Posts filed under: celibacy

I was just wondering why priests don't get married. I'm not sure if you've already answered this question before but a friend of mine is really struggling with why they are not allowed to. Thanks! - Anonymous

Sure, here’s something I wrote a while back. See what you think… God bless you!

- Father Shane

How can a woman build an appropriate relationship with a priest?

We have all got to be realistic. People are people; men are men; women are women.  This doesn’t change when a woman begins to seek holiness. This doesn’t change when a man becomes a priest. Neither chastity nor celibacy is maintained and matured by pretending that certain circumstances will remove all temptation. And temptation can be especially subtle precisely in the midst of a relationship that begins on a deep spiritual level – the level where a priest and a female directee are interacting.

But there’s more

Bishop Coyne starts a blog series about celibacy

God Bless you Father! I am sure as a priest you look up a lot to St. Joseph, since he was celibate too (I think..). School just started and in my religion class and the Sister gave us all an assignment to do a report on a saint, I picked Joseph. I was wondering, what do you think his life was like? He had a sinless wife anda sinless stepson. Do you think Jesus and Mary ever pointed out his wrondoings? I feel like life would be hard for him, being the only sinner in the family. - Anonymous

Yes, we definitely believe that St. Joseph was celibate during his marriage to Mary. Some ancient traditions think that he was perhaps considerably older (since he doesn’t seem to have been present during Jesus’ public ministry, it’s assumed that he passed away beforehand) than Mary, they also postulate a previous marriage for him. If so, it certainly wouldn’t have been as special!

That’s a very interesting insight about Joseph’s family life. Sure, Jesus and Mary were definitely sinless. But at the same time, they also would have been the greatest examples of charity and selflessness that ever lived. That means a very great capacity for putting up with other people’s faults and failings. 

It also means that they would have lived out the Gospel that we read today: helping others to recognize their faults if they persist in them, and charitably pointing out how to grow and improve. But it would have been in such a marvelously charitable way that it’s hard for us to imagine!

At the same time, therefore, I think it’s probably true that Joseph lived the most wonderful family life ever. More than being hard because his sins were being pointed out, the glory of living around such charitable and inspiring people must have been something extraordinary!

St. Joseph is a great patron saint to pray to if you have difficulties with your family life or with chastity, that’s for sure!

God bless you.

- Father Shane

What advice can you give to an aspiring Priest who has to choose between continuing to pursue an incredible, loving relationship with his girlfriend or remaining celibate for life? - Anonymous

Simply that you’re reading the wrong blog. :-) You might get a lot out of reading this one. But let’s attempt an answer anyway.

First of all I guess you want to ask yourself if the choice is really about that or not. The real choice is going to be between “saying yes to God’s calling for me” and “saying no to God’s calling for me.”

So the question is really about discernment, and the choice you’re making has to be about discernment. Then can come a second step: How do I deal manfully with the consequences?

Because I can’t tell you “You’re supposed to be a priest, so…” You and God are the only ones who know what you’re really called to. Deep down, in those moments when you’re alone with your conscience and with Truth, when you really know in your gut what you’re supposed to be doing,… what? Do you know that it’s the priesthood? Because if it is, God is not only going to give you the strength to make it happen (after all, it was his idea), he’s also going to take care of that incredible girlfriend of yours and reward her generosity in giving you away to Him.

Because if you’re called, you’re already understanding (a little bit) something that Jesus says is not given to all to understand…

Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it. (Matthew 19:12)

Are you one of the ones who “can accept this”? Because if your heart can understand what God means by that, it’s one of very few. We know your heart can understand the attraction of matrimony; that’s good, because it has to. It would be a red flag if you weren’t drawn to human love.

Because if you’re called to the priesthood, you’re called to give “more.” You’re called to bring God’s love to many many souls. You’re called to be a witness to God in ways you never would have expected. You’re called to… an incredible adventure that you never know how it will end. So it’s not just “girlfriend or celibacy.” It’s “the romance I can imagine” or “the adventure I can’t imagine, that God will reveal.”

Also, if this is making you tense… that’s normal. Most guys go through that right before joining the seminary and/or in the first few years. But God will get you through it if you let him.

Feel free to get in touch personally if that doesn’t make sense or if I’m not exactly connecting with what you’re going through. God bless you!

- Father Shane

Hi Father Shane!

I seemed to have stumbled into a conundrum. How and why do we continue the practice of celibacy in the priesthood? Is it true that it is more of a norm than a requirement? In the Eastern Rite, they are allowed to marry. Can you shed some light on this? What is the history? I also recently found out that St. Peter was married?!
- Anonymous

Good question! I asked Father John to do us the favor of answering…

This is a great question, but it’s hard to answer in “sound bites.” Jesus was celibate, and celibacy for the sake of following Jesus and being fully dedicated to his Church was practiced from the very dawn of Christianity (St John the Evangelist, St Paul — take a look at 1 Corinthians chapter 7, for example). But it wasn’t made a requirement for clergy until the Middle Ages. Even now, in the Eastern Rite Churches, it is still a requirement for bishops. In any case, there are very good reasons for this norm (it is not a Catholic dogma, like the Incarnation or the Resurrection, but a norm of discipline). But to understand them, you will have to read more than just a few bullet points, unfortunately. You may want to read a bit about the biblical and historical background here and here.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

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