Time and again, the matter of Marriage in conjunction with the Priesthood and vice versa, comes to f ore. Why is it that priests have to be celibate – alone in life and alone in death? Why is it that priests are not allowed to get married – to live a standard life and die a standard death? Why is it that Marriage and Priesthood may not go hand in hand? In other words, why do priests have to be celibate – alone, with no wife to live with, with no children to call his own? There are basically two answers to the questions – one in the realm of the supernatural, another in the sphere of the natural.
In the supernatural order, the Catholic Church looks up to Christ as the High Priest. He lived, died, and rose from the dead, celibate. So it is that those who want to become priests understandably oblige themselves to follow the celibate Christ. They become priests because they want to. They want it because they feel the calling to the Priesthood. They willingly and deliberately commit themselves to the celibate Priesthood. Hence, priests are ordained and celibate they have to remain – for life.
In the natural order, the Catholic Church wants and needs priests who are free of personal family concerns and domestic agenda. They can be thus assigned to and sent anywhere at anytime in order to render priestly service wherever. Such would be not only hard to realize but also unfair to support the personal needs of their priests in exchange for the ministry they render to them. It would be very costly to financially support priests with families to maintain, children to raise, and possibly also eventually have to attend to needs of their sons and daughters-in-law, not to mention their grandchildren as well. This is not even raising the usual question of inheritance among them when priests finally go to rest.
Let it be formally and expressly said that as the Priesthood is a Sacrament, Marriage, too, is a Sacrament. If the Priesthood is not easy to live by and die with, neither is Marriage easy to live in until death. So it is that both the Priesthood and Marriage are vocations or callings as two states of life that are challenging to be faithful to and to live by for life. One more thing, where do priests come from? Neither from the high heavens nor from the deep blue sea. Priests come from married couples. And what are priests usually tasked to do? They are usually assigned to minister to couples as well, their children and grandchildren included. Such is the reality that is both a wonder and a blessing.
By the way, there is a distinction between the Priesthood and celibacy – in the same way that there is a difference between a physician or a lawyer and their respective licenses to practice. Thus, once a priest, always a priest. But when they lose their celibacy, they are strictly barred from doing priestly ministry. In the same way, when a physician or a lawyer loses the license to practice, physician and lawyer they remain but they are no longer allowed to practice their respective professions.