PART 4. THE BIBLICAL AND APOSTOLIC FOUNDATION FOR PRIESTLY CHASTITY
The Holy Bible and the Popes, Fathers and Saints of the Catholic Church unanimously teach that all Bishops, Priests and Deacons of the Lord must be totally “chaste” and abstain from all sexual intercourse with their wives during all times
From the very beginning of the Christian Church, it was taught by the Bible and the Holy Apostles that all ministers of God had to remain in chastity even though they were married when they entered the clerical state. We see this both in the earliest Church councils, Apostolic Tradition as well as the teachings of the Popes, Saints and Fathers of the Church. It is also clear from the Bible that the Catholic teaching on priestly celibacy and that a minister of the Lord must live totally “chaste” (1 Tim 3:2) after becoming a minister and holy servant of Our Lord, is the only true teaching. This teaching, of course, refutes and destroys the protestant and eastern “orthodox” schismatic position on this matter.
Indeed, the fact that Holy Scripture teaches that all Bishops, Priests and Deacons are forbidden to get married again after their spouse have died, (1 Tim 3:12; Tit 1:5-6) shows us that Our Lord taught the Apostles that all priests must be completely chaste in order to become and work as a priest, for if this were not so, God would certainly have allowed a man who was a priest to marry a second time after his spouse died, but since we see that God directly forbids this, it is clear that God from the very beginning of the Church commanded all priests – married as well as unmarried – to live in perfect chastity, holiness and purity after their ordination. This is also exactly how the Apostles themselves lived according to the teachings, history and tradition of the Church. In truth, “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife... ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee: If any be without crime, the husband of one wife...” (1 Tim 3:12; Tit 1:5-6) Note, however, that the Church does not teach that only unmarried men can be accepted to the priesthood, but that both the married and unmarried are accepted as long as they vow to never have sex again. In the case of a married man, however, the man can only enter the priesthood if his wife agrees to it.
In the beginning, the Church allowed men to enter the priesthood who were already married since the very concept of chastity were practiced by so few at that time because the world had fallen into such a degraded state when Our Lord entered the world, but there was never any Church teaching that taught that it is allowed to perform the sexual act after one becomes a priest. In truth, we see that St. Peter himself declares in The Gospel of Luke that he and all the Apostles “have left all things [which includes marital life], and have followed thee [Jesus],” and Jesus answering him: “Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” (Luke 18:28-30) Mark 10:29 records the same incident, but while “wife” is mentioned among the things “left,” no “wife” is found among the things gained. Thus Our Lord Himself in the context of St. Peter’s confession that he and the other Apostles had left everything for His sake, showed them that “all” really meant that they “left house, or parents, or brethren,or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake”. In truth, “If any man come to me [Jesus], and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27) And so, “The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” (Mark 10:24-25)
Jesus was celibate, and the priest stands in his place (“in persona Christi” as we call it). The Twelve Apostles left their spouses, if they were married, as well as all their property and possessions (cf. Matthew 19:27; Mark 10:28 and especially Luke 18:28–30), with Christ’s explicit approval. The apostle Paul set a personal example in this matter when he exhorted all to “be as I am,” that is, celibate. Indeed, contrary to many of our times who imagine or claim that the Apostles were married, the only one of the Apostles that is recorded to have been married at one time in his life, according to Holy Scripture, is Saint Peter, since his mother in law is mentioned in the holy text, but even in his case, there is no evidence that he lived as a married man during his ministry.
The Book of Exodus also shows us that God directly commanded the priests of the Old Law (which was the prophetic sign of the priesthood of the New Law) to “sanctify” themselves when they served the Lord, which, as we have seen in The Book of Exodus, meant that they had to be chaste (Exodus 19:10-22). And so important is this matter of priestly chastity to God, that Our Lord directly threatens to strike priests who refuse to follow His commandment concerning this matter: “He [God] said unto him [Moses]: Go down, and charge the people: lest they should have a mind to pass the limits to see the Lord, and a very great multitude of them should perish. The priests also that come to the Lord, let them be sanctified, [that is, chaste] lest he strike them.” (Exodus 19:21-22)
The sacrificial aspect of the Eucharistic liturgy and the real presence of Our Lord’s Body is directly taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles as we can read in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and this is also one of the main reasons why the Church was united against all those who dared to contradict God’s commandment for all clerics to be chaste. In truth, the dignity of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the most Holy Eucharist demands that the priest is pure and chaste when he consecrates and partakes of the Sacrament. God also commanded the Jews in the Old Testament and the Old Law to perform a kind of rite similar to the Eucharistic liturgy in order for it to be a sign of the future Eucharist. For as we have already seen, all priests of the Old Law had to be totally chaste in order to be able to perform the rite of the Old Law and eat of the bread that signified the future Eucharist, “If any one that is defiled shall eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which is offered to the Lord, he shall be cut off from his people.” (Leviticus 7:20) The words “the flesh of the sacrifice” signifies Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity that is offered up for our sins as a “peace offering” in the Eucharist in order to appease the just wrath of God. This very flesh is also offered up by the priests of the Church every time they perform the Eucharistic liturgy of the Church.
