How long can a celibate priesthood last?

I have no doubt that the Rev. Marcel Taillon and the Rev. Michael Najim (“For priesthood, celibacy is the issue,” Commentary, Aug. 18) are sincere and dedicated Roman Catholic priests.
What I have learned in the past decade is that many priests, steeped in the clerical culture, are unwilling or unable to see other points of view. There are also many dedicated and sincere priests who do not agree with the authors’ statement that “priests are ‘married’ and ‘fathers,’ both ontologically and experientially.”

The article calls simplistic the argument that the discipline of celibacy was mandated only in the early 12th Century, owing to concerns over the loss of benefices and monetary grants made to priests with children. As a medievalist, I find that the authors are not very familiar with the history of the Roman Church.

Celibacy had been a choice very early, and was always considered the preferable path. But married priests were not a rarity. Rome was most concerned about losing control of land and/or wealth, and toyed with making celibacy mandatory centuries earlier.

The other weakness in the article lies in what Scripture scholars call “proof texting.” The authors have quoted Scripture several times as proof of the divine desire for celibacy when other scholars would not agree with the interpretation of the passage as applying to celibacy.
Too many of the Roman Catholic faithful have a tenuous grasp of Scripture and accept whatever their local priest states it to mean. By weaving poetical and allegorical language around the notion of celibacy, many priests have confused and muddied the issue. Christ never speaks directly about celibacy; and Peter, at least, is known to have been married. It is surely worth discussion, despite Rome’s placing its hands over its ears.

The real issue is that at the present rate of loss of priests in the United States (7 percent per year), who will celebrate the Eucharist and spiritually feed the people of God in 15 years?

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