Should Priests Abstain From Fleshly Desires? – Part 2

By Holly Green
Guest Blogger
(Editor’s Note: This is part two. You can start at the beginning here. I would also like to apologize for breaking it where I did, as it was not really at the end of Holly’s first point. And so we continue from where we left.) 

From Last Post: Heb. 7:19 “(for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”

With the new law, the law we are under now, we have one high priest in heaven.

“Heb. 7:22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

Heb. 7:23 ¶ The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing,

Heb. 7:24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.

Heb. 7:25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Heb. 7:26 ¶ for it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;

Heb. 7:27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”

Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica i...

Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica - Expiation for Our Sins - Image via Wikipedia

When Jesus died on the cross several things happened. The earth shook, rocks were split, tombs were opened and bodies of the saints were raised but something else happened. (Matt. 27:50-53) The veil of the temple was torn in two. The veil had been in place to separate the most holy place, where the presence of God dwelt. Only the high priests could enter that part of the temple; however, the moment Jesus died, it was torn from top to bottom. This signifies the barrier being broken between God and man. Man can now approach God, himself in prayer to Him. The only person who needs to intercede for us is Jesus.

So, do we need any other priests? I Peter 2:4-9 says that we are priests, “being built up as living stones as a spiritual house for a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…”.
(Here Holly has ended her commentary on the validity or perhaps the place of a priesthood under the “new law.” Now she begins the discussion of celibacy.)

Do priests have to be unmarried? The Bible says no. God created marriage for the release of those desires and created those desires, themselves in us. It is OK to have those desires. It is how we react to them. Should this man have been involved in premarital inappropriate conduct? No, but the situation could have been avoided in the first place. Withholding those desires from ourselves will cause them to come out eventually in some form, whether appropriate or not. In I Timothy 4:1-5, we read about the Holy Spirit saying that some will fall away because of lies and deceitful doctrines, whose consciences have been seared to where they do not feel anything at all about their actions. What were these people teaching? Verses 3-4 tell us that they were, “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected.”

Paul does talk about whether to marry or not and bases it on self-control. He does say that he chose to stay unmarried and wanted others to do the same. A man can choose to be single but he should not if he cannot control his desires. He is depriving himself of what is naturally within us. I Corinthians 7:9-“But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.”

I believe this is why so many priests are getting into inappropriate situations and acting unbecomingly. They are sort of putting themselves in an impossible situation. God does not require us to go this far to be more holy.

Father Corapi seems to be one of those who falls into the category of having less self-control than others. I think we should all forgive him, for he is just a man, a fallible man. As I pointed out earlier, Jesus was the only man who was without sin. Everyone sins. (Rom. 3:23)

Peter once asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother. In Matthew 18:21-22, he asks, “Up to seven times? Jesus said to Him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”

This does not mean that we need to literally multiply seventy times seven and put our limit there. Jesus is saying keep forgiving him time after time, which is not easy to do, but we are also told that, “God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.” ( Matt.6:14-15)

I am very interested in other’s thoughts and opinions. Please do comment, as I think this topic is relevant and important.

Thanks, Holly Green


9 responses to “Should Priests Abstain From Fleshly Desires? – Part 2

  1. Hi Holly,

    I appreciate your research and writing on this topic. I want people to read and comment, it’d be fun to have a lively discussion, and possibly follow up related articles.

    Thanks again, and I will have some additional commentary later. Hopefully we can get some interested people to give their thoughts.



  2. Pingback: Should Priests Abstain From Fleshly Desires? | The Global Exclaimer

  3. Great article! In addition, priests are looked to as the “leader” of a congregation, the way the Bible describes elders as being the shepherds of the flock. There are two places in the Bible that tell us who is qualified to be an elder. These men MUST be married, have a family, and have raised them in the church. We can look to how they shepherd their families, to show how they will shepherd the church.


  4. First, a response to the question, “Should Priests Abstain From Fleshly Desires?” The answer to that question is a simple, “Yes.” It’s about chaste relationships. And in that context, unmarried people should abstain from Fleshly Desires and married people should abstain from such desires outside the marital bond.

    So, I think the question is, “Should priests be celibate?” Implicit in this question as I see it asked today is an assumption which goes like this: “Celibacy causes sexual tension to build to the point where some kind of indiscretion on the part of the priest is inevitable.” Most would simply accept this as true for some reason. But what about this statement? “Marriage causes infidelity.” How many people would agree with that? Or, how about this: “Laws create criminals”?

    They are essentially the same thing. And, common to all three statements is a confusion of cause and effect. All three statements are simply nonsense. Laws don’t cause criminal behavior. Laws determine society’s response to criminal behavior.

    Regarding Decafmama’s statement that

    “These men MUST be married, have a family, and have raised them in the church. “

    That is a misreading of the text. I think the verse being referenced comes from 1st Timothy – and it does not say “MUST be married.” The various translations say “married once” or “be the husband of one wife”. The issue here is not that they “have to be married” (Paul was not married and he was definitely a leader of the church) but that if married, it be once or to one wife, i.e. not having had multiple marriages or not having more than one wife at a time. Please remember, being married was more or less a default status of any man of a certain age. The simple assumption is that men are married, not that they must be married.

    Paul’s consistent recommendation that men not be married is proof enough that it was not a requirement for leadership in the Church. He simply bowed to the fact that most men were likely to be married.

