Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 21, 1968
NUMBER 29, PAGE 2b-3a

Agreement With A Priest

David Arnold

In the June 29 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, a Catholic priest, George J. Hafner, spoke out on some matters which he felt would "demythologize the priesthood." He declared his proposition as follows: "I would like to suggest four ways to promote the demythologizing. They respond to the four elements in the priesthood that contribute most to setting the priest apart." He then listed the four areas of needed change with comments about each. The areas are: 1. Clothing, 2. Self-support, 3. Celibacy, and 4. Form of address. This writer was impressed with the forthright stand of the priest, but it was noted that he only spoke from his own reasoning. Not once did he employ the Scriptures to support his points. Let us examine some Scriptural passages which add weight to what he said.

1. Clothing. The priest felt that some distinctive garb for "clergymen" had benefit, but felt that such should be worn only during official service. We should note, however, that Jesus does not approve setting oneself forth from others by means of dress. Of the Pharisees Jesus said, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments." Matthew 23:5. If the example and teaching of Christ is followed, no man (or woman) will set himself apart from others by religious garbs.

2. Self-support. The priest under consideration desired the right of supporting himself saying, "If the priest were forced to live and work like his people, the priestly caste would soon disappear." The apostle Paul asserted the right of one who preaches the gospel to live of the gospel. I Corinthians 9:1-14. He also asserted his desire to preach the gospel without charge. I Corinthians 9:15-18. In II Thessalonians 3:7-10 he wrote: "For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."

3. Celibacy. The priest, whose article is being considered, said, "Because there are no married priests, a mystique is built up." He further indicated that when priests defect and marry they are "a source of scandal." He wrote, "If the mystique is to be broken, optional celibacy is essential." Celibacy is, of course, the state of being unmarried especially when under a vow. When the apostle Paul spoke of those who in the last days should "fall away from the faith," he said they would be "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." I Timothy 4:1-3. One mark of the apostasy was the "forbidding to marry." To the Christians in Corinth Paul wrote that it would be good for them not to marry due to the "present distress" of persecution. I Corinthians 7:26. Notice that this was written to all Christians, however, and not just to preachers of the gospel. Even though Paul was not married he wrote, "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" I Corinthians 9:5. This makes it clear that the apostles, including Peter, were married and that Paul had the right to marry if he chose. The doctrine of celibacy is unknown to the Word of God.

4. Form of address. The priest's last suggestion relates to the religious title, "Father." He wrote, "Dropping the title "Father" would have an important effect, for it would contribute to the destruction of the paternalism that so dominates Catholic clergy attitudes." Jesus clearly declared the wearing of, or calling others by, religious titles to be out of order. He said, "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." Matthew 23:8,9. The distinction between "clergy" and "laity" was unheard of in the New Testament.

This author commends the honesty of Mr. Hafner who presented his feelings on the matters discussed above. Scriptural quotations have been added to show that the practices which he opposes are rightfully opposed since they are not in harmony with the teaching of Christ.

The statements of Mr. Hafner bring the following thoughts to the mind of this writer:

1. Not all Catholics, including their priests, are in agreement with the current practices and dogma of the Catholic Church.

2. Some religionists are apparently becoming more open and honest in their expression of beliefs.

3. Persons in religious error must be directed to the Word of God for solutions to their questionings, since they have heretofore followed the teachings of men.

4. Many of our religious neighbors may not be far from the kingdom of heaven and may be receptive to the truth when it is brought to their attention.

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