Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clerical Continence: The Requirement for Worship

The video below from RomeReports highlights a recent conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, at which the topic of discussion was the apostolic roots of clerical continence and celibacy.

The key here is that, even when clerics were married (like many of the Apostles, for example), they remained continent (i.e. they abstained from sexual relations) after ordination. This discipline still pertains today, according to Canon 277 of the Code of Canon Law, as leading canonists Dr. Edward Peters and Fr. Brian van Hove, S.J. have recently shown. Peters's article in Studia Canonica is particularly helpful in addressing this matter in a way that is both theological and pastoral.


The reason for the discipline of continence for sacred ministers has to do with the long-standing Judeo-Christian connection between abstinence from sexual relations and the offering of sacrifice. Because the one who offers sacrifice (and those who assist him - like the deacon) speaks for the whole community before God, he must be free of any exclusivity in his relations. He is not just for his wife, but is for the whole community. This is why he abstains from sexual relations, even if he is married. The higher calling to worship demands that he sacrifice the great good of marital intimacy.

This is, of course, no slur against marriage or the marital act. Rather, it is a recognition that, with sacred ordination, this man has been re-configured and totally consecrated as a public person to the duty of public worship. He is now completely a "man for others," as Pope John Paul II often said. For this reason, he gives up the great good of marital intimacy so as to be able to stand before God on behalf of the whole community.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thanks Iosephe!

Christus Via Est said...

Is this only in the Roman Rite or do the Eastern Rites practice continence, too?

Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.