By Bro. Peter Dimond
A Protestant recently wrote to us attacking the Catholic Church and its teaching on celibacy. He stated:
“The Catholic Church murdered 10s of thousand of non-Catholic [sic] in its early years. Nowhere does the scripture disallow ministers or priests to marry. By this very rule it promotes the priests to be a battery of PEDIFILES [sic]…” Hayden, Waco, Tx.
Since this is a somewhat common sentiment among Protestants, it is appropriate to make this unbiblical lie the Heresy of the Week. The Catholic Church teaches dogmatically that the state of virginity or celibacy is a superior state to marriage. This dogma of the Catholic Church comes from the Bible, as we will see.
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Sess 14, Nov. 11, 1563, on Matrimony: “If anyone says that the married state is to be preferred to the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is not better and happier to remain in virginity or celibacy than to be united in matrimony [ cf. Matt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:25): let him be anathema.” (Denz. 980)
This is not to say, of course, that the married state is bad. Marriage is a good state when observed properly, but the celibate state is better. In 1 Cor. 7, St. Paul clearly teaches the superiority of the celibate state to the married state, thus providing a powerful refutation of the Protestant denial of this truth.
1 Corinthians, Chap. 7- “Now concerning the thing whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband… But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment. For I would that all men were even as myself [unmarried]: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I…
But if any man think that he seemeth dishonoured, with regard to his virgin, for that she is above the age, and it must so be: let him do what he will; he sinneth not, if she marry. For he that hath determined being steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power of his own will; and hath judged this in his heart, to keep his virgin, doth well. Therefore, both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better.”
We see that St. Paul clearly identifies the state of virginity or celibacy as a state that is better than the state of marriage. We also see this in the words of Jesus Himself:
Matthew 19: 11-12- “[Jesus] said to them: All men take not this word, but they to whom it is 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 eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.”
Jesus is clearly speaking here of those who live singly and chastely for the sake of the kingdom of God. As the Catholic commentary in the Douay Rheims Bible notes about this verse: “There are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs, for the kingdom of heaven… This text is not to be taken in the literal sense; but means, that there are such, who have taken a firm and commendable resolution of leading a single and chaste life, in order to serve God in a more perfect state than those who marry: as St. Paul clearly shows. 1 Cor. 7. 37, 38.”
This biblical truth, which is rejected by the Protestants, was taught repeatedly by the fathers of the Church – that is, those prominent Christian writers of the earliest centuries who repeated the truths learned from the apostles. Here are two of numerous examples that could be given.
St. John Chrysostom, A.D. 392: “That virginity is good I do agree. But that it is even better than marriage, this I do confess. And if you wish, I will add that it is as much better than marriage as Heaven is better than Earth, as much better as angels are better than men.” (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2: 1116)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 350: “While you maintain perfect chastity, do not be puffed up in vain conceit against those who walk a humbler path in matrimony…. Because you have a possession of gold, do not on that account hold the silver in contempt.” (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 818c)
The point of this Heresy of the Week is to show, once again, that no matter what issue you want to turn to – whether it’s the Papacy (Mt. 16:18-20; Jn. 21:15-17) or the Eucharist (Jn. 6:54) or Confession (Jn. 20:23) or the necessity of Baptism (Jn. 3:5) or the necessity of faith with works (James 2:24) or celibacy (Mt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7) or something else – it’s the Catholic Church which has the true Biblical teaching and the Protestants who do not.