  4. Wayne Schwertley

    There is no coherent case for celibacy. Celibacy becomes a chain and a burden, and makes many people (men in this case) cheat and / or become predators. The Catholic Church demands celibacy, but then does nothing – or worse, they turn a blind eye – when that policy hurts innocent boys, girls, women, and men. That is hypocrisy...That is the Catholic Church.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  5. Isabel, Brazil

    I agree that celibacy should be revised. But I see the ope Benedict XVI too antiquated and retrograde to open for that discussion.

    I don't agree with the disrespect of the rules today. We all know that the current rule is that of celibacy. Discuss whether it is valid or not the celibacy, nowadays, is one thing. But while the celibacy is valid, it must be respected by those are in the church. Even more the priests that (theoretically) should give good examples.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  6. Melissa

    There is no case for celibacy for Priests, dear. Its an archaic tradition born from a superstitious bronze age people and supported by Dark Ages philosophy and an attempt to control the lives of everyone around them to bring them power.

    Sorry, but you can make all the excuses you want. Its still a religion that talks about talking snakes and talking donkey's.

    It doesn't hold much water in a modern age where science reigns supreme. As it should.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  7. Lisa in CA

    Probably inappropriate but oh well. The punch line: "The word was CELEBRATE".

    May 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm |