Just a thought about mandatory celibacy by Quincy J.L Ondona


One of the practices that divided the Eastern and Western Churches is the issue over mandatory celibacy on the clergy.
Before the middle ages, priests were permitted to marry and build their own homes. It was due to papal edict that such early practice was retrenched. Pope Pelagius I ordered that sons of priests should not inherit properties of their fathers (which in this case were church properties). This was so, inorder to protect the properties of the church. After that, Pope Benedict VIII ordered that children of priests were illegitimate and another pope ordered that priests should divorce their wives. During the Council of Elvira in Spain on 306 AD, the practice was finally formalized. Bishops, priests, and deacons were now forbidden to marry. Church fathers started to stigmatize sex as sinful in their writings. That is the Roman Catholic practice.
Churches in the East, on the other hand, are a sort of liberal on such issue. They allow priests to marry, raise children and build a home.However, monks are still celibate and bishops should come from the celibate ranks.
The whole community of churches under the Roman Pontiff do not even impose it,though they encourage their clergy to be celibate. The Maronites, Melkites and other churches in communion with Rome enjoy family life, and Rome do not even interfere or impose its will against it on these churches.(Although partially on the Ruthenian Church).

The Roman Catholic Church is also a “communion of churches”, and in this communion not all priests are celibate. Episcopalian clergy who converted to Catholicism and are granted sub-conditione ordination still maintain family lives. There are married priests within the Roman Catholic Church!
Marriage is not sinful, and instead of attacking sex and family life as a hindrance to full service to God, we should even believe the opposite. Yes,we can serve God while having family , and having kids and enjoying normal life as others do. I believe that the home is a small church, and our service to God starts in the home. The priest’s first congregation is his home and before he serves the larger church, he should first build his own church.

p.s I’m not really against celibacy. It takes great courage to stay single forever. But I also believe that it must be one’s willful decision and a willful scaling without having to weigh a rigid mandate on the other side. To celibate and faithful priests, I salute you in Christ Jesus!


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