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Clerical Celibacy

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/9/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,001 times Debate No: 40242
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




The discussuion we had about this in the last debate really made me introspect about my stand on this issue.I was shocked to learn that even Buddhist monks who i hold in high regard were accused of pedophilia.
I really appreciate the logical arguments you make, and really enjoyed the debate last time.
Nevertheless, i am still unconvinced and would like to debate this to further understand the reasons for your stand.

Basic rules apply:
1.1st round for acceptance,2nd round for openning statements, 3rd round for rebuttals.
2.The 4th round can be for more rebuttals, or can be used for answering questions(you can raise them in the previous round for me), I want to experiment with the format if it's ok with you.
3. 5th round for closing statements.

I've set the max argument size to 10,000 charachters, and would like more detailed arguments.I hope i am not taking too much of your time.I wish i could give more time for posting arguments, but the max that is allowed is 72 hours.

Looking forward to another interesting debate.


Hi CynicalDiogenes,

It's a pleasure to engage in another debate with you, and look forward to learning from what you have to say herein.

In this acceptance, I would just briefly like to state my contention as Con as the aid you in formulating your opening statements.

My contention is that Clerical Cellibacy of the Western Catholic Tradition is an unbiblical practice, and has been very harmful to the Roman Catholic Church and therefore should be repealed from Canon Law.

Look forward to your opening statements!

Kindest Regards,
Debate Round No. 1


Hello again TrueScotsman,
I will be arguing that priestly celibacy as a disciplinary action is both beneficial for one's spritual progress, and it's implementation as a *disciplinary* measure is consistent with the bible.

Since you are christian,I will also put forward some arguments about the special role that priests have in today's society, and how marriage would prevent them from fully playing that role.

1.Priests must inspire the laity to look beyond base urges and into the spiritual

In a society that is completely saturated with unrestricted sex today, celibate priests are living proof that sexual urges can be controlled and channeled in a positive way.Priests have a responsibility to show others that humans are much more that animals following base impulses to procreate, and should inspire people to live morally upright lives.The priest is a representative of Christ, and must seek to imitate him in every way.Jesus was a man who lived His life in perfect chastity and dedication to God.A disciplinary decision to enforce this cannot be wrong.

The priest is also someone who is technically married to the church, and a celibate priest would be the perfect example for marital fidelity.Christians are called to understand marriage as the inviolable commitment of a husband and wife to love and honor one another. A priest offers up a similar commitment of love to the Church, a bond that cannot be broken and that is treated with the same gravity and respect as in marriage.

Just as marriage is the total gift of self to another, the priesthood requires the total gift of self to the Church. A priest's first duty is to his flock, while a husband's first duty is to his wife. Obviously, these two roles will often conflict, as St. Paul noted and as many married priests will tell you. A celibate priest is able to give his undivided attention to his parishioners without the added responsibility of caring for his own family. They are able to pick up and go whenever necessary, whether this involves moving to a new parish or responding to a late-night crisis. Celibate priests are better able to respond to these frequent changes and demands on their time and attention. This is especially true in the case of Catholic church which has churches in many countries.

2.Clerical celibacy is both historically and biblically supported.

The Catholic church would be wrong if it upheld celibacy as an *absolute* necessity for priesthood and if it said that clerical celibacy was a rule laid down by Christ. But it does *none* of these things.It merely has made celibacy a requirement due to the overwhelming preference shown for celibacy in the bible, as well as a long and rich apostolic tradition of celibacy right from the very beginning .

Jesus Himself speaks of celibacy in Matthew 19:11-12: "Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." Again, the emphasis is on the special nature of celibacy, one for which not all men are suited, but one that nevertheless gives glory to "the kingdom of God."

St.Paul, whom many will quote to support marriage of priests, himself was celibate, and was clearly for clerical celibacy.
"Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. . . . Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. . . . The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided" 1Cor7:27-34.

Even when marriage was seemingly supported in the Bible, it was made clear that it was only as an *indulgence* and *tolerated* when there was no other choice.Historically, most of the early apostles were celibate, as were the desert fathers and the first saints of the church including St. Augustine, St. Cyril, and St. Jerome.

Also, most decisions taken by the church are taken after rigorous discussion in ecumenical councils, unless there was overwhelming support for clerical celibacy it could never have become dogma.The earliest legislation passed in the Spanish Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302) and the First Council of Aries (314), a kind of general council of the West, both talk of clerical celibacy not as introducing a new rule but rather maintaining a previously established tradition.

