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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Priests Forbidden to Marry


Any prohibition against the good of marriage is from the devil!

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions, through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer (1 Timothy 14:1-4).


These words refer to a false asceticism and not to the practices of Catholic Christianity. The early Church, well into the Patristic period, had to deal with cults and movements which made all sorts of exaggerated claims and required various austere practices. Some urged a return to Jewish dietary laws. Others wanted to go even further with fasting and abstinence, perpetually destroying joy in the goods of creation. There were even movements which urged strict celibacy upon all the members as the only way to enlightenment and salvation. The Catholic position is quite different. Our use of fasting and abstinence is not perpetual and it is not a rejection of certain foods as unclean or unworthy of man. Rather, their absence, to coin a cliché, is to make the heart grow fonder. It is precisely because something like meat is good that we might temporarily abstain. Jesus himself fasted and prayed in the desert and alluded to it in the future as something his followers would do. As for marriage, Catholics believe that Christ raised it up to the level of a sacrament, a special sacred sign of his relationship as the bridegroom to his bride, the Church. It is a mysterious means of encountering the Lord himself and receiving grace. Obviously, if such is the Catholic view, we would not be seeking to degrade it by our practice of celibacy. Priests and religious vow celibacy freely, not because marriage is bad, but because it is very good. Celibacy becomes a wonderful gift, freely embraced, as a sacrifice for God and his holy people. Jesus was celibate. St. Paul not only practiced it but encouraged it. The celibate priest becomes a sign of contradiction reflecting the kingdom of Christ to a hedonistic world. It is not a rejection of love, but a selfless abandonment to divine love as manifested in service to God’s people, the Church. It is not a calling for everyone, just as not everyone is called to priesthood or consecrated life. The majority of people seek holiness in marriage and family life.


The Catholic Church claims its apostolic line through Peter and yet he was married, something not allowed for popes today.

And when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed, sick with a fever (Matthew 8:14). Now Simon’s mother-in-law was keeping her bed sick with fever, and they immediately told him about her (Mark 1:30). But he rose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a great fever, and they besought him for her (Luke 4:38).


These references to Peter’s mother-in-law do indicate that Peter was married; although her absence from these texts might lead one to think that she experienced some mishap or might have been away. 1 Corinthians has Paul discussing his power to lead about a wife like Cephas (Peter) and there is a tradition that she was an early Christian martyr. But there is really very little we know about her. Be this as it may, the Catholic Church has never hidden the fact that Peter and other religious leaders of the Church were married. Indeed, the Catholic Church had a selective married clergy all the way up to the 12th century. The Fourth Lateran Council was quite decisive in mandating compulsory celibacy for any who would be priests of the Roman or Western Rite. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, to this very day (in Europe and the Far East) have an optional married clergy. These priests are in full union with Rome. Also, in our own nation many Protestant clergy, Lutheran and Episcopal, have entered into the Roman Catholic priesthood, even though they are married and have families. Those who are raised in the Western rite realize that celibacy is a special gift and a particular charism of our priestly experience. It is a sign of a wondrous single-hearted love. One of the fruits of this sacrifice is the availability that a priest can give to his prayers, study, and service. Any indication that Peter’s married state would affect apostolic succession is a low blow. Those who followed Peter had a spiritual and not a physical affinity to the great apostle. While the Church has known nepotism, such is the exception and not the rule. No one forces a young man to become a priest or brother. There is no coercion for a woman to become a nun. They know that vows of poverty, obedience, and celibacy are part of the package. If God gives a person a vocation in the Catholic Church, we believe that he will give him the graces and gifts to follow this life. The majority of men who leave the priesthood to get married ultimately have failed marriages. Promises are made to be kept. The problem is not the Church or God; the dilemma is people who are unwilling to surrender their lives fully to Christ. Marriage is also a sacrifice, amidst the joys. However, if we trust God and walk with him, he will guide our path.


Paul was single but thought we should have the freedom to marry. Catholics are too strict.

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5).


The Catholic Church also recognizes the right of people to get married. However, the Church has a right of her own to regulate her ministries. Permanent deacons, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Catechists, Lectors, Acolytes, and Lay Evangelists and Ministers all serve the Church and may be married. Would the anti-Catholic demand compulsory matrimony? I hope not. Those who opt for priesthood in the Roman Rite also freely embrace celibacy. This is no less than what St. Paul did. After listing all the various rights that a follower in Jesus possesses, he acknowledges that he has chosen not to use these rights for himself.

