Rudd’s fourth argument for the Catholic Church’s “flawed, incomplete, and destructive” understanding of Marriage is titled, “Prohibition against church leaders marrying is a satanic doctrine” [sic]. Rudd continues:
IV. Prohibition against church leaders marrying is a satanic doctrine: [sic]
By ignoring what scripture [sic] says about one of the purposes of marriage being to alleviate sexual lust, the Pope [sic] has done damage to the institution of marriage. Remember, it wasn’t until about 1070 AD [sic] that Catholic priests were first officially forbidden to be married. That’s 1000 [sic] years too late to be part of Bible Christianity [sic]. In fact the Holy Spirit prophesied this apostasy: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocateabstaining [sic] from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. ” [sic]1 Timothy 4:1-3 [sic]
In fact the Bible specifically commands that Bishops/Elders [sic] be married:
“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must beone [sic] 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?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. ” [sic] 1 Timothy 3:1-7 [sic]
Rudd repeats his unsubstantiated belief that “…one of the purposes of marriage being to [sic] alleviate sexual lust.” Marriage does not “alleviate lust” within Marriage (as Rudd forced the passage to somehow mean). St. Paul prescribed Marriage as a vocation where lust is ideally no longer present. Rudd then proceeds to venture into the Protestant Church of Christ’s theory of Apostasy. His desire is to paint the Catholic Church as apostate and “satanic” because her elders cannot marry.
I addressed the Protestant Church of Christ’s theory of Apostasy in an earlier post, but I will again address the portion of its theory that wrongly uses a specific passage from the Bible as a proof against the Catholic Church as it relates to Marriage and celibacy. Rudd, as an indicative representative of Fundamentalism in this case, has chosen to utilize one of Fundamentalism’s most popular passages; it works, in its collective mind, as a sort of proof that the Catholic Church is apostate, and that her preference for celibate elders is satanic. Rudd presents 1 Timothy 4:1-3:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth (emphasis added).
The portion of the passage Fundamentalists believe condemns the Catholic Church is: . . . who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. And is this part of the passage not the big “gotcha”? After all, the Catholic Church forbids Marriage and foods, right?
The seedling theologies that formed the early heresies were the subjects of St. Paul’s warning to his successor, St. Timothy. The Encratites (the “abstainers”), the Marcionites, and the Manicheans all condemned Marriages as evil; and indulging in the material pleasures of some foods and drink were forbidden. The heretics believed in a god who was the author of good things, and another god who was the author of evil; and the material world was intrinsically evil (a belief that is still popular in many Fundamentalist communities). St. Paul countered the heresies again in the very next verse by reminding St. Timothy every creature of God is good. In other words, an informed Catholic is not shaken by the big gotcha, and an informed Protestant would not embarrass herself by broaching the allegation.
Unlike the early heretics who viewed all marriages as evil, the Catholic Church does not view any Marriage as evil. She views Marriage as honorable and a sacrament of divine institution. The Catholic Church does not forbid Marriage—no matter how badly Fundamentalists want to believe it. Men who have become priests are not forbidden to marry, but the Church forbids them to break their vows. Vows are voluntary, and she condemns those who break them, as St. Paul condemned vow-breakers in the very next chapter: they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge (5:12).
And there are times when married leaders of Protestant communities convert to the ancient Church and become priests, and they remain faithful to their Marriage vows even as they enter into Holy Orders (as with St. Peter); the Church celebrates their Marriage, and as with priests who accept the discipline, she forbids people from breaking their Marriage vows. Put differently, to use the language of the passage at hand, it is a lie to describe St. Paul’s warning as an indictment against the Catholic Church.
Fundamentalism’s use of the passage against the Catholic Church’s practice of fasting is equally ill-focused, and again reveals its desire to attack the ancient Church while ignoring the fact that the New Testament itself reflects a Church that fasts. Of course the Catholic Church knows God created foods to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth, for it was the first Pope, St. Peter, who received that revelation, as St. Luke recorded in the tenth chapter of Acts, and as St. Paul reiterated in verse four of the chapter at hand. Fundamentalism’s allegation that the Catholic Church forces abstinence from foods in a manner that might represent an apostate group is not accurate—it is projection at best. Do Fundamentalist’s not fast? Do Fundamentalists not abstain from foods God created to be received with thanksgiving during times of their own selection? Is it not hypocritical to force this passage to condemn the Catholic Church and not Fundamentalist communities, which fast as well, which abstain from foods as well, and which abstain from alcohol nearly as much as the heretics St. Paul was in fact describing?
The heretical groups that abstained from Marriage are the same heretical groups that abstained from some foods and wine. The early Church fathers wrote about the heretics and how they pretended Marriage, meats, and wine were evil. Those groups were real, and a Church that is able to entertain the reality of the Bible’s historical context is not guilty of modern myths developed by Fundamentalists who force passages to be interpreted outside of their historical contexts—forced to support their movement’s zeal to slander the Church that has lasted nearly two thousand years, and thereby slander, over the course of time, billions of their brothers and sisters.
As an indicative example of Fundamentalism’s unrestrained slander, Rudd presents his material in a way that might suggest the Catholic Church is the group St. Paul was warning St. Timothy about; the Bible and history prove Rudd wrong. Rudd also presents his material in a way to suggest the Catholic Church’s preference for a celibate priesthood is modern; the Bible and history prove Rudd wrong, again.
