Rome boasts a celibate priesthood. It is at first sight astonishing that the religious system that declared marriage a sacrament of the gospel (though there is not the slightest Scripture warrant for doing so) should enact a law that he priests must not marry-that somehow the marriage bond would commit the priest to a lower experience of holiness than a man who remains celibate may attain. It is certainly an incomprehensible conclusion that defies not only logic but Scripture.
Let's deal with the Scripture argument first. Rome argues for the celibacy of her priesthood from the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:8 where Paul says, "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide as I am." Rome somehow transposes this advice into a divine requirement for priests (and we should remember that the New Testament church had no such office as that of the priest in the sense that Rome uses the term). But a glance at 1 Corinthians 7 will show that Paul was not addressing what Rome terms "the clergy" but the laity also. If this passage were a command to celibacy it would require all Christians to live celibate lives, which of course flies in the face of what Paul teaches in this very epistle as well as the general teaching of the entire Bible. We should also note that Paul gives the reason for his advice to the unmarried to remain in that state. In verse 26 he states clearly that he gives his advice because "I suppose, therefore, that it is good for the present distress." In other words, because of the intensity of persecution and suffering many people would be better off without the additional worry of providing for and protecting a family. However, in verse 9 Paul recognizes that in many cases it would be a good thing to go ahead and marry, despite the "present distress." He says, "If they cannot contain, let them marry." That is, where the natural desire to live in the married state is overwhelmingly strong, Christians should marry and not become slaves to lust. Rome ignores this and ordains that her clergy may not marry under any circumstances.
This invention has been productive of deep immorality. In Reformation times it was common for priests to have mistresses and raise children by them. Indeed, Popes produced children by their mistresses and then created them bishops and cardinals, some of whom then ascended the papal throne that their fathers had occupied! While Rome openly permitted her priests to live in illicit relationships, she absolutely denied them the right of marriage! Fornication, yes. Marriage, no. That was Rome's position in Reformation times. Is it any wonder that Luther and the Reformers gave marriage its true dignity and made the pastor's home a model for true and holy Christian marriage?