CELIBACY AND CONTINENCE ARE NOT THE SAME, DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?

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PRIESTLY ORDINANDS PROSTRATE BEFORE THE ALTAR

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DISCUSSING THE FUTURE OF CELIBACY REQUIRES UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF CONTINENCE

by Dr. Edward Peters

http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/discussing-the-future-of-celibacy-requires-understanding-the-value-of-continence/

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Every time a ranking prelate so much as hiccups while making a comment on celibacy, the hive starts buzzing about a potential change in clerical discipline regarding marriage. I think that kind of instant speculation is unfair to the hundreds of thousands of clergy living in celibacy and to the thousands of others seriously discerning that life, but hiccups are gonna happen and we just have to deal with them..

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Here is the latest hiccup:
Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state of the Vatican, opens up about potential modifications to the strict traditions of priestly celibacy. Pope Francis addressed the matter last year, prior to becoming pope, saying he was in favor of maintaining the tradition “for the moment.” NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports from London.
By F. Brinley Bruton, Staff Writer, NBC News
The Vatican’s new secretary of state has said that priestly celibacy is not church dogma and therefore open to discussion, marking a significant change in approach towards one of the thorniest issues facing the Roman Catholic Church.
“Celibacy is not an institution but look, it is also true that you can discuss (it) because as you say this is not a dogma, a dogma of the church,” Archbishop Pietro Parolin said in response to a question during an interview with Venezuelan newspaper El Universal.
Archbishop Pietro Parolin is the Vatican’s secretary of state.
He added that while it was not dogma, clerical celibacy was a deeply entrenched Catholic tradition.
“The efforts that the church made to keep ecclesiastical celibacy, to impose ecclesiastical celibacy, have to be taken into consideration,” Parolin said. “One cannot say simply that this belongs in the past.”
As secretary of state, Parolin is the head of government and seen as the most powerful official at the Vatican after the pontiff.
Many of Pope Francis’ predecessors had declared the subject off-limits.
“There has been a lot of resistance to discussing the issue of celibacy,” said Abigal Frymann, online editor and former foreign editor with U.K.-based Catholic weekly The Tablet.  “[Parolin’s comments] open up a fascinating argument.”
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office, said Parolin’s comments were “in line with the teachings of the church.”
NBC News’ Claudio Lavanga contributed to this report.

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To the degree that some recent Roman provisions inconsistent with a celibate clergy, as opposed to steady Roman rhetoric in support of it, have contributed to confusion-approaching-consternation among those who already live, or who are discerning, this “special gift of God” (c. 277 § 1, more about that here), then some critical self-examination seems in order even at high levels. Step One might be something like, No more comments requiring theological precision for a proper understanding to be made before reporters unable, or unwilling, to make and communicate those precisions.

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Clerical celibacy is the requirement in certain religions that some or all members of the clergy be unmarried. These religions consider that, outside of marriage, deliberate sexual thoughts, feelings, and behavior are sinful; clerical celibacy also requires abstention from these.[1]

Within the Catholic Church, clerical celibacy is mandated for all clergy in the Latin Church except deacons who do not intend to become priests. Exceptions are sometimes admitted for ordination to transitional diaconate and priesthood on a case-by-case basis for married clergymen of other churches or communities who become Catholics, but ordination of married men to the episcopacy is excluded (see Personal ordinariate). Clerical marriage is not allowed and therefore, if those for whom in some particular Church celibacy is optional (such as permanent deacons in the Latin Church) wish to marry, they must do so before ordination. Eastern Catholic Churches either follow the same rules as the Latin Church or require celibacy only for bishops.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy, celibacy is the norm for bishops; married men may be ordained to the priesthood, but even married priests whose wives pre-decease them are not allowed to enter marriage after ordination, although today some exceptions are made.[citation needed] The vast majority (more than 90%[citation needed]) of Orthodox priests are married men—having married before they were ordained. Similarly, celibacy is not a requirement for ordination as a deacon and in some Oriental Orthodox churches deacons may marry after ordination. The Church of the East has not applied the rule of celibacy even for ordination to the episcopate. Anglicanism does not require celibacy of its clergy and allows clerical marriage. – WIKIPEDIA

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But ultimately, what must be appreciated is this: the clerical celibacy issue cannot be adequately addressed until, among other things, the more fundamental question of clerical (diaconal, to be sure, but even more crucially, sacerdotal) continence is forthrightly addressed. Folks who persist in treating celibacy questions as identical with continence questions (some to the point of not even acknowledging that continence questions exist) do so, I suggest, in plain disregard of the historical, canonical, and sacramental evidence to the contrary. More about that here.

