The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WHY POPE BENEDICT XVI CLARIFIES, REAFFIRMS, REINFORCES AND DEFENDS CELIBACY?

Guess who is the handsome lad in this photo? None other than our beloved Pope Benedict XVI. And who would ever think that such a handsome young man would choose to live a holy life and become the Pope one day? With his good looks all the girls in town would queue up for him and gladly do anything for him. But our Pope Benedict said "No" to the beautiful young ladies of his time and took up his cross to follow Christ. Today, Pope Benedict XVI is one of the greatest heroes of our time. A man with good looks and great intelligence who has attained perfection in life - Pope Benedict XVI is a living example of the beauty and importance of priestly celibacy.


Why does Pope Benedict XVI reinforce and defend celibacy? Our Pope is a wise man and he certainly has good reasons for that. According to him, "The true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself. Celibacy is a great sign of faith, of the presence of God in this world. When God is no longer central to a priest's life, he loses his zeal. In a world where the 'now' of the present and tangible seems good enough, celibacy is a great scandal. Celibacy seems difficult to understand in an agnostic world in which God doesn't enter the picture," in which "we no longer think of a future with God, because the presence of this world seems sufficient. Celibacy is an anticipation. To live the celibate life is to acknowledge the presence of God, the certainty of the next life, and the value of both. A priest is drawn into the life of Christ, including Christ's condition after the resurrection, so celibacy is an anticipation of this new world ... in which we are beyond matrimony. Through the priestly life of celibacy, the future breaks into today. Celibacy opens the door to this great truth of faith by living the future as if it is already in the present." We certainly cannot deny the fact that there is truth in every word that he says. However, in this materialistic world not many could accept this great truth of faith.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, I saw someone giving an angpow (a red packet containing money) to a priest. Without even looking at its contents, this priest put the angpow into the donation box. What does this mean? Money and material things have no importance to this celibate priest. He does not have to go for expensive holidays with his wife nor does he need money to pay for his children's college fees. His whole life is filled with God and this we can see by the way he lives his life. As what Pope Benedict says, "With the eschatological life of celibacy, the future world of God enters into the realities of our time." A priest who is living in the future world of God as though it is already in the present is more interested in living a holy life than gathering earthly wealth and indulging in carnal pleasures. And of course this is the kind of priest that our Pope would like to have in the Catholic Church - a priest who makes us feel proud of the Catholic Church and makes us want to be Catholic.

On the other hand, there is a married Indian pastor who keeps saying to everyone that "Pastors serve God by serving people." Well, this sounds good but is it really as good as it sounds? You should have seen how he polishes the shoes of the rich men in his church. But lo and behold! When a poor lady came to him to seek help (albeit a very minor one) he ignored her and purposely did not take her calls. What do I mean by "purposely"? This lady told me she called him countless times but he did not answer her calls. Don't tell me that this pastor did not use his handphone for weeks. Why is it so? The rich businessmen can give him big angpows and provide good employment for his children in their companies whilst the poor lady has nothing to offer him. He needs money to give his family a comfortable life. With his children growing up, he needs money to send them to college. When his children have graduated from college, he needs to seek the help of the rich men in his church who can provide good job opportunities for his children. Who is this pastor serving? God or his family?

I know of a retired Chinese primary school headmaster who during his days as the headmaster of the school got to know many company directors in the Parents and Teachers Association. What kind of man is he? Well, it depends on whom he is dealing with. After his retirement he worked for one of the directors and bought the most luxurious car he ever had in his life. And of course his children had good job offers from these directors too after they graduated. We cannot blame the pastor and the headmaster though as what they are doing is to be expected of every married man . Family firstlah. This is human nature. In Malaysia, we have politicians who leap from one political party to another. Why is it so? Because the pasture on the other side is greener. Well, there is nothing wrong with that. It is only natural that people should think of themselves and their families first. A priest, however, should be different from all the Toms, Dicks and Harrys on the streets. If he is as selfish as the pastor, headmaster or politicians aforementioned then what is so special about him?

When the 'now' of the present seems good enough and the presence of this world seems sufficient and when people no longer think of a future with God, carnal pleasures and material things become very important to them. In fact, this is what the world is all about today. According to Pope Benedict, "The great problem of the West is the forgetfulness of God and this forgetfulness is spreading." In actual fact, not only the West but almost the whole world is infected with this forgetfulness disease. Those who have forgotten about God tend to live only for themselves and only for the present as there is no future without God. Sad to say, sex has become more important than God in the world of today. This clearly explains why not many men can become celibate priests today. That's why Pope Benedict is having a tough time defending celibacy!