After listing the right to marry among many other freedoms, St. Paul says:

Yet we have not used this right. On the contrary, we endure everything, so as not to place an obstacle to the Gospel of Christ. … I have not used any of these rights, … (1 Corinthians 9:12,15).

After speaking about marriage:

This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, … (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).

Advice to virgins and widows:

Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that. I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

More on virginity:

So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better (1 Corinthians 7:38).

About a widow:

She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is, and I think that I too have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:40).

Celibacy as a sign of the kingdom:

His disciples said to him, “If the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.” And he said, “Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can” (Matthew 19:10-12).

5 Responses

  1. so what about to those who want to be a priest and to have marriage… would this allow?

    because you said that we have freedom to choose marriage…

    because they have no gift of celibacy…

    but God calls them to be a priest…

    FATHER JOE: Priests in the Western rite must be celibate. Those men who want to get married can make that choice but they cannot be priests. If God does not give them the gift of celibacy then they have no true calling to the priesthood. Our Lord works in concert with his Church, not against her.

  2. We always judge as if we are better than others. We forget that the priests are human just like us. We are not God. God wants us to be honest. Sometimes we probably think that we have found the something we are got at, but when we get on board we find out that we are good at different things. We have to recalculate just like the GPS. It is better to obey God than to think about what the world will say. It does not matter the way a priests handles these changes of direction; the world will always condemn him. If a priest had an affair with a woman secretly and someone found out it, the problem and scandal would be worse. God knows every secret. It is best to be truthful. I admire the courage of those who honestly acknowledge these things. I hope that priests who leave for marriage will serve as an example for other priests who have a double life. They are in my prayers. The Lord who dies for them will never leave them. This is his promise. Even outside the priesthood, their focus should be on God. He will show them the right path. They must have fear of the Lord instead of human beings. Their honesty will choke a lot but I really believe most of them will understand later on. God knows their motives, and their love, honor and respect for him. God will bless them and he will guide them. Who knows maybe the priesthood was never God’s plan in their lives? Sometimes, at the beginning, we confuse emotion with the love of God and God is not an emotion. Priests who leave regular ministry will be okay. They might be freer to do the work of the Lord. Look at Father Francis McNutt; he is doing wonderful work that I do not think he would be able to do it if he did not recalculate God’s purpose in his life. He almost lost his call. So many people have been delivered from bondage through him.

    Much love,

    FATHER JOE: It is true that life goes on but I would prefer that priests keep their promises. I cannot agree with Father Francis McNutt’s course in marrying outside the Church; however, I am ever so happy that he reconciled with Catholicism, was laicized and had his marriage convalidated. As far as I know he is currently a Catholic in good standing and has done much to help bring healing and deliverance to suffering souls. Praise God!

  3. Dear Fr Joe,

    It is very sad that the unpalatable truth that a relatively small number of ordained priests have disgraced The Church either by putting money, power, prestige or sins against the 6th and 9th commandments way above their priestly calling and the media have had a feeding frenzy.

    Out of about 5,500 priests in Ireland about 85 have been investigated for sex crimes. Now 85 is a huge number of very nasty and satan inspired sinners, but what about the other 5,415 priests, the majority of whom are probably really good and genuine examples of Christ’s teaching.

    And I think we rather miss the point. This very confused character, Paul (and certainly NOT me), is probably a convert to Jehovas Witness and has become infected by their false teachings, they are particularly active locally here in the UK, and sadly they do appeal to the simple minded some of the time. They can even bend scripture, ignoring all the elements that clearly state that Jesus is Emanuel, and just use that one bit where Matthew, I think, says about Jesus coming back and being accompanied by ‘the voice of an angel’……they use that to verify their claim that Jesus is not God (and the reason that He was crucified) but that He is only the archangel Michael……how weird if that. Also they can erroneously translate Jesus’ own words when He instituted the Sacrament of The Eucharist, and claim that He said; “this represents my body” when we have it on good authority from Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul, that He did say: “This IS my body”. Sadly there is no arguing with these people.

    But the other serious failing of these True Church knockers is that Jesus, Himself, was celibate. Most apologists cite appropriate scripture, as indeed you have done, to confirm that celibacy is indeed a good thing, especially for those who have freely chosen it and the very demanding consequences that come with that personal sacrifice. To give up the opportunity for marriage and family is a very big thing, and I give praise and respect for all Priests who do exactly that, but justification by citing scripture, even to try to correct not only the feeble-minded but the angry anti-catholic bigot, is not necessary if we simply look to the example of Jesus, Himself. HE WAS SINGLE, HE WAS A VIRGIN, AND HE WAS THE WORD MADE FLESH.

