A priest once put it in a homily, the secular world getting upset about our disciplines or small-t-traditions is like getting upset about where we put our toaster. If we leave it, they say there is a better place to put it. If we move it, they yell and scream about us redecorating our kitchen. My question is why in the world are you worrying about a damn toaster in your neighbors house?
B16 accepted LA Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, 60. The man fathered two children with a woman from another state. Reports came out this morning through twitter and a letter from Archbishop José Gomez. To read comments on the situation and the letter from Archbishop José Gomez you can read them at Whispers In The Loggia.
The fact is that celibacy is NOT A DOCTRINE of the Catholic Church, but being chaste is. However, that doesn’t mean we can change it whenever we want. Clerical (as in priests and bishop) celibacy is what is properly called a discipline (sometimes referred to as a small-t-tradition). Basically a cultural tradition.
To clarify, I do think that priests should marry. I am of the opinion with St. Jerome on the subject, I also seem to have his crankiness. However, I am also with the opinion of St. Jerome that what I think doesn’t constitute what the Church should do, but only in fact what I think.
Barbarians and Monks
As far as I can suspect the reason for the Latin Rite’s discipline of clerical celibacy comes from the monks that civilized Northern Europe in the land of the Barbarians (Germanic, Celtic, Saxon, Vikings, people that worshiped Thor, &c.). The first monks were the Desert Fathers, hermits. Well being a hermit is some what dangerous as living alone is usually dangerous. So, monasteries formed to bring together hermits to be alone together.
The monasteries moved to Northern Europe into the dense forests, even fighting of the Vikings (with weather of course). The Rule (you can read the Rule of Benedict) of course for monk priests is that they are celibate. They devote their entire life to Jesus (well the original one’s did, now some do teaching, social work, &c. but they happened to do just work and pray back then) and so were celibate.
As the hermits civilized Northern Europe, the Europeans came to know priests as celibate, because they were exposed to only religious priest, versus parish priests. If a priest who is married would come to Germany at those times, it would be the same as the first time I saw a priest with a wife (Anglican man), shocking and somewhat scandalous.
So, it became somewhat of a local tradition in Northern Europe for priests, even parish priests to be celibate. This tradition came over to America when Catholics from Northern Europe came over.
This isn’t the discipline for all Latin Rite priests, as exemptions for some African priests have been given as some African cultures do not see a man without a wife as a “real man.”
When B16 was in the seminary he, as well, his comrades put together a petition, of sorts, to look into the issue of celibacy within the priesthood. So, the issue is not foreign to the top of the hierarchy. It isn’t taken lightly by all, and definitely not on my part. He has shed light onto the issue last year actually, if you wish to know what the Pope thinks about it.
The issue is with changing something because of sudden cultural norms changing. We have to look at the reasons not only for celibacy but reasons for not having celibacy. Is their sufficient reason to change the discipline. Will it scandalize the laity?
What can’t change
To make matters more confusing, there is one thing that can’t change. A priest cannot marry. You heard me right, this long article and now I’m saying that a priest can’t marry? Yes. The discipline is that a married man cannot become a priest (except for the exemptions), the discipline is not that a priest cannot marry.
As far as I am aware a priest cannot marry, the issue is if married men can enter.
I hope that clears things up. If you have any other questions leave them in the comment box, or holla at me on twitter.