Sunday, February 18, 2007

New head of clergy congregation issues defense of priestly celibacy


So many of my congregation are celibate, some temporarily, in the sense of they are not yet married, others because of their sexual orientation or because of the breakdown of their marriages are bound like me to permanent celibacy. This is obviously the case too in those who have been widowed later in life. It is important that priests today rejoice in the lifestyle they have chosen for the glory of God and are able to speak coherently about the trials and joys of it, but more importantly that they live it well, not in the sense of being crabby old bachelors but as men who rejoice in the availability that celibacy gives.

Liberal bishops and priests so often suggest that they have chosen priesthood and have been forced to accept celibacy as part of the package, this is odd, because any important choice has ramifications for the rest of one's life. Cakes can not be had and eaten at the same time. Sally cannot be slept with if one is married to Mary and if one is head over heals in love with God nothing is preferable to Him, this is the great sign of priestly celibacy.
The Christian understanding of human sexuality is that it should be controlled and is controllable, through the love of God.
Maybe this intervention by Hummes might encourage ideas along the line of the priest being married to the Church; female religious being the brides of Christ, all ancient ideas and all very fruitful, and all very unfashionable in certain quarters.

Cardinal Hummes reviewed what he said was strong evidence that priestly celibacy has its roots in apostolic times, not later centuries. The cardinal said celibacy represents "a more full configuration with the Lord Jesus," who lived his own life as a celibate, and is a sign of the total love priests give to the church. For all priests, he said, celibacy should be a call to happiness and not a burden of suffering. Cardinal Hummes said celibacy is also a sign of pastoral charity. "Common experience confirms that it is easier to open one's heart to one's brothers fully and without reserve for those who have no other emotional attachments, no matter how legitimate and holy, except the attachment to Christ," he said.

10 comments:

Fr Tim Finigan said...

It is very encouraing that Cardinal Hummes has made reference to the thesis of Cochini, Cholidh, Stickler, Heid et al. concerning the apostolic origins of priestly celibacy. Their work has largely been ignored but this reference coming from a Cardinal who is not exactly known as a "conservative" will be very helpful.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, Father, I find the reference to celibacy being Apostolic or Dominical as being exciting, especially from Hummes

Thomas Shawn said...

Liberal bishops and priests so often suggest that they have chosen priesthood and have been forced to accept celibacy as part of the package, this is odd, because any important choice has ramifications for the rest of one's life.

They're like married guys who complain about have to sleep with the same woman for the rest of their lives.

Anonymous said...

Clerical celibacy is disciplinary not doctrinal. Theoretically it is open to change. To try to establish a historical case for it in apostolic times when there was a great variety of practise is clutching at straws. The article in the Catholic Eclyclopedia goes into this fully. There is only one reason why a priest should be celibate: that in his life he imitates Christ and represents him at the altar; Jesus was not married. Surely that is enough?

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Fr Dwight Longenecker, his wife and four children, and the other married convert clergymen, now Catholic priests, have to say about this?

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think Fr Dwight would say what the Eastern Rite Bishops (in the east the majority of clergy are married) said at the synod on the Eucharist in 2005. Which was that celibacy is of immense value to the Church, that married clergy are not the answer.
Cardinal Hummes was arguing from historical facts, that celibacy was part of the practice of the early Church and not a late aberration. There seems to plenty of evidence that bishops and priests, who were married lived celibate lives after ordination.

Anonymous said...

Celibate some of the early christian bishops and priests might have been, married many of them certainly were. The difference between then and now is that, celibate or not, they had companionship. Many priests today suffer acutely from loneliness and if you don't have a vocation to be a hermit this can lead to compromise, scandal and sometimes to defections from the priethood. Recent statistics show that for young, newly ordained priests, seven years are often the average before they quit, some to marry, others not, and isolation is often given as a reason. On the other hand some become priests in order to avoid marriage and thereby conceal other tendencies.

Anonymous said...

"seven years are often the average before they quit"

Is it a problem with loneliness or aeceticism?
The martyrs of the Reformation, I am sure experienced great loneliness, the priests who left in 60s and 70s seem to have mostly come from situations in which priests lived together in small communities.

Nicholas said...

I don't want to be tendentious but there is one noticeable difference between the priests of the late Sixties who left to marry and many of their present-day counterparts. The first were, for the most part, robustly heterosexual, the second are more androgynous.

Jack Flynn said...

Nicholas,
Are you really saying young priests today are raving homosexuals? Or is it just there is with our society a confusion about it is to be be male, it is hardly my experience that young priests are androgynous, dull maybe, but not androgymous. My recollection is priests in the past tended to be a bit more flambouyant, larger than life, but them I was younger, maybe you were too, memory plays tricks.