Here’s another question submitted to me:
Dear Father Rick,
I want to thank you for keeping this blog, I like to listen to your homilies. I have a question. I have heard that the new Pope is going to abolish celibacy in the priesthood and allow priests to get married. People keep saying that celibacy is dangerous and is the cause of the scandals in the priesthood. I’m not sure what to think.
Thank you, P. from Boston
Dear P., Thank you for your question. I’d be happy to discuss this because it is an important issue and since we are bombarded by so many lies all the time, there many people out there, like you, not knowing what to think.
Let me say initially that this is a question coming from the USA, from an American agenda. The rest of the world is not crying for the Church to abolish celibacy. In our country our “god” is sex. It’s evident by even a brief look at our movies or our TV programs. So, celibacy, in a sex-worshipping culture, is never going to be understood and even seen by some as an evil.
We Catholic priests are called to live a life of celibate chastity (celibate – being unmarried, chaste – being pure of heart). It is a life of self-discipline but it is not supposed to be a life without love. It is meant to be a life filled with love.
For the celibate person, you could say love goes wider not deeper. A married couple is called to great intimacy. They are to discover God’s love in their relationship by going deeper and deeper with one another. The celibate person, however, is not called to that kind of loving. He is called to love more and more people, to hold more and more hearts within his own heart. This is not easy, but it can and should lead to a beautiful life. It’s the kind of life that Jesus lived in his earthly years.
When we reflect that the priest is called to be another Jesus on this earth, then celibacy makes all the sense in the world. Jesus did not find one special person to settle down, plant roots, and raise a family with. Jesus moved on again and again. He loved deeply, he entered passionately into relationships, he enjoyed the company of great friends like Lazarus, Martha and Mary, but he moved on. He loved fully and then moved on to new towns and loved fully once again in some other place and time.
Some imagine that priesthood would be easier with a wife but frankly I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine having to put a wife and children of my own first and still having time and energy and the desire to love God’s people the way I try to now.
So, to answer your question, there is no way that Pope Francis is going to wake up one day and abolish celibacy in the priesthood. It would be like saying, okay, there have been too many failed marriages, we need to make it okay for a husband to cheat on his wife because fidelity is too hard and the way it is now is not working. Even at a time when most marriages do unfortunately end in divorce, matrimony will always be a sacrament and fidelity will always be needed to make it work.
The priesthood scandal involved a very small number of priests. Though the media would never tell us this, the vast majority of priests in our world live beautiful healthy lives of celibacy that are filled with love. I believe that the call to celibacy is a gift, not a punishment. I am who I am today and my life is filled with so much love precisely because
God called me to priesthood and invited me to live celibate chastity. Some of the healthiest, happiest, most peaceful, most prayerful, and most loving individuals I know are men and women who are living celibate chastity.
Thanks so much for asking this question. Even just reflecting on it now has led me to even more gratitude to Jesus who called me to this way of life and teaches me more and more each day what it means to love like Him. God bless you!