It is not good for priests to be alone
And the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Gen 2:18). The Roman Catholic Church says, "Not only is it good for priests to be alone, it is mandatory. Jesus had no help meet; St Paul had no help meet, so neither shall you."
The Roman Catholic Church is alone in the whole of Western Christendom in demanding clerical celibacy. Young seminarians make their vows while they are consumed with idealistic notions of vocation and naively enthused with a sense of their own spiritual perfection. They are taught to believe that celibacy is a discipline that makes them better priests; able to focus solely on the work of God, with no distractions or divided loyalties.
Certainly, some may prefer this way of life; a few may even be called to it. But it is becoming evident - though it has long been known - that a great many come to find it an intolerable burden, not only sexually but socially.
It is not good for man to be alone because he is not meant to be alone. Like God in three persons, man is a social creature. But the Roman Catholic Church sins grievously in demanding an unscriptural isolation which deprives many of its priests of the means of honest face-to-face reflection, leaving them unable to cope with their intimate concerns. Not only was St Peter married (Mt 8:14-17; Mk 1:29-31; Lk 4:38; 1Cor 9:5), but St Paul teaches that mandatory celibacy is the 'doctrine of demons' (1Tim 4:1-3).
Ah, but celibacy is not a doctrine of the Latin Rite Church, you may say: it is a discipline. The distinction is semantic, not least because 'doctrine' simply means teaching, and clerical celibacy is mainfestly taught to seminarians despite its mandatory imposition being rejected at the Council of Nicea in 325. There was, however, considerable regional variation at this time - some bishops demanded it of their deacons and priests; others did not. Some popes sought to impose it (while themselves taking wives, concubines or young boys); others did not. It wasn't until the First Lateran Council (1123) that celibacy was mandated for all Western clergy. The Second Lateran Council (1139) reinforced this by decreeing that holy orders were an impediment to marriage. The Council of Trent (1563) affirmed the authority of the Roman Church to impose celibacy as a discipline, and the Second Vatican Council (1965) maintained this tradition.
But it is not divine law. If marriage was good enough for the 'first pope', it seems cruel to demand of mere priests 'perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven'. Was Peter less of a pope for having a mother-in-law? The plainest teaching of Scripture is that the leaders of the Early Church were married and had children, and that man’s responsibility to his family was his first obligation to God - his first 'priestly' responsibility. Indeed, godly leadership of one's own family was an essential prerequisite to leading the extended family that is the Church: 'For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?' (1Tim 3:6).
Let those who wish to practise the discipline of celibacy be free to do so. Let young seminarians make their vows to remain unmarried and chaste in the years of their youth. But, for God's sake, let us restore their right to change their minds later in life without negating their vocation. Since the Roman Catholic Church already admits some married priests - not least converting Anglicans to the Ordinariate - it is surely not unreasonable to admit married Roman Catholic priests. If it is 'better to marry than to burn' (1Cor 7:9), it must a fortiori be better to marry than to live a life of loneliness and depression, or to end up leaving the priesthood altogether.
The mandatory celibate priesthood has become the refuge of sexual aberration; a haven for predatory paedophiles. It has turned once humble and holy men into shadows of humanity and shells of manhood. Some are content to live the lie; others are tormented with such conscience struggles that they damage their relationship with God, paralyse their ministry, and inflict deep wounds upon the Body of Christ.
His Grace's first act as Caretaker-Pope was to abolish Papal Infallibility. Today he does away with mandatory celibacy. Catholic theology, like society itself, is changing. Celibacy was not established as an authoritarian tool of repression, but as a monastic means of attaining greater holiness through self-sacrifice. Comradeship and togetherness may find culmination in the sexual union, and that level of God-given intimacy should be withheld from no man. There is no hierarchy of holiness in which only the most continent may rise to the highest church office: 'Marriage is honourable in all' (Heb 13:4).