Since the Old Law teaches that both the priests as well as the laymen must be completely clean from all sexual activity for three days in order to be able to receive the prophetic sign of the Eucharist, it is obvious that it is also the Lord’s will for all to be completely chaste for a minimum of three days in the New Law (if not more by the grace of God) when they receive the real and actual Body of Our Lord. David said, “Now therefore if thou have any thing at hand, though it were but five loaves, give me, or whatsoever thou canst find. And the priest answered David, saying: I have no common bread at hand, but only holy bread, if the young men be clean, especially from women? And David answered the priest, and said to him: Truly, as to what concerneth women, we have refrained ourselves from yesterday and the day before, when we came out, and the vessels of the young men were holy. Now this way is defiled, but it shall also be sanctified this day in the vessels.” (1Kings 21:3-5)
A key biblical passage that proves that all who have sex are defiled comes from the book of Leviticus: “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: The man that hath an issue of seed, shall be unclean…. The man from whom the seed of copulation goeth out, shall wash all his body with water: and he shall be unclean until the evening. The garment or skin that he weareth, he shall wash with water, and it shall be unclean until the evening. The woman, with whom he copulateth, shall be washed with water, and shall be unclean until the evening.” (Verses 15:1-2,16-18). In truth, the Old Law does not only forbid the reception of the figure and sign of the future Eucharist for three days for those who have had sexual relations, but it also teaches that even those who have had a sensual or sinful dream during their sleep are banned from taking the Eucharist since they became defiled by the dream, thus showing us the height of purity and virtue that Our Lord and God expects when we are dealing with the most Holy Eucharist. “... thou shalt keep thyself from every evil thing. If there be among you any man, that is defiled in a dream by night, he shall go forth out of the camp. And shall not return, before he be washed with water in the evening: and after sunset he shall return into the camp.” (Deuteronomy 23:9-11)
In comparison to the Christian priests of the New Law, however, Jewish priests in the Old Law rarely served at the altar of sacrifice. But Christian priests are different since they must offer up the “peace offering” every day. In the Old Law – which was only a shadow of the New Law to come (Hebrews 10:1) – sexual relations rendered a man ritually unclean and that meant he could not participate in Israel’s cultic life for a prescribed period of time. The Old Law clearly teaches that a person could not receive the shadow or sign of the future Eucharist unless one abstains from the sexual act for three days, and so, in the New Law it is obvious that the Bible teaches that all priests must be completely chaste since they are to perform the Eucharistic sacrifice every day.
The other sacraments of the Church, however, also implies transmitting Christ’s Blood to other people, such as in the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, which washes away the sins of the penitent by the help of the Blood of Our Lord. And so, since the priest must always supply the sacraments for the benefit of himself and his Church in order to alleviate the wrath of God, it is a biblical fact that a priest can never be allowed to exercise the sexual act after he becomes a priest.
