Should oath of celibacy be reviewed in cases priests can no longer cope
‘Anyone Who Chooses Celibacy Must Not Be Found Doing Otherwise, Because It Is A Reproach To The Name Of Christ’
Recently, there was a report of the Catholic priest, who put two women in the family way. Increasingly, more priests are finding it hard keeping their vow of celibacy, according to reports. While some are said to be secretly involved in illicit affairs with women, others have been accused of molesting small children. This seems to reinforce the skepticism in some quarters that celibacy is a vain attempt at tampering with nature, which has put the desire in man, as evidenced by the provision of relevant organs in the human body. The questions now are: Is it absolutely possible for priests to truly keep to the vow of Celibacy? How can ordained priests be helped to sustain their vow? Shouldn’t concerned authorities be thinking of reviewing the Celibacy policy? Is it proper for anyone unable to withstand the demands of such high office/calling to aspire for it? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.‘
There Have Been Cases Of Priests Being Accused Of Sexual Molestation Of Minors, But…’
(Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko, Director of Pastoral Affairs, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja)
THE sacred vow of celibacy is a prerequisite for ordination to the Catholic clerical state. Vow of Celibacy is a promise a priest makes not to marry. Once you are ordained into the clerical state, which begins with the diaconate, you become irregular for matrimony. While the clergyman cannot become a married man, a married man can become a clergy. What is in contention is the practice of chaste celibacy, meaning, when you become ordained, you will not involve yourself in the sin of sexual activities. It is prayed and hoped that whatever is the condition of the person’s life; he is expected to maintain a chaste status.
A married person is not expected to have extra-marital affairs.
The celibate clergyman is not expected to have extra-clerical affairs that defile his vows. In the same vein, pre-marital sexual activities are not allowed for the unmarried.
The sins of sexual activities defile the clergyman under the vow of celibacy, as it does the man or woman, who is under the vow of matrimony. And pre-marital sexual activities make the single person to throw away what should be valued, namely virginity.
However, we are discussing today the keeping of the vows of celibacy by the Catholic priests. One fact should be appreciated at the moment, which is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for human beings to keep to commitments made to God and to each other. If we single out the Catholic priesthood for this appraisal, we shall lose the bigger picture. It is true that some Catholic clergymen have found it difficult to keep to their vows of celibacy, like the case in point in Kaduna. While not making excuses for him, can we view his predicament and situation from the point of view of one tempted and who has fallen? Kaduna Archdiocese has over 200 priests and the Church has existed there for over 100 years. We have also had one or two cases of priests being accused of sexual molestation of minors and vulnerable adults. I would rather view this as a product of the social malaise that the world is experiencing presently.
How many cases of divorce do we experience daily in Nigeria, even among married pastors? That has not been enough to say, let us legalise divorce, since prominent church leaders are now known to be unable to keep a stable family.
Many elected and appointed leaders in civil government are being accused and investigated for stealing of public funds, even after they had taken the oath of office not to steal our money. It has not stopped elected and appointed officials of government from swearing with Bible and the Qur’an upon assumption of office.
The Catholic priests and the Lay Faithful cherish the vow of celibacy, even though some priests are breaching it. There are thousands of faithful and chaste celibate priests, who remain uncelebrated and for the sake of those ones, celibacy has to stay. Aircrafts crash and vehicles have accidents, but these have not stopped people from travelling by them. Let us celebrate the priests, who are faithful, while we pray for those who are caught in the web of this societal degradation. After all, marriage has not stopped married people from committing adultery.
‘There Are Many Who Are Faithful To Their Priestly Vocations’
(Very Rev. Msgr. Gabriel Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos)
THE issue of celibacy, a state of priests and religious servants being unmarried, has been over-flogged in recent times. But the reality is that celibacy is one of the pre-requisite expected of a Catholic priest. Even if there are exceptional cases of few priests, who go against the vow, it does not render it null and void.
Once you are a Catholic priest, you remain so for life. The fact is that celibacy is fashioned after Christ, Who spent all His time proclaiming the kingdom of God. The reason is that if one were unmarried, he or she would have more time to work effectively in the Lord’s vineyard. Mind you, I am not trying to fault ministers of the gospel who are married. But priests, as celibates, are expected to give themselves entirely to God and to men. This is just the general reason behind the idea of celibacy.
It has been there for a long time, and the possibility of removing it, as a major requirement for the catholic priesthood, is slim.
Even in the time of Christ, there was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. But his action did not void the good works of the other disciples. For every one that backslides, there are many more who are faithful to their priestly vocations. We must not be quick to judge or condemn. It is only God that knows all things. We must continue to pray for our priests, many of who are faithful to their vows that the good Lord will continue to strengthen them.
Some Ministers Of God Were Sincere Initially, But Later The Flesh Crept In’
(Isaac Adeyemi, Senior Pastor, Embrace International Assembly, Ikorodu, Lagos)
THE Bible says any one who wants to be a church leader must be a husband of one wife, among other things. Every Christian is called to a life of holiness and self-discipline. However, church leaders are put on an even higher pedestal, both by God and men. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Church leaders should strive to not just be preachers of the word, but also doers of the same. The Bible makes it clear that all God’s children should steer clear of all forms of immorality (Colossians 3:5-7). How improbable would it then be, that the preacher of this word, who is also supposed to uphold it, is the same person going against it? The Bible says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”(James 1:22-25 NKJV).