    I strive to be more like Christ every day, and every day I fall short.

    With love, Paul.

  4. Matthew 7:15 – Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”

    FATHER JOE: The posting of this citation is somewhat cryptic. I suspect it had to do with a discussion about clergy apparel. All of us have the potential for hypocrisy and everyone is a sinner. You impugn a whole class of shepherds, most of whom are good and holy. Have you looked into a mirror? You may be the wolf trying to steal or harm the flock.

    As you enter into priesthood you are forbidden to marry – and this is perpetual.

    FATHER JOE: We freely make this promise at the time when we are ordained to the transitory diaconate. We embrace celibacy for the kingdom, just as did St. Paul.

    Let us just stick to this point what was written in 1 Timothy 4:3. Let me ask you to whom this was fulfilled?

    FATHER JOE: The Church regards marriage as a sacrament, a holy covenant. There is no prohibition; indeed, it is a natural right. However, we are not required to get married. The group to which the apostle John would later belong probably practiced general celibacy, much as we would find in a convent or monastery today. It was freely embraced. Marriage was never condemned by the Catholic Church. It was only that some forsook it so as to devote themselves to prayer and service to the Lord. The apostles saw themselves living in the Last Days and many presumed that Christ’s return was imminent. The Church would compete with groups which wanted to return to elements of Jewish faith, like the Saturday Sabbath over Sunday Observance, ritual circumcision, and the abstaining of foods judged unclean. The Council of Jerusalem would settle this issue against the Judaizers. The Church would recall Christ’s words that it was what came out of a man and went into the latrine that was unclean, not that which went inside him— all foods were now lawful. Christians would practice periodic fasting and abstinence but only as a spiritual discipline, just as our Lord did when he went into the desert. There were also extreme groups that derided matter and condemned marriage. In later history, Catharism was a heresy which rejected the marriage bed and practiced what might be called ritual suicide. They also refrained from meat because of their abhorrence to sexual reproduction. The irony is that many Protestant histories lament their persecution by the Catholic Church as if they were kindred believers.

    Other false teaching like fornication, idolatry, trinity, baptism not fully immerse in the water, pray to Mary as she is the Mother of God – who is the only mediator between God and man.


    Huh? You are very confused. The Church forbids fornication and adultery as terrible sins. Do you disagree?

    There is no idolatry in Catholicism. While we venerate images as reminders to us of holy personages, there is nothing of superstition or magic about it. True iconoclasts would also forbid secular paintings, statues, television, movies, photographs and computer images. I suspect that you modify your extremism when it is convenient for you. All true divine worship is directed to Almighty God.

    The word “Trinity” is simply a shortcut expression for the truth about God’s identity revealed in the New Testament and in the baptismal command of Christ. We find the term in second century writings. God is three divine Persons in one God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Do you reject this? If so, then you are technically not even a Christian. All true Christians believe in monotheism and the Trinity.

    Full immersion baptism is not necessary. Fundamentalists wrongly defined baptism as meaning immersion but this was only one meaning. The same word is used when the Pharisee was surprised that Jesus failed to wash (baptize) his hands (Luke 11:38). Catholics baptize in one of three ways: immersion, pouring or sprinkling (almost never done).

    As for Mary, we call upon her as a good spiritual Mother. We honor her as Christ honored her (since he no doubt kept the commandments). The title Mother of God is crucial, not for what it says about her but what it details in regard to Jesus. Those who rejected the title were seen as compromising on the divinity of Christ. Only God can save us. If Christ is not God, then we are not redeemed. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the one Mediator between heaven and earth. He is the bridge over the deep chasm of our sins. There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. This is Catholic doctrine and is immutable. Our devotion to Mary and the saints does not call this into question.

    Checking the history of the original church all Christian who stand on their beliefs being persecuted and murdered (heretics). All the apostles were being murdered. Why are most of the Roman Catholic teachings are related to pagan doctrines? I can give some of the samples and please give a relative answer coming from the Bible.

    FATHER JOE: The original Church is the Catholic Church. The apostles were the first Catholic bishops. The evangelists were Catholic. We eventually used this term to distinguish true Christians from the many heretical pretenders, like the Gnostics and Arians. The Catholic martyrs were put to death by pagan Rome for several centuries until the legal recognition of the Church under Constantine. Not all the apostles were murdered. Where do you find this in the Bible? You must rely upon Catholic sacred tradition because there are no other sources. All the apostles died martyrs’ deaths except for the apostle John who lived into old age. None of the Catholic teachings are derived from pagan doctrines; this is a lie circulated by anti-Catholic bigots.

