Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jesuit On Schemes To Smuggle Relief In Through The Back Door

In citing the “very old tradition” of the Church, Benedict is referring to a growing body of research that pushes the origins of priestly celibacy closer and closer to the time of the apostles. Though the argument is long and complex, at least some scholars view clerical celibacy (being unmarried) as a natural development from the far more ancient practice of clerical continence (the renunciation of the sexual privilege within marriage).

The struggle to maintain priestly celibacy is, for Benedict, precisely the struggle against the institutionalization of the Church—a struggle “lest [the institutional structure] harden into an armor that stifles her actual spiritual life.” I suspect that many proponents of a married clergy would resonate with Benedict’s anti-institutional sentiments. Few, it seems, are far-sighted enough to anticipate that married clergy would not be the undoing of clerical control, but its final victory.

Of course, none of the foregoing argues for a strictly necessary connection between celibacy and priesthood. But there is a category between arbitrary and necessary—that of “fitting” (“conveniens”). And the foregoing does argue for a “fittingness” in the celibate priesthood—despite the present shortfall in vocations and the perennial shortcomings of priests. The true hope for the crisis of priesthood lies in God’s power to renew His Church, not in human schemes to smuggle relief in through the back door.

Link (here) to the full post by Aaron Pidel, S.J. at the Jesuit authored blog entitled, Who So Ever Desires.

Photo is of Aaron Pidel, S.J.

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