Recently someone sent the following comment into Undividedblog:
“I do not understand what being celibate has to do with being undivided in devotion to God. The people that seem most Christ-like are married couples who do good work together for others.
“Right now, the requirement that priests be chosen from a celibate male pool is leaving the Catholic Church so short of priests that it is undermining Catholicism.”
Hey, thanks for writing in. It’s all thought-provoking stuff: I’ve asked my friend, Wilf, to comment and I’ve written my own thoughts after.
Wilf: I think you are right about many married people.However for some people, those who Jesus said could recieve the gift of celibacy, it can and does open up something very wonderful and powerful: it is gift which can sharpen and empower all the other gifts a person has.Having said this, I do not think it should be a prerequisite for the priesthood. Maybe something more like the Orthodox approach would be better, where priests can be married or celibate.
I guess celibacy, for me, is a lot to do with freedom – from family responsibilities and so having time and energy available for other things. Freedom, however, must be treated as responsibly as commitment. Will I use or misuse this gift of freedom?
Ideally celibates use their freedom in order to live poured-out lives – for God, for others.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case and I find this a challenge everyday – to love foremost, to serve and to pray. There are, sadly and gladly, very good examples around of both celibacy’s misuse and use. I guess, let’s not tar everyone with the same brush.
I have observed, as you have, shining Christian couples exemplifying lives poured out for others. Wonderful. Indeed, personally, what would I have done without such people? I have also had the good fortune to see some brilliant examples of celibates, ‘not counting their lives precious to themselves’ (Acts 20:4) but living lives sold out for others.
I believe that, in a healthy church, celibates and married people work together. Celibates often thrive when they closely connect with families and visa versa. Personally, I have really enjoyed the friendship of my married friends and their children and this has been very beneficial – for me as well as them. And then, there is the freedom in celibacy to give oneself to spiritual sons and daughters and one takes on commitment then of a different but equally important type. I find there is no lack of people wanting mentoring, mothering, befriending – if you have time. Yes, celibates, we have time – and hearts of love can go a long way.
I come from a tradition where we have married, single and celibate leaders. I am glad for this as I believe it brings wholeness to the church. We need each other.