Recall how Rudd purposefully omits three crucial verses when he posits that, essentially, “Marriage alleviates lust within Marriage”. I already explained Rudd’s apparent purpose for manipulating the text, but he has a second reason to omit the verses: they present an ancient Church that is Catholic, and the honest quotation of the full text damages Fundamentalism’s wish for a less-than-ancient, apostate listener to “doctrines of demons” enemy. The portion of God’s word Rudd does not want people to read is:
I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).
True, the Catholic Church did not require all priests to be celibate from the start, but the Bible is clear that celibacy is a valuable and preferable discipline; the Church simply grew to be more of what she has always known—always taught. The Catholic Church, still, does not command her priests to remain celibate, but she expects her priests to keep their vows; celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. Both Jesus and St. Paul accepted the discipline. Are Fundamentalists willing to label both Jesus and St. Paul as apostates or satanic? Were the Christians who heeded Jesus’ warning about the destruction of the Temple and instructions to flee Jerusalem apostate (cf. Matthew 24:16-20)?5 Were those who were able to heed St. Paul’s lesson to remain unmarried so that they could better serve the Church apostate? Is it not clear that Fundamentalism’s zeal to condemn the Catholic Church has clouded its respect for the pattern the Bible clearly reflects—how Fundamentalism has apostasized itself from the nascent Church?
Rudd presents another passage written by St. Paul to prove how the Catholic Church pays attention to deceitful spirits. In Rudd’s words, which are indicative of almost all Fundamentalist leaders, “…the Bible specifically commands that Bishops/Elders [sic] be married.” But does the Bible really “specifically command” that priests should be married? Does it make sense that a priest who is not married (St. Paul) would teach his successor that priests must be married? Does it make sense for St. Paul to teach that St. Timothy must be married, yet in a different Letter teach: I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do? The text Rudd refers to is:
The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:1-7, emphasis added).
Responsible exegesis requires an examination of all relevant texts. One rule Catholics and most Protestants agree on is that more clear texts should shine light onto less clear texts. It is very clear that St. Paul wished for a celibate ministerial priesthood; he practiced what he preached. However, the only verses from the entire Bible that Fundamentalism uses to argue that elders must be married are not even verses, they are portions of verses, and Fundamentalism refuses to allow other relevant passages to clarify their meaning. (Titus 1:5-9 is similar to 1 Timothy 3:1-7; it too reads: husband of one wife.) Not only St. Paul, as proved by his actions and admonition in 1 Corinthians 7, but the entirety of Christian history from the first century to today has understood his words, Now a bishop must be… the husband of one wife, to mean that a bishop must not be a polygamist.
Fundamentalism was born into a wider culture where polygamy was uncommon, and Fundamentalists force their cultural norms onto the context of St. Paul’s Letter. St. Paul’s words were not a “command” for all bishops to be married, as Fundamentalists insist; it separated Christian Marriage from its culture to one where Marriage is with only one wife.
The nascent Church understood that St. Paul described rules for bishops who were already married and had children, but many other bishops were not married, such as the Apostle John. He was the bishop of Ephesus and took Mary (Jesus’ mother) into his home after Jesus’ Ascension (Jesus had no blood-brothers to take her in.). Was St. John “satanic” for not marrying? Does it not make sense that a new ecclesial structure—the young Church—cannot from the start, with all of it varying starting positions, expect all of its leaders to personify an ideal discipline?
St. John the Apostle was “a eunuch for the Kingdom.” St. Matthew wrote:
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it (Matthew 19:12).
The Gospel describes different kinds of eunuchs in order to show that there is a preferable, God-pleasing way of becoming a eunuch. Fundamentalism’s enthusiasm for self-sterilization resembles those who have been made eunuchs by men, and they are compared to those who have not undergone any surgical procedure. Those who choose celibacy for the sake of the kingdom—Catholic priests, religious brothers and sisters—are the kind of eunuchs that please God. In other words, one kind of eunuch becomes a eunuch for his or her own sexual satisfaction, and one receives his or her special gift from God. One resembles Protestantism and one resembles Catholicism.
Like St. Paul, Jesus Himself taught that celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is something that some—not all—people are able to receive. And like Jesus, St. Paul acknowledged that not all people are able to receive the calling; he called it a special gift from God (1 Corinthians 7:7). St. Paul continues:
I want you to be free from anxieties. 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. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
It is clear, at this point, that celibacy is common in the New Testament Scriptures, yet it is uncommon in Fundamentalist communities. The Catholic Church’s celibate ministers perform their work without anxiety for worldly affairs, and those baptized in worldly affairs have a difficult time seeing the unseen. Celibacy is an eschatological sign. Celibacy points to heaven.
Later in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30). In heaven, Marriage is actualized, it reaches its completion. Those who are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven see more than those of us who have not received the special gift from God. Chastity does not signify a prudish disposition. Celibate servants sacrifice what is good, not what is bad. If sex were “dirty” or something to feel “guilty” of, then it would not be a sacrifice. The accusations Rudd and others in the non-Catholic Christian religious world make are not only wrong, they reveal how married the Protestant perspective is with the world. Is it not “dirty” to paint those who see heaven more clearly than those who are anxious about worldly affairs as “satanic”? A culture that mocks celibacy is not a Christian culture.
In sum, Catholic Christians do not bury a majority of texts (and history) to highlight a preferred, and less clear partial-verse in order to support a pre-conceived, modern, anti-this or anti-that theology. Like all maturing Christians, the Catholic Church became more of what she believes, and now expects all of her priests to be faithful to their voluntary vows and remain unmarried. But, apparently, many Protestants disagree with St. Paul, and believe that a disciplined celibate priesthood is not preferable, but the cause of scandal.
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5 “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers” (Matthew 24:19 New International Version).