Before I get into my opinions on this matter, which I know you are all just DYING to read, I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions many people have regarding the priesthood:
- Latin Rite vs Eastern Rite
There are two "types" of rites in the Catholic Church: Latin (Roman Catholic, what we typically have in the United States and Western part of the world) and Eastern. Both types are considered Catholic and are in "full communion" with Rome, meaning they recognize Peter as the first Pope and the succession of Popes up to the present day. (Since Fr. Akiki was part of the Eastern Rite, he was permitted to be ordained)
- Celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine
Discipline: instruction, system of teaching or of law, given under the authority of the Church [which] can be changed with the approval of proper authority.
Doctrine: teaching of the Church on matters of faith and morals. All such teaching—or at least the basis for it—was handed down to the Church by Jesus and the apostles prior to the death of the last apostle. Scripture refers to doctrine as "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Doctrine can develop over time as the Church comes to understand it better—but it cannot change. No one—not even the pope—has the authority to change doctrine. (Taken from catholic.com)
If it were a doctrine (meaning it is true for everyone), there would be no room for change (example: women becoming priests is a doctrine. So women never have and never will become priests. That's for another blog post). Celibacy is a discipline that has been deemed to be spiritually beneficial by the bishops in the Latin Rite, so it is typically required for priesthood ordination in the United States. However, the Eastern Rite has held a tradition that allows married men to become priests. (Note: once you become a priest, however, you cannot get married).
Okay, so with that out of the way, many people want to know: If it IS possible for priests to get married, why doesn't the Church just get with the times and let them do it??
Well, here are MY reasons why I don't think priests should get married. I'm sure Pope Francis has been tossing and turning at night over this so when he reads my blog hopefully this will clear it up for him. Hi, Papa Francis! Remember we have plans for lunch next week.
The priesthood is a vocation, not a job.
Choosing the religious life (priesthood or religious sister) is a lifelong, life changing decision. Just like marriage. To me, it simply doesn't make sense to do both. A priest who is married simply cannot give 100% of his energy and attention to both his family AND his church. It's different than a job...many people have a job and a family and do just fine. People who do have a job must decide which will be their priority: their job, or their family. Usually, people choose family first (and typically, those who don't will see that their family life suffers). It wouldn't be fair to anyone if a priest was forced to choose between his family and his church.
Priests are already married. To the Church.
When my brother became a priest, my family and I naively thought that since he would never be married, we would get to spend a lot more time with him. We quickly realized how wrong we were. Catholic priests are completely linked to their Church in every way. By becoming a priest, they are literally giving their life to the Church. Much like being a husband or a parent, they are on call 24/7. Mass can ONLY be celebrated with a priest. They must be completely committed to the Church, just like husbands must be completely committed to their wives.
The symbolism of their sacrifice is SO BEAUTIFUL.
The Eucharist is the center of every Catholic's life. We believe that at every Mass, the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Jesus. When I say literally, I mean LITERALLY. As in, Catholics used to be executed for cannibalism when they participated in Mass. When the priest holds up the bread and wine toward the heavens and it changes into Christ's flesh and blood, it's one of the most beautiful images on this Earth. And it's just so Christlike to see a man who has sacrificed his WHOLE LIFE, including his ability to have a family, imitating Jesus Himself at the last supper. Christ's bride is the Church...same thing for priests.
99% of the people who complain about Priesthood celibacy are not, in fact, priests.
No one is forced into the priesthood (at least, they shouldn't be). The seminary alone typically takes at least 6 years to complete, and that's after 4 years of college. These men have thought about their decision. A LOT. They have had plenty of time to consider what they are getting into. They have chosen this path, and they understand what comes with it. Does that mean they will never struggle with it? No. But I will tell you that a great majority of priests are happy, peaceful men. They love their lives and would not change it if they could. The media likes to tell us differently, grossly skewing the percentage of priests who have had issues with the celibate life. But if you pay attention to reality, you will find something much different. You will see that these men have a clarity and love for life about them that is difficult to find anywhere else.
So, in conclusion (apparently I'm writing a research paper), I love this discipline of the Church. And I think it's awesome that we have still held true to this discipline even though it goes against pretty much everything society tells us what we should do. And the fact that there are still people out there who love the Church so much that they are willing to give up this part of their lives is AMAZING to me. It is more Christlike than we can find anywhere else.