    I think we all have to remember that we are not dogs – we do control our “instinctive responses.” It is possible to be faithful in marriage regardless of the fact that people who want to ‘screw around’ pretend they are at the mercy of uncontrollable sexual drives. It is possible to be chaste, i.e. faithful in love to one spouse. It is also possible for a priest to be chaste, i.e. faithful to his one spouse, the Church.

    The fact of sin in the world is no reason to set aside chastity or celibacy. That approach is tantamount to saying, “If we didn’t have any laws, there wouldn’t be any criminals.” As noted above, that would not be true. We would have criminals, we just wouldn’t have a systematic approach to dealing with criminal behavior.

    The Catholic tradition of an unmarried priesthood is consistent with Paul’s ideal status for leaders of the church. That is to say, it is Bible based.


  5. Thanks for your reply. However, we fundamentally disagree of the meaning of I Timothy 3. NIV, King James and New American Standard are consistent in saying that he, MUST be above reproach, the husband of one wife…”. Verses 4-5 say, “He MUST be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)”
    Verse 12 states something similar.
    I Corinthians 7 is in view of the present distress, the persecution that is going on in Corinth. Those things were recommendations, not even commands, if you will.


  6. To anyone who sees this post, if you notice my “like” comment at the bottom, it is an accident. I am still new and thought I was going to see who clicked a “like” on my own blog. So, no, I don’t have the audacity to “like” my own posts. 🙂


    • Holly, re: “like button” LOL! Actually, no one would even have known it was you, at least not from this blog site. I guess if they are your friend on facebook they might figure it out. But, if you like your post, then you like it!! Thanks for the chuckle.

      Frater Bovious. Ψ


  7. Hi Holly,

    Following your logic, if a bishop or deacon of the early church had a wife that died, then he would have to immediately remarry or could no long be a church leader. But, maybe that wouldn’t even work as discussed further below.

    Also, men married but childless could not be bishops or deacons if we follow your contention to the letter.

    However, the MUST applies to being above reproach, not to being married. It is important to understand what they are saying, because being married is not sufficient for an automatic assignation of blamelessness. The key is the word “reproach”.

    A reproach is an act of criticism and censure; when you reproach someone you are blaming or rebuking, you are expressing your disappointment. There may be reasons to reproach or rebuke an unmarried man. But there may also be reasons to reproach or rebuke a married man. Being married hardly renders one above reproach.

    However, your reading of the verses in question imply that the single qualifier of being above reproach is to be married, leaving all unmarried men, including Paul, as people we should rebuke and criticize.

    You focus on the wrong thing. You simply can’t have Paul as a leader of the church who says “I don’t practice what I preach.” The key is MUST be ABOVE REPROACH. Not, must be married. You can pick and choose your translations, however the Greek is “it behooves then the overseer irreproachable to be,” and then a list of qualities including “of one wife”.

    It is significant that the phrasing is “of ONE wife”, which addresses number, and not simply “be married.” Something is being said here which is different from MUST be married.

    No, the simple fact is that at the time of the writing of 1st Timothy, men were generally married. The issue was simple: are they above reproach? How many wives do they have? How many times have they been married?

    In these discussion, people always ignore the fact that Paul was unmarried; by your reading of the passage, Paul is not above reproach, and he is therefore not qualified to be writing any letters of reproval to the various churches. As nearly all his letters are letters of rebuke or reproval, some more than others, he clearly is a hypocrite, by your standard.

    Another reading of the verse could imply that someone married, widowed, and remarried is ineligible (remember it says ONE wife) which would make a widowed bishop or deacon also ineligible, as alluded to in my first paragraph.

    The concern is that multiple wives, concurrent or otherwise, would prevent an overseer of the church from spending the quality time in the pastoral care of his flock. And in fact, for the first 1000 years, the Catholic church had no celibacy requirement. However, over time, the Church saw the wisdom in Paul’s exhortations toward celibacy.

    I find it odd that you think that Paul would say out of one side of his mouth “You must be married” as a command while saying out the other side of his mouth “But, being celibate is better”, effectively undermining his own command.

    I believe the Bible is consistent. It is inconsistent, and even inconceivable to me, that he would stand on a soap box and proclaim “Married Bishops” and whisper off to the side “Don’t get married.”

    There are many things that Paul says that I find problematic, but which generally are ignored today. For example, how do you feel about the statement he makes that essentially says woman should not speak in church and if they have a question, they should hold their tongues and ask their husbands at home?

    But, he really never contradicts himself. He doesn’t say later, as a recommendation for s specific situation that “it really is is preferable that women speak out in church.” One may not like what he is saying, but he’s consistent.

    I can’t accept the idea of a Paul who speaks out of both sides of his mouth. And you can’t get away from the fact that your interpretation requires exactly that of him.


  8. Dear Paddy,
    You are still with me, aren’t you? I don’t believe Paul was a man who spoke out of both sides of his mouth. He was a leader but he was an apostle, not a bishop or deacon. When he says he preferred not to marry, I think he was saying that maybe because of his lifestyle; not to mention all of the things that he was going through-beatings, stonings, being thrown in prison. That would have been hard on a wife.
    As far as the “must”, a comma is used, so I think the must refers to everything listed in the sentence. My grandfather felt he could not become an elder because he had been married and his wife left him for another man, and he then married my grandmother. Because it says, “husband of one wife”, he did not feel like he was qualified when he was asked to be an elder. He was not 100% sure but did not want to be in a situation he should not be in.
    I believe Paul is consistent, I do agree with that. As far as women speaking out in church, I do agree with what he says. Not all women may like it but there must have been a reason for it.
    Thanks for your comments.


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