We caught a couple of programmes yesterday as our restful weekend drew to an end.
The first was The Big Questions, from Manor School in York. Discussions included the value of Armed Forces Day and whether people should be allowed to wear the Burqa but also on the agenda was the question of allowing Catholic priests to marry.
One of the main critiques was “how can celibates advise on marriage” and there was something deeply ironic in that coming from a group of people, many of whom were married, and some of whom not Christians, who were pouring forth their judgement on celibacy.
I’m not a Roman Catholic, and I’m very happily married so I’m not really qualified to comment on the debate. Except that I think celibacy is an awesome calling.
I think there’s something incredibly powerful about celibacy. I think devoting your life, even to ‘marriage’, to Jesus is as valuable a commitment (if not greater) than the one I made to Christine. Paul is not wrong when he says that being single, realistically, allows you to serve the Kingdom far more readily than having family around you. To live a life in anticipation of glory rather than the temporal pleasures that Nicky Campbell was so keen to point out to the Fathers they were missing.
The truth is that both Christians and the world love pairing up. Celebrity breakups, and patchups sell thousands of glossy magazines a week whilst HTB isn’t called Hunt The Bride for nothing. And in that context, what happens to those called to celibacy? To those facing “being left on the shelf”? It doesn’t seem like it could be much fun, to feel like you’re missing out on something glorious, or letting the side down by not being a couple.
Certainly, when the debate is pitched at a level where people can suggest that paedophilia is the result of celibacy (as one participant on Sunday suggested), it’s difficult to approach the topic in an adult fashion that honours the commitment, that recognises different gifts and calls and that provides the scope for people to search after God’s heart for the world totally unencumbered by other intimate relationships competing for attention.
It’s a shame that no one stuck up for the Catholics, except the Catholics. Seems like the rest of the Body could learn to offer a bit more solidarity not just with our celibate clergymen but with our (temporarily or otherwise) celibate and single brothers and sisters.