Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This almost, but not quite, merits no response

TF regales us with a purported "Clerical Celibacy Rebuttal - Extremely Short Form". It wouldn't be worth a glance if not for the fact that there seem to be some people who think it to be creditable; but since it appears that at least some do so, let's consider it.

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

First, a trivially obvious response in the same vein:

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I. [1Cor 7:8]

And we could stop right there, if we wished: it is good to find a wife (as Solomon says), and it is also good to remain unmarried (as St. Paul says): hence we see that TF's "rebuttal" fails, in that Scripture commends both states. That's the first and strongest reply to TF's argument.

A second problem for his "rebuttal" is that the conclusion is unwarranted. He would have us conclude that one implication of the goodness of marriage is that to remain unmarried is not good. But nothing in the premise warrants this conclusion. We could suppose that there are perhaps two unstated premises:

  1. Either marriage or celibacy is good, but both cannot be good.

  2. If one of them is good, the other must be bad.

  3. Proverbs 18:22 says that marriage is good.

(Therefore celibacy is bad.)

It should be obvious that what TF left unsaid is also unwarranted: it is not the case that only one of (marriage or celibacy) may be said to be good. To affirm the goodness of one says nothing about the goodness of the other. This is not a zero-sum game.

I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord: how he may please God. But he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world: how he may please his wife. And he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord: that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world: how she may please her husband. [1 Cor 7:32-34]

Now there is nothing wrong with being solicitous for one's wife: this is part of loving her. And of course there is nothing wrong with being free to focus more completely upon "the things that belong to the Lord." Hence we see that both states may be good. If there is evil in either one, it is not that it is evil per se, but rather that we sometimes make our states "evil" (so to speak) in the way that we treat them. Consequently we see that TF's "rebuttal" fails.


Nick said...

I was thinking the same thing when I first read that a few days ago. That 'one line slam dunk' failed to take New Testament revelation into mind, most notably the words of Jesus and Paul.

Alex said...

However, as TF would point out:

Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.
1 Cor. 7:25

This is Paul's personal opinion/preference, not a command from Our Lord.

I'm not sure where this distinction would matter, other than TF's claim that it is an abomination that the Romanists enforce such an unbiblical policy on it's presbyters.



Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Troll—err, Alex :-)

And in fact he does say that—to one of his commenters. However, that doesn't really counter the force of the argument, in my opinion.

My point is that both marriage and celibacy are said to be good; the very fact that Paul endorses it (even if it is his own opinion—as if we should lightly ignore such a one's judgments!) means that it is categorically not sinful to live a celibate life.

If both marriage and celibacy are acceptable, then it becomes a question of prudential judgment whether or not to pursue one or the other. A man's reasons may (or may not) be suspect, but the choice in itself is neutral.

The Magisterium has every right to exercise prudence in the ordering of the spiritual society of the Catholic Church, and it has done so in what I would argue is admirable fashion: See the Corinthians quote in the post. Is it not better for a man to be free to focus entirely on the things of God, than to be distracted by the demands of wife and children?

In my opinion the answer is yes. It's a prudential matter, so TF may disagree if he wishes; but unless he's an Anglican priest now, he'll have to be unmarried when he converts if he wishes to be ordained in the Catholic Church :-)

Thanks for stopping by!



Reginald de Piperno said...

errr - "he does say that" - I mean, he does quote 1Cor 7:25 at one of his commenters.

Sorry for the fog there.