People tend to create their own values and pass their own judgment to accommodate their own selfish purposes. Values change with time and in a way our world has changed a great deal since the time of Jesus. If that was too ancient, let's not talk about the time of Jesus but Father Damien's time instead. During those days, the priests did not pester the Pope to allow them to get married. They serve God and His people faithfully. Father Damien was ready to die for the lepers just as Jesus has died for us. But nowadays, we have priests who want the best of all worlds - a wife, children, and a respectable job. These are their conditions for joining the priesthood. They cannot take up the cross and follow Jesus as long as they cannot benefit from it. The cross is too heavy for them. Just because they cannot live the life of Christ, celibacy has become a scandal to them and they keep pestering our Pope to change the rules of the Church for them and allow them to get married. When they found that the Church couldn't satisfy their selfish desires, they left the Church to get married. Of course there are those ex-Catholic priests who go to the extreme of writing books trying to justify themselves portraying themselves as victims as though the Church has wronged them. But are they really victims? In actual fact, it is the Church that is being victimized by them for they have betrayed the Church by their hypocrisy. Why take the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience when they cannot keep them? No one forces them to do it. To say that they have to make a choice between faith and love is rubbish. If a priest really loves Jesus and intends to serve the Church faithfully just as Our Lord has done, this question does not arise. If he is determined to follow Christ and has sincerely chosen the way of the cross nothing could make him change his mind. To say that the woman that he has fallen in love with shares the same passion for Jesus as much as he does is also rubbish. If the woman has a strong passion for Jesus she would not tempt a priest to jump into bed with her. Just imagine how much time and money the Church has wasted on these ungrateful priests who later become traitors?

Father Damien has lived in my heart since I was a young child. I become Catholic because of him and I model every priest after him. Each time I look at a celibate priest, I feel so proud of him because his life is a reflection of the life of Christ. But then values change with time. We now have priests who enjoy premarital sex and behave like sexually obssessed teenagers on the beach whilst the paparazzis are busy taking photos. A priest is supposed to set a good example to the world but what if he himself is not much better than a sexually obssessed teenager? What is he preaching then? What kind of example is he setting to the world? Is he trying to prove that premarital sex is fine and that caressing and kissing a woman vigorously on the beach is a good thing to do? What does the Bible say about premarital sex? Is it okay for a priest to do it? Maybe he has really "lost his zeal" as what Pope Benedict says and therefore the presence of this world seems sufficient to him. Be it rain or shine, sex must come first. But then, he must also have a good job or how is he going to survive? This is his 'dilemma'. He must be given the best of all worlds or he wouldn't become a priest. Pope Benedict XVI is right. This kind of priest is only living for the present thus forgetting about his future with God. That's why he is so concerned with carnal pleasures and tangible things and lives for the "now" of the present.

There is a malay "gurindam" which sounds something like this: "Jika guru kencing berdiri, anak murid kencing berlari. Jika guru kencing dalam keretapi, murid kencing dalam LRT." Let me translate it. It means that if the teacher pisses while standing, the students piss while running. If the teachers pisses in the train, the students piss in the Light Rail Transit." Priests are supposed to be more important than teachers as they have greater influences on our lives than the teachers. But what if the priest enjoys premarital sex on the beach (or perhaps elsewhere)? Of course many people would emulate him assuming that since a priest can do it then it's the right thing to do and this would only worsen the situation in our already morally decadent world. Can such a priest be a good Church leader? No, I cannot let him lead me. Better stay at home and preach to myself. I cannot tolerate the ugly things that he does. What a shame! It's a good thing Pope Benedict XVI doesn't allow this kind of priest to remain in the Church as he would only bring dishonour to the Church.

During the time of Jesus, premarital sex is almost unheard of. An unmarried woman found pregnant would be stoned to death. But values change with time and when everyone is doing something even though it is wrong, it becomes right. It seems that it is okay for a priest to have premarital sex today. Many people say that he is right and that Pope Benedict XVI is wrong and that the Pope should change the rules of the Church to accommodate his sexual desires. But our beloved Pope knows what is best for our Catholic Church. He doesn't want the priesthood to become an occupation and a money making channel for the family men priests. He doesn't want to have priests who are busy serving their wives and children at the expense of the Church. He doesn't want sexually obssessed priests who after enjoying premarital sex on the beach preach about Jesus and holiness in the Church. The Church is a holy place and not a sexual cult. A priest must walk his talk. He doesn't want priests who cannot live the life of Christ. He doesn't want materialistic priests who only believe in the present and who have forgotten about God. He doesn't want priests who treat the parishioners like their stepchildren because they have already had their own biological children.

