All That I Have Written Is Straw. . .

Meanderings of a Catholic Devout

Sextus is a no-no.

with 5 comments

It’s a rather controversial issue all around, but very much so inside the Roman Catholic Church: the celibacy of priests. I am by no means a scholar on the issue, nor do I want to be, and I wouldn’t normally be writing on this topic at all if not for a funny anecdote and recent highlights in the media about conversions.

In my Vatican II course, I was given insight about why “sex” is so hush-hush in the Church—or at least appears to be so from the outside looking in. In the days of old, seminarians were taught in Latin, even if they didn’t know what it meant. When they studied the Decalogue, the commandments regarding sexual morality were listed as the sixth (sextus) and ninth (nonus) commandments (not the order in which they are commonly written today) and usually kept in Latin to deter emphasis on them. Sextus et Nonus. “Sex is a no-no.” Voilà.

In my local parish scripture study, our little Irish priest was giving us a reference to 1 Corinthians 9:1-7 in which Paul is ranting about liberties:

 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

This passage came up in the context of studying what could be the second female disciple of Christ: Simon’s (Peter’s) mother-in-law healed from her fever in Mark 1:30-31. (Mary is the first disciple, of course.) Simon Peter (Peter = “rock” = “Cephas”) was apparently married as were other apostles as the above passage mentions. It is partially incorrect to say that priestly celibacy descends from apostolic origin; Paul himself wavered on the subject in his earlier letters when he was more convinced that Parousia was likely to happen sooner rather than later.  But as our priest put it upon the reading of Corinthians, “Quick! Write letters to Benedict immediately!” with a chuckle.

Behind his sarcastic laughter was an almost unnoticeable sign of despair, maybe loneliness? And I felt for him because I’ve seen this look among some of the seminarians and even some priests. A life of celibacy is a huge committment. Giving up the temptations of the flesh is one thing, but religious celibacy is a marriage to the Lord and adultery, as we find in the Sextus Praeceptum: “Nec concupisces uxorem proximi tui”  Deut. 5: 6-21 (i.e., you shall not commit adultery), is a no-no.

As a lay person, with an aspiring vocation to family life, it seems as though I should have no say in religious celibacy, but I fully support it. For those who truly love their spouses really understand the meaning of sacrifice. They would do anything for their better halves: the flesh of their flesh. In a family vocation, spouses and children come first. Why should this be any different in a religious vocation?

Should the Lord’s testing ever begin, I would prefer my priest to have no distractions if possible. I wouldn’t want him to put his “wife” before his duty to God. As selfish as it sounds, I want my shepherd tending the whole flock and not have one or two sheep set before the rest of us in the pasture. As noble as his intentions may be, would he be able to sacrifice his own life as willingly for God if he also supported an earthly mate? Would that be fair to the wife? And if they had children? I know it’s never quite fair to set the premise in hypotheticals but faith is not an empirical subject matter.

Of course, I have been acquainted with a married priest or two (those who convert to Catholicism, usually from the Episcopal or Lutheran church). I applaud their ability to do their work and trust that they are no less noble in their pastoral duty. But priestly celibacy is such a sweet reminder of the tremendous vocation and the great faith that these men have and a constant reminder to what my own vocation entails. Do I live my own vocation with such sacrifice and conviction as these men do?


Written by Written Straw

January 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The Orthodoxal Church has married priests! it is an old tradition! Monks are not married, so are the priests monks and bishops… that’s it!!!


    June 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    • So does the Roman Catholic Church in the case of pastors who convert (for example, from the Angelican rite to the Roman Catholic rite). Mark 1:30 indicates that Simon/Peter was married in referencing his “mother-in-law.”

      I have no tiffs with married priests. I personally support celebacy for priests and religious–but because I truly believe they espouse themselves to the Church. And if one must choose between a human (wife/husband) and God, how cruel it would seem to choose God and how unfaithful it would be to choose humanity.

      Written Straw

      June 26, 2012 at 7:55 am

      • Why should anyone choose between God and one’s spouse?! or it means that people who are married are the worse christians?! We can discuss it long and bring different quotation, but it’s better to apply to Churh History!!! in the early Church even bishops were married, for exaple – Spiridon of Trimifunt!….


        June 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

      • I made no such comment about marriage being bad. It’s a vocation, after all. But priesthood is also a vocation. To have two vocations is a mighty task, though not impossible. . .but my reference was more to Jesus’ instructions that “No one can serve two masters.” (Mt. 6:24). If you take a vocation, you dedicate your life to it. Having two vocations only makes it much more difficult. That is why marriage is a holy sacrament–a holy vocation, just as much as priesthood or religious life is. Of course, Tradition is rich and I mean no disrespect to it. The Roman Catholic Church also has rich Tradition, too, some of which involves celibate bishops, priests, etc., particularly after the split with the Eastern Orthdox rite.

        Written Straw

        June 26, 2012 at 10:40 am

      • Mt. 6:24 is about God and mammon – money!!!
        the matter is that there are monks, who give oath of celibacy. Mt. 19, 10-12 !!! the tradition appeared before the Split, in the Western Church! but the reasons are not quite canonic!!!
        The 13 rule of the 6-th Ecumenical Counsil (680—681 A.D.) says:”Понеже мы уведали, что в Римской Церкви, в виде правила, предано, чтобы те, которые имеют быть удостоены рукоположения во диакона, или пресвитера, обязывались не сообщаться более со своими женами: то мы, последуя древнему правилу Апостольскаго благоустройства и порядка, соизволяем, чтобы сожитие священнослужителей по закону и впредь пребыло ненарушимым, отнюдь не расторгая союза их с женами, и не лишая их взаимнаго в приличное время соединения. И тако, кто явится достойным рукоположения во иподиакона, или во диакона, или во пресвитера, таковому отнюдь да не будет препятсятвием к возведению на таковую степень сожитие с законною супругою; и от него во время поставления да не требуется обязательства в том, что он удержится от законнаго сообщения с женою своею; дабы мы не были принуждены сим образом оскорбить Богом установленный, и Им в Его пришествии благословенный брак. Ибо глас Евангелия вопиет: что Бог сочетал, человек да не разлучает (Мф.19:6) (Mt 19,6). И Апостол учит: брак честен, и ложе нескверно (Евр. 13:4) (Hebrews 13, 4)»
        Find it in English equivalent, please…


        June 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: