Response for TUESDAY, January 29, 2013
haven't read the
book yet, but I'm not convinced. One thing I know: The Fathers of the
had a real problem with Sex, Sexuality and women from the very
Why, I don't know.
The world seen from Rome
and the Priesthood
Questions and Answers
can’t priests marry? It’s a question people often ask and the
of celibacy has also been blamed as one of the causes of sexual abuse
recently published translation of an Italian book addresses the topic
question and answer format, “Married Priests? Thirty Crucial Questions
Celibacy” (Ignatius Press). It is edited by Arturo Cattaneo, with
from a wide variety of scholars.
are faced with a great educational challenge in explaining the Church’s
teaching on priestly celibacy, admitted Cardinal Mauro Piacenza,
prefect of the
Congregation for the Clergy.
likened celibacy to marriage. The underlying logic of priestly celibacy
the same one we encounter in Christian matrimony: the total gift of
forever in love.
the historical aspect the book noted that Christ chose celibacy for
himself even though among the Jews this state of life was seen as a
humiliation. He did not generate children physically but loved his
brethren and shared a common life with them.
way of communicating life was not through physical generation but
spiritual. Therefore the celibacy of those who follow Jesus in the
must be understood in the perspective of this spiritual transmission of
of the questions deals with the affirmation that celibacy did not
obligatory until the Middle Ages. For a start, the explanation noted,
considerable Biblical evidence, both in the Gospels and the letters of
of support for celibacy as a sign of witness.
it is true that during the early centuries married men were ordained,
after their ordination they were expected to practice continence and
were single at ordination or those widowed after ordination were not
to marry once they were priests.
deacons, priests and bishops, the explanation continued, had to refrain
from sexual activity from the day of ordination. Nowhere in the Church
be proved that a married cleric legitimately begat children after his
time the Church realized that continence for married clerics was
problematic regarding the sacramentality of marriage and so during the
Ages this led to the decision of requiring priests to be single.
not allow married priests in order to attract more vocations? This, the
book observed, is one of the most frequent arguments regarding
is no evidence, however, that requiring less of candidates to the
leads to increased numbers of them, the answer replied.
proves the contrary instead: vocations to the priesthood flourish
and multiply when the radical gospel message is welcomed consistently
requirement of celibacy is not a dogma, another section of the book
admitted, but this does not mean it is a merely disciplinary measure.
means that the priest should be similar to Christ and live as he did.
regarded himself as the “Bridegroom” of the whole community of
The explanation referred to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33)
the image of marriage for the union between Christ and the Church.
not celibacy unnatural and the cause of crises among priests? In the
to this question the author, in this case Manfred Lütz, a doctor
of medicine in
psychiatry, explained that the question is based on an erroneous
about all the people who are unmarried – are they all unnatural?
celibate life only becomes unnatural when being single turns into
selfishness or narcissism, Lütz continued.
his experience as a therapist Lütz said that crises among clergy
come from celibacy, but rather from the drying up of the spiritual life.
subsequent question also dealt with this theme of psychological
It was answered by André-Marie Jerumanis, a priest and physician.
he explained, is not harmful to equilibrium or maturity if we take
into account that it is a free choice of a psychologically mature
human being is not just a mere bundle of instincts. Instead, as a
have an intellect, a will and free choice, which makes possible
more humanly and spiritually mature a person is, the more perfectly he
practice continence at the psychological level, not as frustration but
perfect freedom exercised in self-control and in complete availability
personal mission, Jerumanis explained.
another question Jerumanis dealt with the accusation that celibacy is a
causal factor in sexual abuse. It would be rash to come to this
affirmed, just as it would be rash to conclude that marital crises are
the requirement that marriage be indissoluble.
contributor noted that no one would blame the institution of marriage
as being responsible for a parent sexually abusing their child. He also
observed that sexual abuse is just as prevalent in churches that have
clergy and that by far the largest number of cases of sexual abuse
the immediate family.
explanations and the other questions and answers make this book a
valuable resource at a time of continued debate over celibacy.