Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Since celibacy has had nothing to do with the sex abuse crisis, why review the practice? The Church should concentrate its efforts on the problem of homosexuality since most of the abuse has been homosexual in nature.
The question is: Why? As Father Peter Stravinskas has explained, "..both marriage and celibacy are signs of the Kingdom, but in different ways. Marriage (with sexual relations) is a sign of Christ's love for His Church right now; celibacy (without sexual relations) is a sign of the future and absolute union of Christ and His Church, or God and His People, when God will be all in all. These two ways of life, then, are not in contradiction to each other."
Sure, the Church has the authority to change the practice. But why would She want to? Have we become so anxious to water-down the demands of the Gospel? Have we given up striving for a priesthood which embodies a total gift of self? Pope John Paul II, in his book "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way," has this to say:
"For Saint Joseph, life with Jesus was a continuous discovery of his own vocation as a father. He became a father in an extraordinary way, without begetting his son in the flesh. Isn't this, perhaps, an example of the type of fatherhood that is proposed to us, priests and bishops, as a model?....We should think particularly of the home Saint Joseph built for the Son of God when we touch upon the subject of priestly and episcopal celibacy. Celibacy, in fact, provides the fullest opportunity to live out this type of fatherhood: chaste and totally dedicated to Christ and His Virgin Mother. Unconstrained by any personal solicitude for a family, a priest can dedicate himself with his whole heart to his pastoral responsibilities. One can therefore understand the tenacity with which the Latin Church has defended the tradition of celibacy for its priests, resisting the pressures that have arisen from time to time throughout history. This tradition is clearly demanding, but it has yielded particularly rich fruit.....It is important to point out that there are profound theological reasons supporting the discipline of celibacy. The encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, published in 1967 by my venerable predecessor Pope Paul VI, synthesizes them as follows (cf. nn. 19-34). First and foremost there is a Christological motivation: as Mediator between the Father and the human race, Christ remained celibate so as to dedicate Himself totally to the service of God and men. Those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and mission of Christ are called to share also in this total gift of self. Then there is an ecclesiological motivation: Christ loved the Church, offering Himself entirely for her sake, in order to make her a glorious, holy, and immaculate Spouse. By choosing celibacy, the sacred ministers themselves manifest the virginal love of Christ for the Church, drawing forth the supernatural vigor of spiritual fruitfulness. Finally there is an eschatological motivation: at the resurrection of the dead, Jesus said, 'they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven' (Matt. 22:30). Priestly celibacy proclaims the arrival of a new dawn of salvation, and in a way it anticipates the fulfillment of the kingdom as it sets forth its supreme values that will one day shine forth in all the children of God..." (pp. 140-142).
Of course, celibacy is not "untouchable" as Cardinal Bertone says. Vatican II emphasized this, "Indeed, it is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church (cf. 1 Tm 3:2-5; Ti 1:6), and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches, where besides those who with all the bishops, by a gift of grace, choose to observe celibacy, there are also married priests of highest merit." (Presbyterorum Ordinis, No. 16). But the same conciliar document teaches just as emphatically that, "Through virginity, then, or celibacy observed for the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:12), priests are consecrated to Christ by a new and exceptional reason. They adhere to him more easily with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7: 32-34), they dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and men, and they more expeditiously minister to his kingdom and the work of heavenly regeneration, and thus they are apt to accept, in a broad sense, paternity in Christ. In this way they profess themselves before men as willing to be dedicated to the office committed to them - namely, to commit the faithful to one man and to present them as a chaste virgin to Christ (cf. 2 Cor 11:2) and thus to evoke the mysterious marriage established by Christ and fully to be manifested in the future, in which the Church has Christ as her only spouse. They give, moreover, a living sign of the world to come, by a faith and charity already made present, in which the children of the resurrection neither marry nor take wives." (Presbyterorum Ordinis, No. 16).
What is there to review? Are we willing to jettison the beautiful tradition of priestly celibacy because of the world and its pressures?
Has the Cult of Softness made such inroads into the Church?
By the grace of God, not!
Related reading here.