Religion: Celibacy--Jewel or Crown of Thorns

TO Pope Paul VI, priestly celibacy is "a crowning jewel" of the Roman Catholic Church. To most former priests, and even to many who have not left clerical ranks, it is more like a crown of thorns. The truth may lie somewhat prosaically between these two opinions. In fact, mandatory celibacy for priests and nuns is not a defined doctrine of the church but a spiritual discipline that only over the course of centuries assumed the force of ecclesiastical law.

Jesus himself was not married; biblical scholars assume that most of his disciples were,...

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