PLEA FOR OPTIONAL CELIBACY OF THE CATHOLIC CLERGY
I greet you in the Mighty Name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, He who was and is, and evermore shall be. He who is the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords—may His name be blessed and glorified now and forever, Amen.
Please allow me, briefly, to introduce myself. I am a medical doctor, author and evangelist—a servant of our Living Lord Jesus Christ. I am a native of Ghana currently resident in the U.K. Prior to my move to the U.K., I resided in Germany where I completed my medical training.
Since my move to Europe several years ago I have observed with deep sadness the gradual decline of the Christian faith on the continent. As someone of African heritage, I find this trend particularly heart-breaking, considering the fact that Christianity was introduced to Africa by European missionaries in the first place.
I have over the last several years engaged in discussion with my European friends and also studied a range of literature with the aim of finding out the reason why a sizable proportion of Europeans are abandoning the Christian faith.
One of the most important factors that has become evident from my inquiries that might account for the decline of the Faith is the perception by the populace that the established churches—the likes of the Anglican, Lutheran and Catholic churches—are not living up to the tenets of their own teachings.
Whereas this view may be subject to debate, recent high-profile sexual abuse cases involving in particular the Catholic church are certainly not contributing favourably to the acceptance of the Gospel in the Western world in general and in Europe in particular.
Sexual abuse of children by adults is a misconduct that should not be tolerated and should be condemned in the strongest of terms. When the perpetrators of such deeds happen to be members of the clergy, indeed in some cases high-ranking members, the crime becomes even more abhorrent, in fact even more shocking.
Apart from praying for the victims of such appalling acts and also praying to the Lord to rid His church of such despicable deeds, I have also pondered over what can humanly be done to minimize if not completely eradicate the problem from the church. In this connection, the teaching of the Catholic church on the matter of clerical celibacy came up for scrutiny.
Before I dwell further on the matter, I shall, for the sake of those who are not conversant with the teachings of the Bible on marriage, provide a brief overview of the subject based on my layman’s understanding of scripture.
In Genesis 1: 27-28 (KJV) we read:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
From this and various other passages of scripture we note that marriage is an institution put in place by Almighty God Himself.
The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself attended a wedding (John 2: 1-11) underscores the importance He accorded the institution.
As the church began to take root after our Lord’s ascension, the issue of marriage within the Church came up for debate in the Corinthian church. To seek clarification on the matter, the church sought advice from the Apostle Paul.
In response to that query, Apostle Paul responded as follows:
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 wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
1 Corinthians 7:1-5
My layman’s interpretation of scripture has led me to the conclusion that celibacy should be a voluntary act in the Church of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on earth.
The Catholic Church on its part adheres to the principle of clerical celibacy; a practice which requires the positions of bishops, priests and to a greater extent that of deacons be occupied solely by unmarried men.This in my view has led to a conflict between the weak human flesh on one side and the demands of the Catholic Church on her clergy on the other. On the one hand is the inborn sexual drive implanted into humanity by Almighty God to fulfil His ordination on His human creation to replenish the earth; on the other the clerical celibacy imposed by the Catholic church on her clergy.
I must stress here that I have nothing against any individual, who for the sake of the advancement of the Gospel, should decide to remain celibate. In view of the recent sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic church and which is dragging the good name of my Master and Saviour Jesus Christ into the mud, I strongly call for an urgent modification of the rule to allow married individuals to also serve as priests.
Many a young convert into the faith, burning with enthusiasm and youthful exuberance and yearning to spread the gospel may decide to become a priest, even swearing the oath of celibacy, only to be caught up later on in life with the desires of the flesh—indeed, the longings for a sexual partner, including the desire to marry and raise children. The introduction of optional celibacy would permit such individuals to enter into holy matrimony, start their family and maintain their previous positions.
That one can be a married individual and at the same time achieve great feats for the Kingdom of God can be demonstrated in the lives of countless ministers of the Gospel in the past and in the present. I need in this connection cite only three examples—William Seymour, Oral Roberts and Billy Graham.
I have no illusions that the introduction of optional celibacy will completely prevent the type of sex abuse scandals involving the clergy that have made headlines in recent times. It is my strong conviction, however, that the change could lead to a significant reduction of such cases.
Christianity faces enemies from various sources—radical Islam, scientific teachings on evolution, the world secular press, etc. The Church should guard against any acts that could provide ammunition for her enemies to tarnish her reputation any further.
I pray our Holy Father seriously to consider the issues raised in this letter and initiate the necessary steps towards the reform of the celibacy rules to permit married men into the clergy.
Finally, I urge you, Holy Father, to join me in prayer for the unity of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth. Let us indeed pray that believers in the redeeming Gospel of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords all over the globe will join hands in a concerted effort to spread the Good News of salvation to a fallen world.
May the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be blessed and glorified.
Yours in His Holy Name.
Dr Robert Peprah-Gyamfi
Medical Doctor, Author, Evangelist.
Copyright Robert Peprah-Gyamfi, 2020. All rights reserved