Friday, August 14, 2015

Celibacy in the Bible

Some will try to argue that priestly celibacy is not in the Bible, and certainly I am not going to try and say that as a requirement it is in the Bible. But today's gospel gives us the biblical foundation. In Mt: 19:10-12. After Jesus has explained his teaching on the sanctity of marriage the disciples postulate that is is just better not to marry at all. Jesus's response:

Not all men can receive this saying but only those to whom it is given. 

From here we draw the our belief that celibacy is a gift.
Jesus then goes on to explain that there are

some who are born eunuchs, 
some are made eunuchs by others, 
and some make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven (v.12)

The word "eunuch", as even the Jewish sources attests, is used in a figurative sense. After all, Jesus would never condone mutilation. In the early Church there were those who took the passage literally and the Church has condemned any form of mutilation.  As always, we must read the passage in context. The discussion is whether or not all should marry.

Our present law recognizes that there are some people who are simply incapable of marriage, whether by birth or because of what others have done to them. And there are those who choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Again, this understanding of the verse, is consistent with the rest of what Jesus teaches.

One may debate whether the practice of requiring celibacy in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church should be continued, but no one can say that it is not in the Bible. And as Matthew's gospel that make it clear that it is "the disciples" themselves who first put forward the recommendation.