What does our beloved Pope Benedict want? Holy priests like Father Damien, Father OC Lim and Father Slavko Barbaric just to mention three examples. Priests who can devote their entire lives selflessly serving God and His people. Priests who can set good examples to the world. Priests who are not keen in accumulating wealth for the sake of their families. Priests whose lives are filled with God and not carnal pleasures or material things. The Catholic priesthood is a vocation and not an occupation for the jobless men on the streets. Having a married priesthood would mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry on the streets can become a priest. What is so unique about the Catholic priesthood then? To those young men who can live holy lives and travel the path that Jesus has travelled more than 2000 years ago, why not join the priesthood and save our Catholic Church? Remember, a good priest does not ask himself what benefits he can get as a priest. He will ask himself what he can do for the Church.

If I were born a man I would have become a priest a long time ago. The celibate priesthood is a beautiful journey with the Lord. There are lots of things that I could have done for the Church if I were a priest! (Those who like this article may also want to read "Should Catholic Priests be Allowed to Marry" and "Taxi Driver Wanted to Become a Married Catholic Priest").

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SHOULD CATHOLIC PRIESTS BE ALLOWED TO MARRY?

I would like to begin with some quotations from the Bible:

Everyone who has given up home, brothers or sisters, father or mother, wife or children or property for my sake will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life (Matthew 19:29).

A man is better of having no relations with a woman (1 Corinthians 7:1).

I tell you brothers, the time is short. From now on, those with wives should live as though they had none ((1 Corinthians 7:29).

The unmarried man cares for the Lord's business; his aim is to please the Lord. But the married man cares for worldly things; his aim is to please his wife; and he has a divided mind (1 Corinthians 7:32-33).

There is a beautiful "Quote for Priests" from Father Anthony Ho's blog that I would like to share with my readers. Here it goes:

"It is true, one reason why the Church requires celibacy in her priests is that one who is free from the cares and responsibilities of family life can more completely and wholeheartedly devote himself to the work of the sacred ministry. But the deeper and more spiritual reason is that the soul which is free from the bonds of earthly love, however noble and pure it may be, is better disposed for an ardent and unselfish love of God."

Celibate priests can devote themselves completely and wholeheartedly to the Church since they are free from the burdens and responsibilities of family life. Truly these celibate priests are one of our greatest gifts from God - so rare, valuable and precious. I pray that we can have more celibate priests in the future. In this morally decadent world, those who can relinquish sex are not easy to find and that's why our celibate priests have become a rare treasure today.

I have never had sex before and I don't know how enjoyable or important it is. But I do know that it certainly has got nothing to do with holiness, purity and chastity. Here I would like to quote a real life story that my grandmother told me when I was still a little girl. This is how it goes: When my uncle got married, someone gave him a wooden crucifix. He hung it on the wall just above his marital bed. Both my uncle and his wife suddenly fell ill but they didn't know what was wrong. They just coudn't get well. When my grandmother visited them, she saw the crucifix in their bedroom and suggested that they remove it and put it elsewhere. After removing the crucifix from their bedroom, my uncle and his wife were immediately healed from their mysterious illness. Whether it is a coincidence or not, having sex in front of Jesus doesn't seem to be the right thing to do. If sex is something which is holy, pure and chaste then why not have sex in the Church?

Would the Church be served better if the priests were married? No doubt a celibate priest would devote all his time to God's work but a married priest will be unable to devote himself totally to God's work as he tends to get bogged down with earthly things. According to Patricia Dixon, the wife of a former Protestant pastor in her article entitled "Why a Married Priesthood Won't Remedy the Priest Shortage":

"The advocates of a married clergy need to give a little more thought to the real consequences of their blithe slogans. Perhaps they will listen to a wife who has been there. Let us consider a typical, moderately large parish in an affluent American community, in which three priests live in a rectory that also houses the parish office. What changes would have to be made if the priests of this parish were married? First, there would have to be many priests at the parish. A celibate man can give all his time to the parish; a married man must give priority to his family. So these three priests must become five or six, leaving the priest shortage right where it was, even if the removal of celibacy rules doubles the number of priests in America. The salary of a married priest would have to be three times the current stipend in order to keep a priest's family above the federal poverty line. And, of course, those six families can't all live in that rectory, and the parish offices can't be in the home of just one of them. So we now need six houses, and extra space somewhere else, to replace the one rectory. If the priests are expected to furnish their own housing, their salary will have to be increased even more. Thus supporting married priests will cost that three-priest parish more than six times what it now spends to support its priests. In all likelihood, the priests will have to work outside the priesthood to bring in income. Of course, their time for the parish and parishioners will decrease. So the parishioners, even if they could somehow support their six priests, will still find themselves short of priestly attention. Every married pastor faces, throughout his career, the tension between the needs of the church and the needs of his family. Both Church and family require half of the man's time and energy. A minister's wife who is pregnant may find that the church members are uncomfortable with her as a living symbol of the pastor's active sexuality."

