Saturday, August 1, 2009

Roundtable 44: The Marriage of Priests (Smalcald Articles Part III, Article XI)

Just as we can not make a man, a woman, nor a woman, a man, no matter what modern surgical techniques make possible, so we can not through modern theological "surgery" make a man something other than a man, and demand and require that he renounce marriage before he can serve Christ and His church as a priest/minister/pastor/elder [whatever term you prefer]. The very fact that the Papacy had come to deny marriage to clergy is a mark that indicated to the Reformers its anti-christian character, since the Apostle Paul had clearly warned that among "the teachings of demons" would be the teaching that marriage was forbidden. (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

Luther in Part III, Article XI of the Smalcald Articles asserts that the Roman Church has neither the authority, nor the right, to ban marriage and to burden the office of the ministry with a requirement that is not Biblical. We know, for example, that the Apostle Peter himself, the first Pope, so it is said by Rome, had a wife!

We hardly need to think much further than to the recent sex scandals that have afflicted the Roman Church, and have come out in to the open here in the United States, to concur with the comments of Luther; namely, that enforced celibacy has caused a myriad of problems: "all kinds of horrible, outrageous, innumerable sins of unchastity [depraved lusts], in which they themselves still wallow."

The Reformation threw out the required, enforced celibacy of the clergy, something that remains to this day as a scandalous anti-Biblical teaching of the Church of Rome.

Luther himself set an example that has been followed by countless Lutheran pastors since. He took a faithful and devout spouse, had children with her, and from that marriage, he was richly blessed by God, and by extension, so was his ministry. While marriage is not a requirement for the clergy, avoiding it certainly is not either. The Church has no business attempting to say "no" to what God had declared to be very good, in the beginning of all things.


University Lutheran said...

Hey Paul,
Nice succinct post here. Thanks.

I do actually wonder about causal relationships between a.) clergy celibacy and b.) "innumerable sins of unchastity" especially those of the recent clergy abuse scandal. It appears that this sort of pederasty is a recent event for the RC that has required celibacy in priests for a while. Nonetheless, I think Luther is on point that this certainly can produce in men the "innumerable sins" of all sorts of the disgusting outgrowth of the sin of lust, which could include the pederasty. (Hope that makes sense, just quibbling with a minor logic point really.)

Also, when it comes to the application of this article in today's context - I wonder what you (or others) think is the limit to which this can be stretched outside of its original context. (I've thought up a couple of examples of this stretching, but none of them seem to be something I or any Christian would want to maybe that gives me my answer.)

in Christ,

Article 7 said...

I'll chime in on the side that by requiring clergy celibacy all these centuries still causes "all kinds of horrible, abominable, innumerable sins of unchastity [depraved lusts]." Are the recent scandals a recent thing or are they just being reported more and tolerated less by the laity? Its not that doing away with this awful practice will eliminate sexual predators from the church altogether, but it would increase the overall spiritual and physical health of the clergy. Greater accountability to the laity would also help eliminate places for predators to hide.

Pomeranus said...

I'm not so sure widespread pederasty is so recent. If one reads medieval penitentials, there are indications that it was widespread. It is also shocking that the prescribed acts of penance were not nearly as severe as those prescribed for other missteps such as dropping a consecrated host.

Michael Zamzow

Chris Workman said...

Rev. McCain, Interesting article. I must say that I do not agree with you on it. One must understand first that the teaching of celibacy amongst priest is not a dogma of the Catholic Church. It is a practice of the Church. Those who enter the Priest hood do so voluntarily and accepting the vows of celibacy.

Also one could look at St. Matthew 19:11-12;29. These verses speak highly of celibacy.

I would like to reference you to a longer refutation at this blog page. Thank you and God bless.

Christian P.J. Bahnerth said...

I can readily think of the Apostolic Instructions by St. Paul to Timothy and to Titus; A bishop must be ... a husband of one wife. Let the RC clergy tell us about their wives.

Tiber Jumper said...

Rev McCain:
I think you need to be aware that the prevalence of sex abuse in non-Catholic clergy, is as high or higher than that found in Catholic priests.

"Sexual Abuse in Social Context: Clergy and Other Professionals is a scholarly work that shows sexual abuse is not particularly prevalent within the Catholic hierarchy and that abuse is significantly higher among public school teachers than among ministers and priests. In the report, a study titled "Sexual abuse of students in schools" by Carol Shakeshaft, the instance of prevalence with the NTC public school system is described.[112] In the 1993 Journal of Pastoral Care, 14 percent of Southern Baptist ministers said they had engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior”.

I think you will need a different tact than the priest sex abuse scandal to prove your point about the evils of a celibate clergy.
Check this link for just a small sampling of sexual abuse by lutheran clergy, who do not have a "forced celibacy."

Andrew said...

While I agree with the article, I take a small issue with the third paragraph. Other denominations are not immune to the problems outlined here. I have seen enough LCMS pastors who are no longer pastors due to varied sex scandals.

Tha ancient church allowed for secular clergy, the Orthodox church still does. The non married priests in the OC typically do not serve in churches long and are moved on to become bishops. The OC prefers married priests in charge of congregations.