Christians are people who trust in Christ's death for their salvation rather than their own religious deeds. They not only trust in Jesus as their Savior, but they also follow Him as their Lord. The Gospel message is the foundation of the Christian faith. And it produces a life of freedom in Christ.
With that being said, the choice to marry or remain single should be enjoyed by all believers, including Catholic priests. What if, for example, a priest changes his mind about celibacy based on Scripture or for personal reasons? It goes against the spirit of the Gospel to forbid him from pursuing this wholesome desire for marriage, whether he comes to this decision early on or later in life. It simply contradicts Christian freedom to bind man's conscience in this way, especially with something as beautiful as marriage.
There is certainly nothing wrong with remaining celibate. If you are happy to do so in your service for the Lord, then great. But to require Christians, and even ministers at that, to remain celibate is not in line with grace or truth. In fact, the apostle Paul addressed how dangerous it is to "forbid people to marry." (1 Timothy 4:3) God's Word also declares that "it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Cor. 7:9) The New Testament even instructs ministers to "be the husband of one wife." (1 Timothy 3:2)
So what's really going on with this "lifetime ban from marriage" so to speak? By convincing aspiring priests to agree to a life of celibacy, it could be argued that a form of spiritual abuse is actually taking place against impressionable young men. In their zeal, these devout apprentices agree to submit to this troublesome regulation because they want to be "good Catholics." And what better way to be a good Catholic than to be a priest, right? Or so goes the thinking. But look at all the good Catholics who are married. Why shouldn't their priests be afforded the same opportunity? Wouldn't that be in everyone's best interest?
Try to take a step back for a second and look at the Christian church as a whole around the world. Then ask yourself: Does the Holy Spirit truly desire only celibate ministers for just one branch of Christ's church, while desiring both single and married ministers for most of the other branches? Seriously. Do you realize how crazy and out of sync that sounds?
If it is such a wise and godly idea, why aren't a significant number of Christian churches being led by the Holy Spirit to require their pastors to be celibate? The answer is obvious. The vast majority of Christians throughout the world do not believe this requirement comes from the Holy Spirit, but rather merely from tradition. Interestingly, the Catholic church recognizes as well that celibacy is only a tradition.
With those considerations in mind, there are a boatload of good reasons why young Catholic men should not be required to sign away their right to get married later in life. Here are just 10 of the many reasons:
1) God instituted marriage and it is therefore very good.
2) Marriage teaches ministers a lot about the Christian life.
3) Parenting is an important aspect in the life of discipleship.
4) Binding man's conscience on secondary matters is harmful.
5) A married priest can be just as holy and dedicated as a single priest.
6) God leads many ministers of the Gospel around to world to get married.
7) Doing something "for the sake of tradition" is not always a good enough reason.
8) Priests would personally learn a lot about the equality between husband and wife.
9) Many wise and discerning Christians in the Catholic church believe priests should marry.
10) The Gospel message of forgiveness through Christ is more important than marriage or celibacy.
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17) Don't you just love the freedom which is found in the Gospel. There is nothing like it, and we must do our best to preserve it as we go about our lives of Christian discipleship.
Maybe the new pope will breathe a breath of fresh air on the matter into the Catholic system. The pope's example often seems to set the tone in their church. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to address this particular regulation in his organization.
The pope could really shake things up by getting married himself. After all, there is nothing in the Bible which forbids him from doing so. I read yesterday that the pope was given a used car by a priest in northern Italy which he intends to drive around for short commutes on Vatican grounds. Hey, marriage isn't much tougher than driving. Well, maybe just a little bit. But it sure satisfies man's desire for a soul mate.
When considering marriage and celibacy, as with other matters of the Christian life, we would be wise to always remember, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1)