I used to visit a home for the ex-drug addicts and they told me that the pastor who was supposed to be in charge of them seldom came to see them after he got married. And after his first baby came, they saw even less of him. What does this suggest? That a married priest will put his family first and neglect his ministry duties. Like all married men, a married priest wants to finish his work fast and go home to his wife and children. Perhaps he shouldn't miss dinner. His wife doesn't like that. Thus the priesthood seems to be more like an occupation to him - a job that provides him with an income to support his wife and children. One of my friends told me that her pastor is exceptionally kind and friendly to all those who always buy presents for his wife and children. Can't blame him though. He certainly wants the best for his wife and children even if it is at the expense of the parishioners.

A married man is always busy thinking of ways to increase his income so as to give his wife and children a better life. With a family to support, money will never be enough. If a priest is only concerned with making money to give his wife and children a comfortable life, the priesthood is no longer a vocation but a kind of job or money making channel for a family man. Just imagine what will happen if we have priests who are always busy doing direct selling (such as Amway or Cosway products) in the Church together with their wives. Business would be good for sure because of the parishiones' support. But is this the kind of priests we can respect and love?

On the contrary, a celibate priest has all the time in the world to do God's work. He doesn't have to be on time for dinner with his wife and children. He doesn't have to keep thinking that he must finish his work fast so that he could go home early. He doesn't have to think of ways to increase his income. And most of all, he can devote all his time to the parish and the parishioners will never find themselves short of priestly attention. As such, the priesthood is only suitable for those men who are ready to live the life of Christ and willing to devote their entire lives to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

We call a priest Father. Can we marry our own father and have sex with him? Priests are suppose to live the life of Christ. But is the life of a married priest a reflection of Christ's life? Christ is celibate and he was ready to die on the cross for our sins because it was His Father's will. Had Jesus ever said, "Father, please spare me my life. I want to take care of my wife and see my children grow up. I can't die on the cross. Family firstlah." If these were His words, Christianity wouldn't have existed at all!

There is no such thing as the Church denying the priests the human rights to get married. Priesthood is a choice and the vows of chastity are to be taken freely. Those who feel that they cannot live the life of Christ can always get married and get a job elsewhere to support their wife and children. They don't have to keep eyeing the priesthood and pestering the Pope to change the rules of the Church for them. No doubt it is not easy to get a respectful and secure job that can provide well for their families during this period of recession but it should be remembered that the priesthood is a vocation and not an occupation. If they really love to help out in Church, they can always come to Church to lend a helping hand. Many lay preachers are doing that free of charge in Malaysia.

Should priests be allowed to get married then all the jobless men on the streets would be fighting for this job. Where on earth can they find such a respecful and secure job during this period of recession? Their wives and children would be well provided for by the Church and live a comfortable life. Who doesn't want that? Of course there would be no more shortage of priests when the Roman Catholic priesthood becomes an occupation!

Who says that celibate priests cannot give advice on family matters? The capability to give advice doesn't rely on the fact as to whether they are married or not. I give advice and help to single mothers and divorcees to help them live their lives again. I don't have to be a divorcee or a single mother to do that. I may never have been married before but this does not deter me from observing and analysing the world around me and learn from the experiences of others. I also give advice and help to rape victims (my students) but this does not mean that I have to be a rape victim myself!

Who says that married priests would not get involved in sex scandals? Maybe some of you would have read about the case of Ahmad Najib - a married man who raped, killed, burnt and chopped off the legs of the beautiful Canny Ong. He was sentenced to death. No doubt he is married but this does not deter him from raping another woman. Then there was Lily Chua's case back in 1993 where the pastor turned music teacher murdered her and cut her into eleven pieces before he dumped her body parts in a drain and a ravine about one km away. Fearing that his wife would discover his affair with Lily Chua, the pastor had no choice but to kill Lily Chua and then destroyed her body completely so that no one would discover his extra-marital affair. The pastor was sentenced to 12 years in prison but was released from prison after 8 years because of good behaviour. Extra-marital affairs are so common nowadays. When a man is married it doesn't mean that he wouldn't be interested in another woman.

According to Pope Benedict XVI, "Celibacy seems difficult to understand in an agnostic world in which God doesn't enter the picture, in which we no longer think of a future with God, because the present of this world seems sufficient. To live the celibate life is to acknowledge the presence of God, the certainty of the next life, and the value of both. With the eschatological life of celibacy, the future world of God enters into the realities of our time. Celibacy is allowing ourselves to be taken in hand by God, giving ourselves into the hands of the Lord and therefore is an act of fidelity and trust. Celibacy is a great sign of faith." How right he is! Thank you Pope Benedict XVI for defending and reinforcing celibacy. Really, our marriage minded priests should emulate our Holy Father who is living a holy life!

(Those of you who like this article may also want to read "Taxi Driver Wanted to Become a Married Catholic Priest" in this blog dated October 2009).