In the current debate on the possible overcoming of celibacy for priests of the Catholic Church of the Roman rite, very valid theological and spiritual reasons are brought forward to confirm that celibacy is an added value, a strength, a beautiful and indispensable choice and calling. Instead, those who push for the abolition of celibacy and therefore for access to the priesthood for married people forget the new challenges that marriage would bring to priestly service.
Immense are the problems faced by Orthodox priests and Catholic priests of the Eastern rite, (or even more evidently by Protestant pastors) who can access the priesthood after getting married. These are very concrete problems.
MONEY AND GOODS?
Let us think of the chaos that a marriage failure can cause in the life of a parish priest. Or to housing issues, who would support the family? the church? the parishioners? And what use could the family members make of the assets and spaces of the parish? What problems would arise in comparison with the parishioners (Eastern Europe has thousands of negative experiences of these cases) And in the event of the parish priest’s death who would take care of the family members?
MOBILITY AND AVAILABILITY?
A parish priest should be available (and if he is not celibate, he is not a good priest) and willing to go where there is a need.
Anyone with children and family cannot give such availability.
School, finding work for the children, keeping his wife’s job.
Concrete problems. You can’t transfer that easily.
And when it happens the costs can be too high both economically and in terms of family hardship.
A JOB OR A VOCATION?
How many people would be tempted to use the Church to support their families and live the priesthood as a job?
We don’t just think of rich countries, we think of the peripheries of the world.
Let’s think of priests in frontier contexts: Asia, South America, Africa, metropolis, western suburbs, ghetto neighborhoods, mafia neighborhoods.
A priest who in his preaching must denounce evil, propose good, explain the teaching of the Church and work for good, fight against injustices or against structures that threaten the Church even if only on a spiritual or cultural level, how much freedom does he have to speak and to work if he has a family whose face, home and life everyone knows? Little. Very little.
A husband thinks about the family. (rightly)
A magistrate or policeman has the same risks but at least his family members are not visible.
SUNDAY, SUMMER CAMPS, RETREATS
Saturday afternoon and Sunday are the main days of every priest… and it is also perhaps the only day in which families have the most time to be together. The example of Orthodox priests is unsuitable because in Orthodoxy there is no oratory, there are almost no missions, prayer groups and catechism and parishes often only have Mass and the sacraments and then close… Not to mention summer camps, holidays, retreats.
Can a husband leave his wife and children for a long time?
CONFESSION AND SPIRITUAL GUIDE
Would you like to entrust your sins or seek spiritual advice from a man who has a wife, would you feel so free? Furthermore, how does the lifestyle of his wife and children influence the relationship of the faithful with the parish priest?
CHASTITY AND COCK
It’s really different for a woman to deal with a person you know is chaste and who wears a cassock (by the way because too many priests are ashamed to be identified as a priest?) compared to someone who dresses like everyone else and who has a wife.
CHASTITY AND FIDELITY
A classic objection to celibacy is “better to be married than to have a lover.” But a man who cannot be faithful to celibacy will not be faithful to his wife either. We will have married priests who are also unfaithful to their spouse.
THE FAILURE EXPERIENCE OF PROTESTANTS
In English-speaking Protestant bookshops you can find entire sections of books on problems for wives, for the children of pastors, for the difficulties of “community” and “family” management.
St. Paul saw far. “Who can, don’t get married” to be able to devote body and soul to the service.
We could still go on.
In addition to the spiritual and theological question, there are a thousand other reasons for preferring that priests be chaste and celibate.
Even numerically less than there are today but who are all of God, who spend their time praying, proclaiming the Gospel and administering the sacraments.
We don’t do anything with married priests, deacons are enough for us, whoever wants to serve the Church can still do so in the thousand other forms of service of which there is immense need everywhere.