The Catholic Church ought to

The Catholic Church ought to maintain its general rule of clerical celibacy. I doubt that bad conduct is more widespread among a celibate priesthood than a married priesthood—that’s not what my experience among the Episcopalians tells me—and almost any rule that makes becoming a priest more than just a career move is a good thing.

The justification that impresses me most, however, is the need for the Church to remain in but not of the world. Today more than ever, a church that is in the world—that is not some nonconformist sect withdrawn into itself—tends to get absorbed by the world. That’s what has happened to the Protestant mainline. Their theology isn’t much different from the editorial page of the New York Times.

The Catholic Church has two features that help free it from local influences and keep it true to itself: its international hierarchical organization, and its celibate priesthood. It’s true the Eastern Orthodox do without either (while their bishops are celibate and their priests can’t marry, they do allow married men to become priests). But that comes at the cost of stasis and perhaps excessive unworldliness, which make it easier for doctrine and discipline to remain stable without the advantages the Catholics have. But if the Catholic Church abandoned celibacy it would not be a result of increasing unworldliness and stasis that make celibacy less necessary. Quite the contrary, it would be a sign of capitulation to the spirit of the age.

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