Our Lord Himself stands as the primary sign and example for the necessity of a chaste priesthood. In truth, He is the High Priest and Example that we all must live and die with if we want to be saved. Our Lord lived and died completely chaste, and from beginning to end, tried to help and inspire his followers as well as everyone else to adopt the more meritorious life of chastity and virginity: “Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession... Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly vocation, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus: Who is faithful to him that made him, as was also Moses in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, by so much as he that hath built the house, hath greater honor than the house. For every house is built by some man: but he that created all things, is God.” (Hebrews 3:1-4, 4:14)
Christ Our Lord, the High Priest, made the way clear for all priests of the Church by the example of his own life and suffering. The servant of Christ should not expect less than some suffering if he perfectly wants to follow Our Lord in this life. Just as Christ was glorified in eternity for his suffering, so also his sons, the priests, must follow him in suffering in order to be glorified in eternity. There is no other way but the cross of Our Lord: “And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) If Christ who suffered the most horrible torture imaginable is our example, is it strange that his special sons, the priests, should follow him in small penances and chastity that are as nothing compared to His suffering on the Cross? Not at all! In truth, anything else would have been completely unacceptable and directly inspired by the devil of voluptuousness and sensuality. For “The disciple is not above his master: but every one shall be perfect, if he be as his master [Our Lord Jesus Christ].” (Luke 6:40) Thus, “Where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech,” (Hebrews 6:20) it obviously follows that his beloved sons, the priests, must follow Him in the way of penance and chastity in order to perfectly resemble the one and only High Priest – Our Lord Jesus Christ. In truth, “So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest” (Hebrews 5:5).
Hebrews 7:11-28 “If then perfection was by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchisedech, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being translated [to the New Law], it is necessary that a translation also be made of the law. For he, of whom these things are spoken, is of another tribe, of which no one attended on the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprung out of Juda: in which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And it is yet far more evident: if according to the similitude of Melchisedech there ariseth another priest, Who is made not according to the law of a carnal commandment, but according to the power of an indissoluble life: For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.
“There is indeed a setting aside of the former commandment, because of the weakness and unprofitableness thereof: (For the law brought nothing to perfection,) but a bringing in of a better hope, by which we draw nigh to God. And inasmuch as it is not without an oath, (for the others indeed were made priests without an oath; But this with an oath, by him that said unto him: The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever.) By so much is Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And the others indeed were made many priests, because by reason of death they were not suffered to continue: But this, for that he continueth for ever, hath an everlasting priesthood, Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him; always living to make intercession for us.
“For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily (as the other priests) to offer sacrifices first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, in offering himself. For the law maketh men priests, who have infirmity: but the word of the oath, which was since the law, the Son who is perfected for evermore.”
Douay Rheims Bible Commentary explains the words “many priests” in Hebrews 7:23, saying that: “The apostle notes this difference between the high priests of the law, and our high priest Jesus Christ; that they being removed by death, made way for their successors; whereas our Lord Jesus is a priest for ever, and hath no successor; but liveth and concurreth for ever with his ministers, the priests of the new testament, in all their functions. Also, that no one priest of the law, nor all of them together, could offer that absolute sacrifice of everlasting redemption, which our one high priest Jesus Christ has offered once, and for ever.” (Challoner) --- The words “make intercession” in verse 25 means that “Christ, as man, continually maketh intercession for us, by representing his passion to his Father” (Challoner) whose merit is applied to humanity by the priesthood and its distribution of the sacraments of the Church to the faithful. In truth, it is fitting that the priests of the New Law should not daily “offer sacrifices first for his own sins, and then for the people’s... For the [Old] law maketh men priests, who have infirmity: but the word of the oath, which was since the law, the Son who is perfected for evermore.” (Hebrews 7:27-28)
From the very beginning, all the Councils, Popes, Saints and Fathers of the Church rejected the heretical and unbiblical teaching of those impure and selfish heretics and schismatics who reject the biblical Church teaching that all ministers must be totally chaste and that the high and pure office of being a minister of the Lord obligates a man to abstain from all sexual relations, even with a wife. There are many reasons why the Church teaches this doctrine. St. Augustine, for example, explains that “in intercourse man becomes all flesh” (St. Augustine, Sermons 62.2) and that the sexual act degrades the masculine soul. “For I know that nothing so debases a man’s soul as the charms of a woman and that bodily contact which is so much a part of having a wife.” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Soliloquies 1.10) Thus, it is not hard to understand based on just these two arguments of St. Augustine why the Church directly condemns the heretical teaching that ministers of God are allowed to have marital relations. Since the act of abstaining from the sexual act is highly extolled in Holy Scripture by the Holy Ghost and praised as a more meritorious and virtuous life, it is obvious why the Catholic Church teaches that all Her priests must abstain from all kinds of sexual acts.
