Monday, October 26, 2009

Celibacy and the Catholic Priest: Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Some people may be surprised at the pressure and propaganda that have arisen in our day against the celibacy of priests in the Catholic Church. But it should not be surprising, as the history of the Church, from the beginning, amply testifies. It was, in fact, the unwillingness of so many priests to remain celibate that tilted the pressure in favor of Protestantism in the sixteenth century. There were many other factors — doctrinal, theological, political — that cost so many millions to Catholic unity. But in my estimation, the center of the issue was priestly celibacy.

The first thing the so-called reformers did on breaking with the Roman Catholic Church was to remove celibacy. It is also the same unwillingness in our day that is mainly responsible for the massive exodus of priests from their priestly ministry. Before and during the Second Vatican Council, there was extreme agitation, some in high quarters, to have celibacy for priests in the Western Church made, as they said, optional. But as has happened more than once in previous centuries, the Council held firm.

If anyone asks me, and I have been asked more than once, what positive good has come from the Second Council of the Vatican, I could give a dozen answers. But somewhere near the top is its unmistakable support for priestly celibacy. As the following statement of the Council makes clear:

Based on the mystery of Christ and its mission, celibacy, which at first was recommended to priests, was afterwards on the Latin Church imposed by law on all who were to be promoted to Holy Orders. This Sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation. (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16).

When this decree was issued on December 7, 1965, there was much adverse criticism and a storm of protests which has not yet died down. Also, in the meantime, the Holy See has dispensed many priests who are, as we say, laicized, also from their celibacy, but with the absolute prohibition ever again to exercise their priesthood. So they had optional celibacy, but the option was either wife or the priesthood, meaning, always, that once a man is ordained, he is never unordained. In other words, the Church has once again stood strong on what is surely one of the glories of the Catholic priesthood and one of its principal means of drawing down God’s blessings on those ordained to the altar.

Why celibacy? This question has arisen many times, has been asked in a thousand ways. Why? Why should priests not marry, like say Protestant ministers do? Why should they remain celibate?

Go (here) and read Fr. Hardon's answer.

The official website for the Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archive and Guild.


Lavinia Tai said...

Celibacy requires holiness in mind and soul. Only holy priests whose lives are filled with love for Jesus can live celibate lives. Every celibate priest is a priceless gift from God - so rare, precious and valuable.

Anonymous said...

with all due respect, you reiterate what has been beaten into Catholic minds for two thousand years: coitus is a lowly, dirty thing. Well, then, how were you conceived? We are all human beings, equally created, and procreation is part of who we are. Celibacy for religious is a purely economic issue imposed by the church for financial gains.
Show me a holy priest, and I'll show you a holy husband whose heart is full of love. Priceless? Hardly. Brainwashed? Yes.