Why Catholic priests practise celibacy

Why Catholic priests practise celibacy

The rules date from the Middle Ages

Celibacy

IN AN interview with a German magazine earlier this month, Pope Francis suggested that he would be open to the idea of allowing married men to become priests. Such a change, though momentous, would be a return to, rather than a break from, early Christian tradition: nowhere does the New Testament explicitly require priests to be celibate.

For the first thousand years of Christianity it was not uncommon for priests to have families. The first pope, St Peter, was a married man; many early popes had children. How did celibacy become part of the Catholic tradition?

Celibacy is one of the biggest acts of self-sacrifice a Catholic priest is called upon to make, forgoing spouse, progeny and sexual fulfilment for his relationship with parishioners and God. According to the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law celibacy is a “special gift of God” which allows practitioners to follow more closely the example of Christ, who was chaste. Another reason is that when a priest enters into service to God, the church becomes his highest calling.

If he were to have a family there would be the potential for conflict between his spiritual and familial duties. The Vatican regards it as being easier for unattached men to commit to the church, as they have more time for devotion and fewer distractions

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