what are your views on celibacy in the Catholic priesthood?

If you are asking for my PERSONAL and SUBJECTIVE FEELINGS on the matter, I think it might be nice if priestly celibacy were optional. I think this for many various and assorted reasons--however I want to note that my feelings are NOT based on anything more than my own personal preference. In other words when one takes an honest look at the Biblical data, the Apostolic Tradition and one understands just what a priest IS, I have to admit there is no objective justification to impose my personal preferences on the Church.  On the contrary the evidence seems to suggest that the Church (as usual) knows what she is doing.

Now, an important note: celibacy is NOT mandatory for ALL priests in the Catholic Church.  Celibacy is ONLY the Tradition in the WESTERN half of the Church.  In the EASTERN half the Tradition of a married clergy continues to this day.  Secondly: even in the WEST exceptions are made, say for a Lutheran or Anglican pastor who converts and wants to be ordained a priest.  In my past I had occasion to work with people like this.  They are "married clergy."  

In understanding why Celibacy is "mandatory" in the Western Church it first helps to understand the Apostolic Tradition on the matter, and secondly to understand what a priest IS.  

Many people fail to realize an important distinction that needs to be made regarding the issue of celibacy: Apostolic Tradition is clear that the Church may have "Married Clergy" but the Church may never have "Clergy who get married."  The Apostles were married PRIOR to their calling to the ministry of Apostle.  Thus, the tradition is established that one can be married PRIOR to their calling to the priesthood or (in theory) the Episcopacy. However there is absolutely NO basis in the Tradition for a person who receives a call to be a Priest, who THEN subsequently gets married.  Thus, anyone who is ordained PRIOR to marriage, is to live a celibate life.  

What IS a priest?  Very simply a priest is an "Icon of Christ."  As an "Icon of Christ" a priest is one who "re-presents" Christ.  As one who "Re-presents" Christ, the ideal way to do this is to live the life of Christ.  Christ was unmarried, and had no children. Thus, those who truly seek to "re-present" Christ most perfectly do so when like Jesus, their whole life is dedicated to service of God and his people.  Like Jesus, they serve God with an undivided heart.  Like Jesus they control their passions, and turn their sexual energies into energy and zeal for souls and pastoral care.  

This is why celibacy is held as the higher calling in the Church: it is a way to more perfectly conform one's life to that of Christ.  It is also a more difficult path to follow given that our very good and natural urges propel us to seek out a mate with whom we can share our lives and in the creative power of God through the begetting of children.  

I freely grant that the Church CAN allow for married clergy and that the practice of a celibate clergy in the West is a DISCIPLINE.  However I suggest that just because the Church is PERMITTED to do something, does not entail and OUGHT, a SHOULD, or a MUST.  The Bible ALLOWS for married clergy. That the Bible ALLOWS for married clergy does not entail that the Church MUST allow it universally.  It does not entail that the Church may not develop a discipline in at least the West whereby priests remain unmarried. I also note that those who seek Holy Orders in the West know full well that if they are to be ordained they will never be able to serve two masters.  They will never be able to serve both God and family.  It is one or the other, but never both.  In short: they know what they are getting themselves into. The truth is that the qualities that will make a man a good husband and father are the VERY SAME qualities that will make a man a good priest.

If one wants to argue that the Bible FORBIDS the Tradition of a celibate clergy, one would have to explain how one move from what the Bible PERMITS, to what the Bible COMMANDS. One must explain why it follows that just because the Bible PERMITS a married clergy, it therefore COMMANDS a married clergy.


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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