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The other side of celibacy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 16, 2003

We have a lively debate going on, in Sound Off, about priestly celibacy. What strikes me is that everyone tackles the issue from the perspective of the priesthood. Let me try the other approach.

Clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine; it could conceivably be changed. Many good priests have been married; we know that marriage is not necessarily an impediment to holy orders.

But isn't holy orders an impediment to marriage?

Leave aside, for the moment, the question of whether a married man can serve the Church well. Ask whether a priest-- who has given himself wholly to the service of the Church-- can give himself wholly to a spouse. Can a pastor, charged with care of many souls, have enough time to raise his own children properly? When the baby is sick or the wife is in labor and a parishioner is dying, who comes first? A celibate man is never forced to make that decision.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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