Over at TFan’s fine blog, I told a commenter that a young man has no right to take a vow of celibacy. He challenged that contention. So let’s pursue the issue.
1.God has designed most men and women such that we normally have a profound desire to pair off. To find a member of the opposite sex with whom we can share our lives, have a family, and grow old together.
One reason a vow of celibacy is wrong is that such a vow is profoundly at odds with the way God made most of us.
By the way, this is not the same thing as choosing to remain single for some unspecified period of time. This is not about delayed gratification. Rather, this is a vow to remain single for the duration.
2.On a related note, the desire to pair off is complex. It has a physical component, but in human beings it is more than physical. It involves memory, imagination, and anticipation. It also involves a general desire for companionship. Of a husband or wife. As well as children.
It is driven in part by loneliness, or fear of loneliness in middle age or old age.
These factors can vary in their intensity. They can vary over time. The physical component may be stronger in youth (although that’s not necessarily the case), while the emotional component may be stronger in middle age–give or take.
A 20-year-old man may, in good conscience, take a vow of celibacy. At the time, he may be quite sincere.
Suppose he’s a seminarian. He enjoys the companionship of other seminarians. And he has time.
But the world may look very different at 40 than it did at 20. A sense of social isolation. A sense that time is running out. He’s approaching a point of no return, beyond which he can’t make up for lost opportunities. He lacks the emotional compensations he had at 20.
Imagine how he feels as offers premarital counseling to star struck couples. As he observes how they hold hands and gaze longingly into each other’s eyes.
Imagine how he feels as he watches young kids jump into the waiting arms of parents, while he returns “home” to an empty house. He has no one in the world to call his own. No one who calls him her own. He’s not a part of anyone. No one is a part of him.
Or suppose, 5 years after he takes his vow, everything is going hunky-dory until he falls in love with a woman. He didn’t plan for that to happen. But suddenly his world looks very different. And he can’t put things back together the way they were before he met her.
It’s possible for him to outwardly keep his vow of celibacy. But there is now a lack of inner consent.
Moreover, this was always a purely artificial and self-imposed duty. Not like a marriage vow. Not something you owe to anyone else. And it’s not driven by a God-given desire for self-fulfillment.
Oh, yes, the church of Rome says a priest is making his vow to God, but that has no divine authorization. It’s no more a vow to God than a human sacrifice. A pagan may intend his human sacrifice for his god or gods, but the transaction is imaginary.
Such a vow is deeply presumptuous. An affront to God.
Needless to say, this also takes a toll on ministry. How many celibate priests are whisky priests? Even if keep their vow, they pay for it in another department.