    I want to ask more of the prophecy in the Revelation that the Catholic Church is the fulfillment of the Harlot Woman.

    FATHER JOE: Boy, you jump from topic, another tactic of anti-Catholicism— lots of jabs but little or nothing in content. Your post is not serious inquiry or an effort at dialogue. You are only here to score points and to ridicule the Catholic Church. If that is your intent, you are welcome to take your ignorance elsewhere. The Book of Revelation may have some end-time meaning, but it also speaks to the persecution of the Catholic Church by Rome, principally by Nero. Be careful that you do not commit the unpardonable sin. Jesus Christ instituted the Church and she is his bride. You have just called Christ’s bride a whore. I do not think he will be pleased, with either you or the authorities you mimic.

    Going back priest are just an ordinary man and sinners – Christ is the only one man who is perfect.

    FATHER JOE: Ordained men participate in the one priesthood of Christ. Every ordained priest counts himself as much a sinner as other men. Just because God has given us a special responsibility in the Church does not mean that priests are perfect or all holy. Why would you think we say otherwise? You are not listening to us, are you? You are getting your view of the Catholic Church from unreliable sources.

    We all know the fact that many priests were involved in different forms of sexual acts, rape, pedophile and sexual harassment.

    FATHER JOE: You condemn priests for being celibate and next you condemn those who violate their celibacy. The illogic here makes my head spin. Men in every occupation are both good and bad and everything in-between. Most priests are chaste and holy men who sacrifice their lives in the service of God and his people.

    Catholic forbids the priest and nuns to marry and forbids eating meat during Lenten season. It’s just site samples of false doctrines of a false church.

    FATHER JOE: Priestly celibacy has ancient roots in Christianity. The man who becomes a priest and the woman who answers the calling to religious life are not forced into these roles. They freely choose to make promises to God and the Church. No one is forced to be a nun or priest. Thousands of Catholic clergy, permanent deacons, are both married and single men. As I said before, our Lord told those who challenged his apostles that the day would come for fasting— when the bridegroom would be taken away from them. You deride true doctrines as false, making yourself into your own personal teaching authority, and an erroneous and fallible one at that.

    If you want to learn more of the Roman Catholic doctrine I can share it with you.

    FATHER JOE: Do not disgrace yourself further. You cannot even get basic elements about Catholicism correct. Sorry, you have nothing to teach but ignorance and lies.

  5. Dear Fr Joe,

    It continues to surpeise and annoy me when, for what ever reason it may be, antagonists, especially those who are not Catholics, have to condemn certain traditions and requirements of the Catholic Church, particularly by ‘bending’ that truth and then knocking it.

    Jesus was neither married nor was He a woman, so why would my minister be different in either way?

    I’m a Catholic and am now single. I was married and that marriage ended in divorce. I’m celibate as a consequence of that ending and have been so for a number of years now. It was not my choice, as is usually the case when someone responds to God’s calling and accepts Priesthood with all of the sacrifices and joys that it may bring.

    My celibacy, as it were, was ‘imposed’ on me and I also accept that I am not free to marry again and that too is tough, but it is the way it is. BUT that has not made me a paedophile or a homosexual, it has not made me visit prostitues or climb mountains; it’s tough sometimes but that’s life and I have just got to get on with it…..or I could say this teaching of the Church is rubbish and I’m going to do my own thing and find another wife, or even just find a sex partner.

    I am free to do any of these things, but not without consequences because I believe what the Church teaches is true and that is also what God wants from me. What I do not do and would never do would be to attack the Church and claim that it has got it all wrong as many of the ‘anti-Catholics’ do.

    I’m begining to be more and more intrigued by the number of them and their rhetoric. If they disagree with what we believe, then that’s OK, they are very welcome to their view just as we are to ours, but I would never consider going on to a Muslim site and discrediting their beliefs no matter what I thought of them, so just what is the motivation behind these sometimes vitriolic attacks?

    I honestly think it is Satan.

    As you so correctly say, the Catholic Church has raised Marriage to the level of a Sacrament, and it is actually the couple who administer the sacrament to each other with the Priest as witness, and (traditionally at least!) that sacrament is finally consumated on the wedding night when full physical, emotional and spiritual union of the two takes place and they become ‘one flesh’ as Jesus said…….so the Catholic Church can hardly be considered as being opposed to ‘sex’; it simply sees it as so much more. (Please correct me if I’m wrong)

    With love,

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