Why celibacy for priests, bishops and unmarried deacons?
It's quite interesting how some things seem to tie themselves together in time. I used to call this "coincidence", but often I find it "God working behind the scenes"! One such instance has been questions about priestly celibacy. Over the last few days I've fielded this question several times from the different grades in our summer CCD program and recently came across an article from a seminary classmate that answers this question quite well.
First, some definition. Here's how
the Wikipedia entry for "clerical celibacy"
Clerical celibacy is the discipline within the Catholic Church by which only unmarried men are ordained to the episcopate, to the priesthood (as a rule to which exceptions are sometimes made for individuals) in some autonomous particular Churches, and similarly to the diaconate, though in this last case exceptions exist not only for single individuals but for whole categories of people. In other autonomous particular Churches, the discipline applies only to ordination to the episcopate.
Chief of the Catholic particular Churches that follow this discipline is the Latin Church, but among the Eastern Catholic Churches, at least the Ethiopic Catholic Church applies it also. In this context, "celibacy" retains its original meaning of "unmarried". Though even the married may observe continence, abstaining from sexual intercourse, the obligation to be celibate is seen as a consequence of the obligation to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Advocates see clerical celibacy as "a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbor."
Now, the article from Rev. Carter Griffin, a priest of the archdiocese of Washington D.C. and, until he went to the North American College in Rome, attended seminary with me at Mt. Saint Mary's in Emmitsburg, MD:
"Hold Your Fire on Celibacy" (The Catholic Thing 7/4/2018) -
It is important to note that
reference indicates that marriage is in any way inferior to the celibate state. Quite the contrary, marriage is seen as a great gift: it is the way that those called to it are properly open to receiving and nurturing the part in God's creative work to which they may be called: new life, both physically and spiritually.
Both states are seen as vocations of service: marriage as the total giving of oneself to another person and, by God's gift, to one's children; clerical ministry as the total giving of oneself in service to God's people. They are both seen as a complete giving of oneself in a way that is unique and exclusive. While a "sharing" in that giving
be possible, it is unlikely that many of us have the strength of will or the energy to do so well. This is why, in her wisdom, the Catholic Church prefers that priests and bishops to do so exclusively and willingly (and seminary training went through great lengths to provide the information in making an informed consent!)
While visiting our CCD children in their summer classes, which in these recent sessions span fourth, sixth and eighth grades, I've found that they hold a fascination in the topic. Often raised in many different family situations, outside of the traditional family of a father, mother and one or more siblings, it is entirely possible that, even if their parents are still together, they may notice the events in their family life (both good and otherwise; children are far more perceptive than we give them credit for) and wonder at those who have embraced another way. They have questions on how a person can be happy without someone for company. I look at such times as an opportunity for children to think about aspects of their lives that they may have never considered before. Life is not something owed to us but a gift from God, a gift that can be spent in any way we wish. In giving such answers, I hope that however they spend it it is done in the way that gives glory to God; choosing to live, as St. Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is man fully alive."
Is clerical celibacy an unchangeable dogma of the Church? It may surprise some to hear the answer: No. Note what the
Catechism of the Catholic Church
says: "All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord," they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God" (
1579). Celibacy is not
of the Church and, unlike the ordination of women, could one day be dispensed. In fact, through the
Pastoral Provision authorized by Pope St. John Paul II in 1980
a few married priests in the Roman Catholic Church, but these are the rare exception. Of course, the Church also have a great many married
who, through their example, bring a wonderful dimension in their work of service through their experiences of marriage and ministry. However, through their formation and beyond the Church is very clear on
how they are to prioritize themselves - (i) God, (ii) Marriage,
- to provide proper balance in their lives.
Could it be changed? Yes. Should it be changed? As one who has had experiences with both of the Sacraments of Vocation - Matrimony and Holy Orders - I would have to say "No". Unlike what many believe, I think that doing so would introduce more problems into the Church than it would solve.
The vow of celibacy is a matter of keeping one's word to Christ and the Church. a duty and a proof of the priest's inner maturity; it is the expression of his personal dignity.
Pope St. John Paul II
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Movie (1 hour, 46 minutes) -
The Reluctant Saint
Maximilian Schell stars as "the flying friar," St. Joseph of Cupertino, in this heartwarming and amazing true story of the humble Franciscan friar who literally rose to sainthood. In the impoverished village of seventeenth century Cupertino, Italy, Joseph's peasant mother convinces the reluctant Abbott (Ricardo Montalban) to accept her son into the monastery. With the support of the kindly local Bishop who sees in him a great deal more than others do, and by a series of miraculous incidents, the simple but pious Joseph is ordained a priest. Yet some are convinced that it is the devil, not God, who is responsible for Joseph's miraculous powers--until a final miracle reveals to all his true sanctity.
This movie is not rated, but was created with an adult audience in mind. It may contain violence indicative of the life and times of the saint or character portrayed. We would recommend Parental Guidance and that parents preview it before watching with children.
If you haven't done so already, go to
, click on the REGISTER button and enter our parish code
). Enter your e-mail address on the registration screen and you're good to go!
Do you find these weekly eCommunity mailings useful and think that family members or friends could benefit? Invite them either by having them text
on their smartphone or by signing up on our parish website at
- we'd love to have them join us!
Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, July 13 at 3:00PM