The celibacy of the priests is biblically justified and recommended by the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Already in the Old Testament, God commanded Jeremiah to live in sexual purity (Jeremiah 16: 1-4). Eliasz and Elisha also had no wives. Saint John the Baptist lived in celibacy and was named the greatest born of a woman (Matthew 11:11).
In the New Testament, Jesus himself gave an example of celibacy to all who do not want to live in marriage "because of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:12).
Jesus indicated that not everyone will be able to understand this, so "who can accept this, he should accept it" (Matthew 19, 12).
In the New Testament, St. John the Apostle kept celibacy. Similarly St. Paweł, who pointed to the greater effectiveness of this way of life in spreading the Kingdom of God:
"An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided" (1 Corinthians 7, 32-34).
Celibacy is God's gift:
"I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that" (1 Corinthians 7: 7).
The acceptance of celibacy is the imitation of Jesus Christ and total devotion to his affairs.
What, then, mean the words from 1 Timothy 3, 2: "An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife"?
Well, this recommendation did not impose the possession of a wife by priests and bishops. An example is St. Paul (1 Corinthians 7, 32).
Jesus himself taught that one can leave his wife and serve God (Luke 18:29) or not seek marriage at all (Matthew 19, 12).
It should be remembered that at that time there were no legal regulations regarding celibacy, so it happened that married men were ordained priests, but from the very beginning were recommended sexual abstinence.
According to the common opinion of catholic exegetes, this recommendation (1 Timothy 3, 2) was about the prohibition of marriage after the death of the first wife, which is also an argument confirming the great value of celibacy.
St. Paul emphasizes this value:
"Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do" (1 Corinthians 7: 8).
"I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32).
The Church, on the basis of this verse (1 Timothy 3, 2), ordered that married priests should not marry again after the death of their wife.
Already from the fourth century celibacy was considered at synods, because from the very beginning the Church understood that the life of priests in abstinence and perfect purity is the will of Christ and enables serving God and people in complete freedom. From the very beginning, it was understood that having a wife and children limits and burdens the priest, and the whole community feels this burden.
The Synod of Elvira (around 300 - 303) gives clear indications in this matter. This is the first official ordinance of the Church:
"Let the bishop, or any other clergyman, keep at most a native sister or daughter dedicated to God, no stranger woman. This is the synod's ordinance" (Canon 27).
"The synod strictly forbids bishops, priests and deacons, and all clergy in the service of the altar, to live with their wives and have children. Whoever does this should be deprived of his spiritual dignity" (Canon 33).
In the eighth century, celibacy became a universal law in the West, and in the eleventh century it was sanctioned as the only form of spiritual life in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Council of Trent ultimately perpetuated the duty of celibacy. In Canon IX of the 24th session of the council, november 11, 1563, in the decree on the sacrament of marriage, he stated:
"If someone says that clerics who have been ordained, or people who have solemnly sworn purity, can marry, let them be excluded from the community of the faithful."
From the very beginning, the Church understood that the celibacy of the clergy is biblically justified and is not an exception but a norm according to which the priest can serve God and the Church with a free and unfettered heart, thus becoming like Jesus Christ.
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