Celibacy and the Priestly Ministry

A priest leads the celebration of Easter Mass in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Joe Torres/ucanews.com)

When celibacy is not intimately connected to ministry and mission, it turns the priest into an irresponsible bachelor.

There has been a clamor among some priests to abolish mandatory celibacy and make it optional. For them, celibacy is a burden that is very difficult to live with. They contend that if it was made optional, more men will be attracted to the priesthood, especially at a time when there is a shortage of priests. After all, celibacy is not really essential to the ordained ministry.

During the first millennium, most priests and even bishops were married. It was only in the 12th century that obligatory celibacy was legislated for the Roman Catholic Church. After Vatican II, many expected that the church would make it optional sooner or later.

The church continues to maintain that mandatory celibacy is appropriate and required for the priesthood. The only exception is for those belonging to the Oriental rite and married Anglican and Episcopalian priests who convert to Catholicism.

What is the basis for holding on to the discipline of celibacy?

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Fr. Amado Picardal CSsR, Manila

(Fr. Amado Picardal CSsR, is known for his activism and advocacy for human rights. He is executive secretary of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)