Q: The reading on Oct. 4 from Genesis says “The Lord says, it is not good for the man to be alone.” So why does the Catholic Church feel priests should not marry? Is that not going against God’s word? The Greek Orthodox say their religious leaders have to marry to be ordained. An explanation please.
A: One might approach an answer to this question in a variety of ways. First, a Catholic approach to Holy Scripture does not isolate the meaning of the sacred text from the tradition of the church’s reflection and understanding.
One cannot be had without the other. As Vatican II tells us in the “Constitution on Divine Revelation” (par. 9), both Scripture and tradition flow from the same “divine wellspring,” that is to say both “bubble forth” from God. So, while without a doubt, the Genesis text tells us that the creation of humankind, man-woman, provides us with a relational view of the person, the church’s tradition provides us with an expansive view of how this relationality may be lived out. Second, a priest committed to celibacy is every bit as relational as those who are married, but that relationality is lived out in a spousal-like fashion with the community he serves.
Third, celibacy has not always been required of the priesthood. To take one example from many, one of the great fathers of the church, St. Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was married and had a daughter named Apra. And St. Hilary was named a doctor of the church by Pope Pius IX in 1851. As a church discipline celibacy came into force in the Latin West in the reforming movements of the Middle Ages. Fourth, in today’s situation there are churches in full communion with Rome (Ukrainian, Melkite and others) who permit married priests. There are also men who have ministered in other Christian traditions, who have become Catholic, and who have been ordained priests in the Catholic Church.