Simply said, the pure Catholic priest who is wholly dedicated to serving God in mind and body – and that is not disturbed by the marital life nor by raising fleshly children – will always be more effective in saving and bringing sinners back from the clutches of the devil than those people who choose to live in a more sensual lifestyle. Since their life is exclusively dedicated to God and His Holy Church, they will be more closer to God than those who are married and have children. That is also exactly why almost exclusively all canonized saints in the Catholic Church have been either ecclesiastics, monks, nuns, virgins or ascetics. And the Holy Bible is clear on why this happens, since “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” (1 Cor. 7:32-34)
Thus, we see that Holy Scripture itself teaches that the chaste servants of Christ are more “holy both in body and in spirit” and more “solicitous” for the things of the Lord than those who marry. As a result of this holiness, the pure servants of Christ will always be more effective in their prayers and intercessions for sinful souls, "snatching them out of the fire" (Jude 1:23) and in bringing the lost sheep back into the fold of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only will a man become more blessed in the afterlife if he chooses the angelic life of chastity, but he will also receive more spiritual gifts from Our Lord to the benefit of himself and others in this life since he has chosen to welcome Our Lord into his heart with a more perfect and pure love.
“[Pg 176] How is the phenomenal success of these missions to be explained? Many of the Indians possessed admirable natural virtues; they but needed to know Christianity to embrace it. Even the most degraded had preserved a high ideal of the greatness of the power of God. Blasphemy was unknown among them: not presuming to address the “Great Spirit,” they entreated their manitous to intercede for them. Superstition if you will, but beneath it was a religious sentiment which the missionary had only to enlighten and direct. None held back through false pride or prejudice. Even the Sioux, the proudest of the Western tribes, compared themselves to children bereft of a father’s guiding hand, and to the ignorant animals of the prairie, and with touching humility begged the missionary to “take pity on them.”
“Such elevated, upright souls could, moreover, appreciate the chastity of the Catholic priesthood. With rare discernment, the Indian understood that, belonging as he does to all men, a priest cannot give himself to one person, and not for an instant did they hesitate to choose the Black Robe, who had consecrated his life to them, rather than the minister in lay dress, installed in a comfortable home with wife and children, devoted to the interests of his family, giving only the time that remained to distributing Bibles”.
“[Pg 52] The Indians, meanwhile, were not overlooked. Dispossessed of their lands and driven west by the whites, they now found refuge and support in the Catholic Church. A considerable number of them, whose fathers had been instructed and baptized by the Jesuits, were well disposed toward Catholicity. Protestant ministers made repeated attempts to gain their confidence, but were always coldly received.” “What had they to do,” asked the Indians, “with married preachers, men who wore no crucifix, and said no rosary? They wanted only the Black Robes to teach them how to serve God. They even went so far as to appeal to the President of the United States, asking that the married ministers might be recalled and Catholic priests sent in their place.”
“[Pg 117] I was given the place of honor in the chief’s tent, who, surrounded by forty of his braves, addressed me in the following words: ‘Black Robe, this is the happiest day of our lives, for to-day, for the first time, we see in our midst a man who is near to the Great Spirit. These are the principal warriors of my tribe. I have invited them to the feast I have prepared for you, that they may never forget the great day.’”
“It seems strange that with the savages the fact of being a Catholic priest merited a triumphal reception for the lowly missionary, while in other times, and to men proud of their civilization, he would have been the object of suspicion. During the repast the great chief showered attentions on his guest, even to giving him a mouthful of his own food to chew, a refined usage among his tribe.
“At night, after the missionary had retired and was about to fall asleep, he saw the chief who had received him with so much honor, enter his tent. Brandishing a knife that gleamed in the light of the torch, he said: “Black Robe, are you afraid?” The missionary, taking the chief’s hand, placed it on his breast and replied: “See if my heart beats more rapidly than usual! Why should I be afraid? You have fed me with your own hands, and I am as safe in your tent as I would be in my father’s house.” Flattered by this reply, the Blackfoot renewed his professions of friendship; he had wished only to test the confidence of his guest.
“[Pg 86] Protestant ministers tried to compete with the Catholic priests; but between a salaried official who distributed tracts to inquisitive members of the tribe, and the missionary, devoted body and soul to their interests, the Indians did not hesitate to make a choice.” They refused the most alluring offers from Protestants and came from all directions to ask for a Black Robe to show them the way to heaven.