Perhaps the best support for celibacy comes from the fact that Jesus himself followed it!

There is a near universal support for the spiritual benefits of celibacy.It is recommended and required by scriptures in diverse traditions such as Hinduism,Buddhism,Jainism etc.Even pagan philosophers such as Socrates and Diogenes were celibate.Celibacy forces one to be constantly aware of one's thoughts and hence requires constant mindfulness and equanimity,both are which are vital for spiritual growth.

3.The actions of a few sinners calls for more discipline,not indulgence

Based on most of the data that is published(including the report that you gave in the earlier debate) it is evident that only a very small minority of priests actually engage in pedophilia.One can safely assume that the vast majority of the priesthood is still celibate.Stricter enforcement of discipline is needed in this case, not bowing to public pressure.

Even if there is scientific proof that men will face strong sexual urges,priesthood is a special call from God, not just an ordinary job.Not everyone can represent Christ himself to the world , it is a special responsibility and needs one to go against one's natural urges to sin.How can one claim to be prepared to endure hardships for Christ if one can't even control one's base sexual urges?

Eagerly waiting for your rebuttals,


Hi Cynical Diogenes,

Thank you for starting this debate, and am looking forward to a very fruitful discussion.

My Opening Statements will be on the following points:

1. An exclusive Clerical Order is unbiblical
2. The disciplinary action of enforcing Celibacy on the elders and overseers of the Church is unbiblical

I will bring up the harm of this institution later.

1. An Exclusive Clerical Order is Unbiblical

To begin this argument, I will first highlight what a priest is according to the Bible.

In the Old Testament, the Mosiac Law setup a Priesthood whose purpose were to be mediators, the one's who would perform sacrifices and intercede on behalf of the people of Israel to Yahweh. The leader of this organization in Israel would be the High Priest, whose function has now been replaced by Christ.

"The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."[1]

In the book of Hebrews, the author writes about the superiority of the new Covenant, particularly in regards to the cessation of the Levitical Priesthood and restorcation of the Melchizedek with Jesus as the great and eternal High Priest.

"For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever."[2]

This is not all the New Testament has to say in regards to the priesthood, as here is the truly relevant information.

Priesthood of All Believers

"you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."[3]

In this passage, Peter uses the analogy of a house being built, by drawing from ancient Jewish symbolism. God is not building a new temple where only the exclusive Levitical Priesthood may enter. Rather, he is building a spritual house, not made of inanimate stones, but living stones, the Church, the people of God. And they collectively are to be the holy priesthood, and offer spritual sacrifices rather than the sheep and goats of old.[4][5]

Peter also goes on to state:

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."[6]

This passage cognates with Deuteronomy 7:6, where it says:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth."[7]

This people in Christ (as Paul would put it) are now the people of God, those who are in union with Christ and believe on his name. They are the one's who have been redeemed, called out of darkness that they may proclaim God's excellencies to the world. This group, this Church, made up of all believers is the holy priesthood of the NT Church. They are the light of the world, given the ministry of reconciliation to be mediators between God and man as all men can now draw close to the throne of grace without the use of an exclusive mediatorial priesthood as was the case in the OT.

2. The Disciplinary Action of Enforcing Celibacy on the Elders and Overseers of the Church is Unbiblical

In the NT, the designated leadership is made up of Elders or also called Overseers.

Here below is a list of qualfications for these leaders:

1. "Above Reproach"
2. "Husband of one wife"
3. "sober-minded"
4. "self-controlled"
5. "respectable"
6. "hospitable"
7. "able to teach"
8. "not a drunkard"
9. "not violent but gentle"
10. "not quarrelsome"
11. "not a lover of money"
12. "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive"
13. "He must not be a recent convert"
14. "he must be well thought of by outsiders"

Source: 1 Timothy 3:2-7 (ESV)

Note, these are "He must" statements with an imperative command for those who were to aspire to this office must qualify for. This is not a recommendation, and therefore those who are not the husband of one wife and also those who do not have children do not qualify as they cannot fulfill the qualifications 2 and 12. Even when one looks into the Paul's logic of the qualifications this argument is made even stronger.

"for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?"[8]

The ability and experience of a husband and father properly managing his own household is in Paul's argument reason to believe he would be able to care for God's church. How in this argument would it make sense for the Church to then ignore this command, and appoint men who have never managed their own household and who have been single and without children their entire lives? This is in direct contradiction, and appoints men who are unqualified for their position, which not to mention is of an unbiblical nature because it is an exclusive priesthood.


It is therefore incorrect based upon these points to have an exclusive Clerical order in which Celibacy is enforced.

I look forward to my opponent's rebuttals and hope that this continues to be in line with our previous debate, which was thoughful and considerate.

Kind Regards,

[1] Hebrews 7:23-25 (ESV)
[2] Hebrews 7:28 (ESV)
[3] 1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)
[4] Hebrews 13:15-16 (ESV)
[5] Romans 12:1 (ESV)
[6] 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
[7] Deuteronomy 7:6 (ESV)
[8] 1 Timothy 3:5 (ESV)
Debate Round No. 2


CynicalDiogenes forfeited this round.


Hope Cynical Diogenes is able to return, extension of arguments.

Kind Regards,
Debate Round No. 3



Firstly, I sincerely apologise for forfeiting the previous round.Due to certain personal reasons, i don't think i can come online next week.I am also sorry that i won't be able to give detailed arguments due to lack of time.
Next, I would like to add that a significant number of Catholic priests are married.Upto 20% of them have wives, so the claim that the catholic church has banned marriage itself for priests is de-bunked.Even in the western Catholic tradition i would like to remind you that it is merely a disciplinary decision, *not* dogma.

Rebuttal #1:Exclusive Clerical Order is Not part of the Catholic teaching

This is not a part of catholic dogma, so i wonder why this was brought up.The catholic church also upholds the universal priesthood of all its members, and most of its members are laity and can get married.

but, the church also maintains that there is a heirarchy to this.Even in the early churches, members used to elect elders to represent and guide them.Bishops and Elders are even mentioned in the bible, and it makes sense that some people will be more religiously inclined than others.

Rebuttal #2:The letter to Titus bans polygamy

If married life was an absolute necessity to lead the church, then St.Paul would be undermining his own authority to be a leader of the church as he himself was celibate.
Thinking about it some more,Jesus would have no authority to lead the church as he had no experience about family life too.St.Augustine, St.Jerome(who translated the bible), and most of the early desert fathers and leaders of the church who played a seminal role in the development of Christianity, had no clue about family life as they were all celibate.

Tradition has been one of the driving forces of the catholic church. A mere disciplinary action enforcing this long and rich tradition cannot be wrong.

I am sorry that i could post a reasonable argument for this debate due to lack of time.I am just curious to see your response though.



Hi again,

I hope that the personal reasons are not negative in nature and it is my sincere desire that everything goes well with you. We will have to debate this some other time when you are able to fully formulate your arguments with sources, etc.

Rebuttal #1: Exclusive Clerical Order

Even if the Catholic Church acknowledges the priesthood of all believers, it then is warranted no basis bibillically for setting up it's own exclusive clerical order. The priesthood in the old testament remember was denoting who had access to God. All believers have access to God through the great mediator Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice once and for all is sufficient and intercedes on our behalf. There then is no need of some kind of middle order of priesthood, and calling elders, bishops and overseers as being a different hierarchy of priests, as they function as the leaders of congregations, not as the congregation's access to God as was formerly the case in the Old Testament.

Rebuttal #2: Additional Remarks on Clerical Celibacy in the Western Tradition

If you remember, I stated that my argument in the first round with very specific wording:

"My contention is that Clerical Cellibacy of the Western Catholic Tradition is an unbiblical practice, and has been very harmful to the Roman Catholic Church and therefore should be repealed from Canon Law."

My contention is with the western Catholic Tradition, and therefore it is not relevant to appeal to eastern tradition numbers. The only instance in the western tradition for a Catholic Priest to be married is if he is a Protestant minister who converts and is already married, and this was not done until the 1980s.

Canon Law expressley states:

"Can. 277 §1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity."[1]

This Law makes Priests of the Catholic Western Tradition legally bound to be celibate, and until this is changed it is as binding as dogma.

Paul and Jesus were also not elders or overseers of local congregations, Jesus has the office of high priest and Paul was an apostle and was not overseeing any church, but would appoint elders for specific congregations.

While Paul's qualification does exclude the possibility of elders who practice polygamy, the command that they must be the "the husband of one wife," also denotes that the man must be a husband and therefore married. Not to mention the qualifications for how they treat their children and manage their homes as I previously pointed out. Appealing to men 300 years after these commands were given, who disregarded these qualifications does nothing but reveal that they disobeyed these clear qualifications.

This is a classic example of how Catholic Traditions often contradict the teachings of Jesus and Apostles, which is why I reject tradition as on par with the original teachings of the faith.

Kind Regards,

Debate Round No. 4


Fortunately I was able to allocate some time for this debate,however i doubt if i can make sufficiently detailed arguments due to a lack of time.Debating with you has been pure fun, and i would like to have a similar debate with you after the 1st week of December when i will have more time.I am making this merely to avoid a complete forfeit and to conclude it properly.

Rebuttal#1:The Catholic church believes in the Universal Priesthoood of all believers Also

The Church also acknowledges the exact same thing you posted.Every believer has access to God, and hence is a priest.I don't understand why this is even an issue.

There is biblical evidence for a hierarchy of bishops,as you yourself have mentioned.This heirarchy was instituted not to intercede on behalf of the laity for God, but to guide the people and for administrative reasons, which you yourself admit is required.Hence,building such a heirarchy is not prohibited biblically

Priests are the leaders of their respective parishes.It is their responsibility to lead and guide the parish.The priests are guided by Bishops, who are in-turn guided and represented by Cardinals in ecumenical councils, who in-turn are lead by the Pope, who represents Catholic interests to other secular governments and religious leaders.The church has decided this heirarchy for administrative reasons, as it has become much bigger than the early church.It is practically impossible to maintain consistent teaching for 1,1 billion people in the world without some sort of organisational heirarchy.

Priests(leaders) usually come from different monastic orders to guide parishes, like the order of St.Benedict(OSB) and the order of Franciscan Missionaries(OFM.Cappuchin) .It makes sense that those who have dedicated their lives to folllowing scripure would make better leaders than those who are merely popular.It is the disciplinary decision of these orders that was later made into cannon law in the western tradition, to ensure these monks maintain perpetual continence.

I have contended that there is a near-universal belief, even among non-christian traditions about the benifits of celibacy for spiritual growth.I have given ample biblical sources also to support this claim.

#2 Your Interpretation of Titus 1:6 is incorrect.

The church interprets it as prohibiting polygamous as well as re-married individuals from becoming leaders.

This interpretation can be seen right from the earliest church fathers.The fact that the earliest leaders followed a certain tradition becomes very relevant, as they were among those who decided what constitutes the modern 'Bible'.Why would they do one thing and then choose a scripture that says something else, unless the correct interpretation allowed what they did?Doesn't the interpretation of the very men who decided what the Bible is carry more weightage over others like you and me 2000 years(and many translational errors)later?

In the primitive Church, since a large number of Christians were adult converts (a typical example is Saint Augustine, who converted at the age of 30), it was common for a married man to be ordained priest and made bishop. However, the condition for married men to receive Holy Orders was for them, by common agreement with their wives, to cease having marital relations and start to live in continence.Something that the eastern traditions follow even today.

Also,Even though the epistle may allow married men to become priests,it never prohibits men celibate men from becoming priests.St.Paul who is the author of the letter also shows a clear preference for celibacy and practiced it himself.Also, St.Paul appoints Timothy to succeed him as the leader of his church through 'the laying of hands'.Bishops are the true heirs of the Apostles, and most catholic Bishops have an unbroken chain from the very 1st apostles themselves.

The bible is not the 'perfect' word of God himself, it is merely the work of men who were inspired by God.The authors of the bible were not perfect, and were ignorant of a lot of things.Thus it needs to be supplemented with the tradition of the very people who were with Christ himself, as well as the correct method to interpret it which is summarised as 'Dogma'
To base your entire argument on the supposed interpretation of only 1 single verse is a really weak argument.

Thus there is nothing paticularly unbiblical about the *disciplinary* decision to enforce celibacy of priests.There is a clear preference for celibacy shown in the Bible and in various traditions around the world.You have never contended any of the practical benfits of celibacy,merely shown that it is unbiblical by misinterpreting a single verse.

