Bishops Should Be Married?

A common statement by Latter-day Saint (Mormon) apologists is that one of the signs of the true Church of Jesus Christ is that its bishops should be married, since that is what the Bible says.  In “Evidences of the True Church“, LDS author Dennis K. Brown claims “First Timothy 3:2 says that bishops should be married.  This is frequently not the case in some other churches, which teach that bishops should be celibate and single.”

Let us look at 1 Timothy 3:2.  Here is what it states (King James Version):

2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

How can this be interpreted?  Mormons and others claim that this means that a bishop must be married.  However, Catholics and Orthodox differ.  Instead, we believe that it is saying that a bishop, if married, must be the husband of one wife, and no more (i.e. no polygamy).  Another interpretation is that those who are to be among the people chosen to be bishops should not have been married more than once (i.e. divorce), being the husband of more than one wife. Verse 4 in the same chapter states that a bishop should have “his children in subjection with all gravity”.  Therefore, if we are using the same interpretation as Mormons, this would mean that men without children also cannot become bishops.

Another failure in the Mormon interpretation of 1 Timothy 3 is that they do not follow verse 12:

12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the office of deacon is generally given to 12-13 year old boys.  Clearly they are not becoming husbands, nor do they have children to rule.  It is no wonder that in Brown’s book, he only addresses 1 Timothy 3 as far as bishops, and not deacons, since their reading and practice of this chapter is inconsistent.

It is especially important that Paul elsewhere states this:

1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (KJV)

7For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

8I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.

It would be illogical for Paul to claim that leaders in the Church must be married, when he himself was not married.

The Catholic Church holds the more consistent interpretation of this passage.  We believe that if bishops are married, they must be the husband of one wife, and not have been remarried.  The same goes for deacons.  In fact, the diaconate of the Catholic Church includes many married men, who make up the majority in the permanent diaconate (those who will not go on to the priesthood).  We should note that clerical celibacy is a practice, and not a doctrine, and that it is certainly possible that at some point in the future, married men may be admitted to the Latin rite priesthood.  In fact, in the Eastern Catholic churches, which are part of the Catholic Church, and are in union with the Bishop of Rome (I state this to differentiate them from their Eastern Orthodox counterparts) do admit married men to the priesthood.  However, in both cases, as well as in the Orthodox Church, bishops are chosen from among the unmarried priests and monks.

So, if a Latter-day Saint says to you that 1 Timothy 3:2 is evidence that the Catholic Church is disobeying the Bible, point out to him/her that their interpretation is not warranted by the passage, especially when they disobey 1 Timothy 3:12 by giving the diaconate to unmarried, childless, 12-13 year old males, using the same reading of that passage as they give verse 2.

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~ by onecatholic on October 3, 2009.

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