While the issues over child abuse have died down, the Catholic Church continues to resist changing its position on celibacy and married clergy. The basic argument against clerical marriage is that celibacy allows a priest to focus on God and not be distracted by earthly issues of family and sexuality. Some point to Jesus statement in Matthew 19:12. [emphasis added]
For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.
Note the last sentence. It is not inconsequential. Others point to Pauls statement in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34a
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lords affairshow he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this worldhow he can please his wifeand his interests are divided.
The real question though, is what is the norm, not just what Paul wants but does not command? Is this renunciation the norm or is it a special calling for special circumstances and not to be expected of all who enter the ranks of the clergy? Well two New Testament scriptures answer that question while one Old Testament verse explains the actual need for wholesome marriage, even for most clergy.
Lets start with the Old Testament and Genesis 2:18.
The Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
To most people that is self explanatory, but two New Testament scriptures from Paul, who I earlier quoted about the freedom of being single, add additional weight to the principal of marriage. The first is from 1 Timothy 3:1-5.1. [emphasis added]
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [traditionally a bishop], he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of Gods church?)
It is assumed a bishop will be married and that his conduct in administering his own family will show his worthiness in administering the family of God. The second, also from Paul, is from Titus 1:6. [emphasis added]
An elder [traditionally a priest] must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
The first elders and overseers were the apostles, chosen by Jesus himself. Some of them were married and none left their wives [which would have been against the Mosaic law], bringing Paul to say in 1 Corinthians 9:5
Dont we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lords brothers and Cephas [Peter]?
Jesus could have chosen only single men. He did not. So one must ask, what is lost by forcing celibacy on all Roman clergy? Several important things. One is the right of choice, offered by both Jesus and Paul. Both argued for celibacy for those who could accept it, who were especially called to it. However, neither Aaron nor Peter, the archetypes of priestly leaders were celibate. Both were married and had children.
Couple those fundamental biblical principals and practices with the fact that celibacy was not demanded of Roman priests until the 11th century, and when it was instituted it was not for spiritual reasons but because of the problems of inheritance and the growth of powerful rival clergy families, and you see a prescription for failure and the problems now facing the Roman church. We no longer live in the feudal system of the 11th century, we should no longer be constrained by its failures.
Jamie Glaszov, in an archived article in FrontPage Magazine, discusses the same issues, though he focuses on the problems with homosexuality, misogyny, and fear of human sexuality, especially between a man and a woman, that plague the Roman Church . I have known three married Episcopal priests who have joined the Roman Church and now serve as parish priests. The recent problems in the Episcopal Church over the ordination and consecration of non-celibate homosexuals have sent many others into the arms of Rome. It seems disingenuous to me to on one hand say the Roman Church can accept a married Episcopalian into the priesthood but if you start out Roman you cannot be married.
I would venture to say that those Catholic parishes with married former Episcopal priests feel a lot safer and secure these days than those populated only with their celibate Roman brethren.