It is, however, important to note and know that no man can attain holiness by his own power. It is purely a function of the grace of God. “By grace are ye saved, not by works…lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8).
Church leaders are human. And the people around them, and they themselves must acknowledge this. Being pastors or priests or even imams does not make anyone less human. It only means a higher calling with responsibilities. The good part is that no one is expected to live up to this higher calling by his own power. You have to admit that you are human and powerless on your own. You have to admit that you need God to help you attain unto holiness, and God will lead and help you every step of the way.
Unfortunately, most of our Christian leaders do not realise this. The moment they are commissioned, they become swollen headed; they think they have become super humans and larger than life. They lean on their own understanding and strength. This is the beginning of the downfall of many servants of God. The devil puts them in a tight corner, and they cannot get out. “Pride goes before fall,” (Proverbs 16:18)
‘Men Of God Should Not Play Game With Destiny As Samson Did’
(His Grace, Most Revd. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate, African Church/President, Christian Council of Nigeria)
SOME pastors (women/men) of God, who are supposed to be faithful to their wives/husbands have been found wanting. Were they worthy to be there in the first place? To clarify this, we must first consider the two factors of celibacy and the married in the priesthood.
Paul was not the first apostle to conclude that celibacy is, in some sense, “better” than marriage. After Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 on divorce and remarriage, the disciples exclaimed, “If such is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt 19:10). This remark prompted Jesus’ teaching on the value of celibacy “for the sake of the kingdom.” Anyone who chooses Celibacy must not be found doing otherwise, because it is a reproach to the name of Christ.
The Scripture further makes it clear that “marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb.13: 4). God does not exclude any class of society from marriage. He condemns sexual immorality in all, irrespective of occupation or calling. He offers no exemptions from purity, especially those who represent Him as ministers. James 3:1 “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. However, marriage must be honourable. Any priest must not be caught dealing treacherously with his/her wife/husband because God has been witness between both. (Mal. 2: 14)
Godliness and God’s holiness are characterised by discipline in the church and is necessity because the Lord, Who calls is holy. 1 Peter 1:16 “For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Minister of God must be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.
Men of God/pastors are to make a covenant with their eyes. For example, Job 31:1 says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” Also, in1 Thess. 4:3-4, it says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable.” Only those who are of pure heart will ascend the hill of the lord, Ps 24:3-4 “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart …”
There must be assurance and certainty that one was truly called. Each one should remain in the situation, in which he was when God called him. Man of God should not play game with destiny as Samson, who lost great anointing on the laps of Delilah, a prostitute. If you are not called, you are not called.
‘Priests Should Be Allowed To Marry And Remain Priests’
(Bishop (Prof.) Iroelekanya Cyriacus Uwanaka, General Overseer, The Pentecostal Restoration Church, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos)
PAUL said in 1st Corinthians 7:1-3 “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband”. The Bible further said in 1st Corinthians 7:7-9, “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his ‘proper gift of God’, one after this manner, and another after that. I say, therefore, to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn”.
This subject of Celibacy is far beyond whatever shall be discussed here for space sake. It’s a matter that goes beyond the person enlisted and in a queue to take the vow. It touches the person’s immediate and even extended families’ emotions, pride and beliefs. Most of the people enrolled to take this vow are far too young at the time of taking the vow to fully understand its full import. Most of them enroll at the age of between six and 10 years. They spend about 14 to 16 years in studying both Theology and Philosophy in what could be said to be partial confinement or exclusion from the general public to become a Priest. Hearing theological and philosophy teaching in a confinement and living what is taught among the general public are two different things.
The problem, as I earlier said, is taking too early a vow that goes beyond the person. The father or and mother normally give their son for such with a sense of pride that their son is becoming a Priest in a community, where Priests are highly regarded and respected, when the child has not known what is really good or bad and not being properly educated on what he would face as a priest: the peer pressure, age mates, opposite sex with strong lustful moves, real public perception of who he should be against what he would have loved to be.
I personally know someone who left after many years, having lost his male siblings to marry and have children. I know a man who was said to have died because his son, who has been undergoing priesthood training opted out at about two years to becoming a priest. The young man who, while in training could not even stay without ladies has since married and has children. So, families unnecessarily put their very young children under pressure to start a life the children did not understand at the time.
Paul said Celibacy is a gift from God, but a child would not understand such gifts at that early life to take such vows. It cannot be sustained, because the society is dynamic and changes occur, which affects the vow to be unmarried and not to have sex or children. If any mature person takes such a vow, it is possible to seriously hold him to account for breaking it. But it is quite different with someone who did not really understand the vow before taking it, as remaining in the bondage is detested by most of them. They should be allowed to marry and still remain priests, but that would have to come from Rome.
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