You still have not said why your interpretaton is correct.

Thank you for this debate.It was just as intersting as last time.I apologise for not being able to devote the amount of time a discussion like this deserves.I have included a site that supports why the church's interpretation is correct in the sources for further reading if you are interested.



Hi CynicalDiogenes,

I am very glad you were able to find the time to make a response, I have really enjoyed this debate and look forward to our next engagement. :)

Rebuttal #1 l Bishops,Elders and Overseers are not a Separate Form of Priesthood

The Catholic Church has taken it upon themselves by naming these individuals and leaders to be part of an exclusive Clerical Order. When the only Priestly Order of the New Testament is that of Christ and that of the collective believers. As you yourself mentioned that these "Priests" don't function as the Priests I described, then there is no meaningful sense in which they are Priests.

There is nothing wrong with having a leadership structure, the New Testament outlines how that should look. However, the authors were also Jewish and therefore had a Jewish understanding of the word "Priesthood." Which in regards to that definition, the Roman Catholic Church has been completely out of alignment to and has built a completely separate hierarchy of leadership contrary to that which was laid down by the Apostles. That all believers are Priests, and the only other order is that of our Great High Priest Jesus Christ, built upon the aforementioned texts. Elders, Bishops, etc. are only properly called Priests because they belong to the universal body.

Rebuttal #2 l Interpretation Incorrect?

Notice that my opponent does not provide any sources for the personal views of these texts by these men of the "earliest Church." Nor does he address the text specifically, but rather alludes to "translational errors" and then contradicts Catholic Dogma and undermines the authority of the Bible here:

He said:

"The bible is not the 'perfect' word of God himself, it is merely the work of men who were inspired by God."

Catholic Dogma Says:

"Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."[1]

"God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."[3]

I will also now demonstrate how "Husband of one Wife" is the proper translation of these two texts (you keep alluding to there being only one for some reason).

The Greek is mias (μιας) (one) gunaikos (γυναικος) (woman) andra (O36;νδρα) (man), the Greek word for man is not O36;νθρωπος, which is the most common. Rather it is the generic term for man, which if the thought was literally translated into English, it would be, "a one woman man," or, "a man of one woman." This denotes marriage, which is the Sacred Union taught in Scripture where the man devotes himself to one woman for the rest of his life, and therefore Husband and Wife is supplied in English Translations.

The Picture of solitary devotion is thus in play, but so is the fact that this solitary union must exist! If the Bishop/Overseer must be irreproachable, he must also in the ensuing clause be a husband solely devoted to one woman, which is she that he takes as his wife.

As mentioned earlier, this intrepretation is further supported by the fact additional qualifications are listed to manage one's household well and keep your children submissive. Please also note, that these qualifications are listed not once but twice by Paul.

It is also improper to appeal to Paul or the other Apostles as not fulfilling this qualification as Apostles are not stationary overseers like a Bishop. This is the Greek definition of an apostle.

53.74 O36;πa2;στολοςa, ου m: one who fulfills the role of being a special messenger[4]

Concluding Statements:

Appealing to early interpreters of the Bible, without providing their interpretations and also misrepresenting this information as Augustine of Hippo came in the 4th Century. I am appealing to the writings of the Apostle Paul of the 1st Century and am doing so from the Greek text which I myself can read and translate effectively.

In order for my opponent to undermind my argument he must go on to deny stronger dogmas of the Catholic Church, which I noted above spoke of how these words though spoken through Paul were authored by God.

If this were an extended debate as was originally intended, I would have addressed the practical "benefits" of a celibate leadership. However, as your time was constrained I kept it confined to these two arguments.

Look forward to our next debate!

Kind Regards,

[3] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996).Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains. New York: United Bible Societies.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by CynicalDiogenes 5 years ago
Sure, I want a thorough debate.I wanted to give more time. we can do it whenever you are free.No problem....:)
Posted by TrueScotsman 5 years ago
Not sure if I can accept right away, have a busy weekend/week. I would love to continue the debate, so I will update you within the next week as to whether or not I can engage in a debate of this magnitude.

Kind Regards,
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Oromagi 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct to Con for FF. Arguments on both sides were overly focused on doctrine with little appeal to pragmatic or modern considerations. If a voter seldom finds Catholic dogma or its contradictions persuasive argument for modern social choices, there's not much here to compel a decision.