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Diaconal categories and clerical celibacy (Chicago Studies)


 
Edward Peters, “Diaconal categories and clerical celibacy”, Chicago Studies 49 (2010) 110-116. 

[T]he diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy….With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state. It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact. Lumen gentium 29.


 

 

Clerical continence and clerical celibacy are, as I have taken great pains to make clear, distinct issues, but they obviously overlap in certain respects; eventually, questions about one will occasion questions about the other.

Because my recent postings on diaconal (and a fortiori presbyteral) continence might lead to a more systematic examination of how the ordination of tens of thousands of married men to the diaconate (and of scores of married men to the priesthood) is impacting wider questions of clerical discipline in the West, I take this opportunity to post, with the kind permission of the editors at Chicago Studies, a searchable PDF of an article I recently published there on this question, “Diaconal Categories and Clerical Celibacy”.

In the Chicago Studies article I make four main points.

1. After establishing that the adjectives “permanent” and “transitional” are poor indicators of diaconal identity, I demonstrate that, when these two apparently contrasting terms are applied to the diaconate, they give the mistaken impression that there are many more differences between the ‘two kinds of diaconates’ than really exist.

2. I suggest that the ordination of tens of thousands of married men to the diaconate (and of scores of married men to the priesthood) has occasioned a “crisis” (in the Greek sense of the word, as in, ‘arriving at a time for important decisions’) regarding the future of clerical celibacy in the Roman Church.

3. Next, assuming that the West desires to preserve and promote the gift of clerical celibacy, I offer five concrete suggestions for the reform of the diaconate that will reflect the Second Vatican Council’s esteem for it as a “permanent rank of the hierarchy” while respecting the Council’s openness to calling some married men to diaconal orders.

4. Finally, for the benefit of those who have not read my Studia Canonica article on clerical continence, I suggest some consequences that a renewed recognition of the obligation of perfect and perpetual continence among Western clergy, even married ones, might have for wider questions of clerical celibacy.

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“Abstinence, or sexual continence, is by no means impractical for a normal young man of average constitution, assiduous in intellectual and physical work and abstaining from artificial excitants”, adding, “The idea is current among young people that abstinence is something abnormal and impossible, and yet the many who observe it prove that chastity can be practiced without prejudice to health”. Dr. Perier points out the falsity of the notion of the imaginary dangers of sexual continence, and considers it a “physical, moral and mental safeguard to young men”. Rohleder considers as unscrupulous the advice of physicians who recommend sexual intercourse to young men. Chassaignac claims that the healthier the individual, the easier to practice complete abstinence; it is only the diseased and neurotic person who finds it difficult to do so. Professor Oesterling of Tubingen says, “one cannot repeat too often that abstinence and the most absolute purity are perfectly compatible with the laws of physiology and morality, and that sexual indulgence is not more justified by physiology and psychology than by morality and religion. Professor Beale of the Royal College of London says that “sexual abstinence has never yet hurt any man when it has been observed.” The gynecologist, Ribbing, says that he has known many young men who have lived in total continence without difficulty or injury. Clarke says that continence increases health and energy, while incontinence does the reverse. According to Surbled, “the evils of incontinence are well known and undisputed; those produced by continence are imaginary.” The great authority, Acton, says that the popular idea that abstinence causes the genital organs to atrophy and produces impotence is a grave error. “Chastity no more injures the body than the soul,” he says. The gynecologist Hegar, considers the “sexual necessity” myth an illusion, while Ribbing, another eminent gynecologist, points out the needs for sexual control and continence. The noted physiologist, Marshall, in his “Introduction to Sex Physiology”, points out the need for such restraint over the reproductive function and the sublimation of sex energy into higher cerebral forms of expression, as was the case with many intellectual geniuses of the past, who led continent lives. Dr. L. Robinowitch, a prominent American neurologist, says that “sexual continence is not only harmless but beneficial”.  – SCIENCE DISCOVERS THE PHYSIOLOGICAL VALUE OF CONTINENCE By Dr. R. W. Bernard, A.B., M.A., Ph.D.

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Bottom line: Some kinds of questions can be tabled pending further study, but the more that resolutions to derivative issues depend on the answers found to those prior questions, the more urgent becomes the need to face those fundamental questions directly. Understanding the value of continence is crucial to assessing the future of celibacy.

Dr. Edward Peters | September 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p25nov-DR

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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