Reply to Iglesia ni Cristo: Prohibiting priests to marry and abstinence from meats are doctrines of demons?

Marlex C. Cantor wrote an article in INC-Pasugo, “The Church After the Time of the Apostles, the fourth of six parts”.  In this article, Cantor said that there are two doctrines of the devil which is embraced by the Catholic Church, proving that the Catholic Church apostasized after the time of the Apostles:

  1. Forbidding priests to marry
  2. Abstinence from meats

Cantor did not give the reason why, but a fellow INC member who commented on my blog post, “Is Iglesia ni Cristo the Church of Christ?” said that the proof is in the First Book of Timothy:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Tim 4:1-3)

REPLY: Marriage and Priestly Celibacy

1. The Catholic Church does not forbid marriage, because one of its Sacraments is Marriage or Matrimony. Celibacy is not a doctrine but a disciplinary rule for priests in the Latin-Rite (Roman) Catholic Church; in Byzantine-Rite Catholic Church, married priests are the norm, but bishops are normally unmarried. St. Paul himself encourages celibacy:

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Cor 7:8-9).

The Roman Catholic Church wishes its priests not to marry so that they can follow Christ more closely by renouncing marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven:

[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, 8 but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Mt 19:11-12)

What Paul refers to in the teaching of demons which forbid marriage are those of the gnostic sects  like Manichaeans who thinks that matter is evil and spirit is good:

Manichaeans Laity (Hearers or Listeners) were allowed to marry but were encouraged to practice birth control. The Elect (Monks & Nuns) were forbidden to enter into worldly forms of householder marriage. (The Order of Nazorean Essenes)

REPLY: Fasting and Abstinence

2. The phrase “abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” refer to the issue of abstinence from meat offered to idols in the time of Paul. Concerning this issue, Paul said:

“Eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This was offered in sacrifice,” do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; I mean not your own conscience, but the other’s. For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake thankfully, why am I reviled for that over which I give thanks? So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor 10:25-33)

But during Lent, the Church commemorates the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before his death, Christ told his disciples:

“So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. 26 The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:40-41)

To overcome the tests or temptations of the devil, Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights (Mt 4:2) But the disciples were not able to, not even just to pray with Jesus for one hour. So when the trial came and Jesus was arrested, all them fled and Peter even denied Jesus three times. Fasting (not eating a meal) has a function: it strengthens our spirit against temptations. If we could not fast, the second best thing to do is to refrain from eating what we love to eat, and that is meat (you can still eat fish). The Catholic Church is prudent that it prescribes abstinence from meat all Fridays of the year and fasting only during certain days of Lent (only one full meal for the whole day). The money saved by the person from his fasting and abstinence he then gives as alms to beggars or to charitable institutions.

As an aside, even modern culture have realized the value of fasting and abstinence, not for spiritual reasons, but for keeping ourselves healthy: fasting and abstinence from meat removes excess body fat.