Monday, June 11, 2018

Adult Formation, June 5 -- Marriage and Celibacy (Series on Marriage, Part 5 of 6)

Objectives of Session 5 – Marriage and Celibacy
1) To know the key teachings of our Lord about virginity
2) To appreciate the Church’s magisterial teachings about celibacy
3) To be able to defend the Church’s discipline of clerical celibacy

Listen online [here]!


Adult Faith Formation:
Marriage, In Scripture and in the Church
Session 5 – Marriage and Celibacy

I. Outline of Sessions:
1. May 1 – Introduction to marriage, in nature and in the Church
2. May 8 – Marriage and family life
3. May 22 – Marriage in Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New
4. May 29 – Matrimonial Consent and Indissolubility
5. June 5 – Celibacy and Marriage
6. June 12 – Modern objections to the Church’s teaching, Review

II. Review of Last Week – Consent and Indissolubility
A. Matrimonial Consent
B. The four “marriage scenarios”: Two non-baptized, baptized and non-baptized, ratified not consummated, ratified and consummated
C. Intrinsic and extrinsic (in)dissolubility
D. Annulments

III. Virginity in the New Testament
            Virginity as a prophetic sign of the Kingdom of God

IV. The preeminence of celibacy in the life of the Church
A. The teaching of Trent
B. The teaching of the Popes
C. The excellence of marriage and the greater excellence of celibacy

V. The Celibate Priesthood, the history of Clerical Continence
A. Celibacy and Continence
B. The early Church
C. The current Code of Canon Law
D. Losing clerical celibacy and losing the preeminence of virginity


Virginity in the New Testament
“Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other:

“Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.” (CCC 1620)

Marriage is good, even though celibacy is an higher vocation.

And yet, marriage is the common theme by which the union of Christ and his Church is expressed – even virginity is understood in “matrimonial language” (being wed to Christ or to the Church).

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that clerics constituted in sacred orders, or Regulars, who have solemnly professed chastity, are able to contract marriage, and that being contracted it is valid, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law, or vow; and that the contrary is no thing else than to condemn marriage; and, that all who do not feel that they have the gift of chastity, even though they have made a vow thereof, may contract marriage; let him be anathema: seeing that God refuses not that gift to those who ask for it rightly, neither does He suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

Cornelius a Lapide on Matthew 19:12

For the kingdom of Heaven’s sake, that by continence they may merit it. So Origen, Hilary, Chrysostom, Euthymius, and S. Augustine (de Virgin. cap. 23). Falsely, therefore, do the heretics expound for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake to mean for the sake of preaching. As though it meant, there are some who abstain from marriage that they may be more free to preach the Gospel, or that they may be free from the anxieties which matrimony brings with it. For continence is not only to be praised and desired for such reasons as those, but for its own sake; because it is a great virtue, and because the victory over himself, by which a man overcomes lust, raises his mind to meditate upon and follow after heavenly things. Wherefore chastity makes men angels.

He that is able, &c. Arabic, He that is able to carry it, let him carry it. Note here the evangelical counsel of celibacy, proposed, yea counselled, by Christ to all men, though not commanded. For these words, he that is able, &c., are those of one exhorting and animating to celibacy, say SS. Jerome and Chrysostom. Moreover, it is signified that as Christ gives this counsel, it is in our power to fulfil it, if we will invoke the grace of God, and co-operate with grace. Nor does the expression he that is able do away with the force of this; for all that this means is, that continence is a difficult thing. And he who is willing to put constraint upon himself, generously to withstand lust, to mount up to the lofty pinnacle of continence; let such an one embrace the same, let him receive it. All the faithful, then, have the power of continence, not proximate, but remote. So the Fathers already cited on verse 11. Hear S. Chrysostom, speaking in the name of all: “All, therefore, cannot receive it, because all do not wish. The palm is set before them: he who desires glory does not think of the labour. No one would conquer if all were afraid of danger.” Hear, too, S. Jerome (lib. 1, cont. Jovinian). “The master of the games proposes the reward. He invites to the course. He holds in His hand the prize of virginity. He points to the most pure fountain, and chants, Whoso thirsteth, let him come unto Me and drink. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

Married priests, ritual purity, and priestly celibacy
While there is a good deal of reflection (some good, most bad) in the secular media, as well as in Catholic media, on the value and role of priestly celibacy in the Church, there is yet very little theological consideration of the topic.
Nearly every argument for or against priestly celibacy is related either to practical concerns (i.e. “we will get more priests,” or “they will not have time to care for family and parish”) or to devotional thoughts (i.e. “marriage is given by God to all,” or “an undivided heart”). Now, there is certainly something to be said for both practical and devotional points, but we must first consider something of the theology behind celibacy if we are to have any hope of discussing the topic intelligently.
Interestingly, the question of clerical continence for married priests and deacons may be of great aid in helping us to consider the doctrine behind the discipline of priestly celibacy.

Continence and Celibacy
To be clear on our terms:
“Celibacy” refers to the state of remaining unmarried by a vow or promise, or at least by an intentional and perpetual commitment.
“Continence” entails abstaining from sexual intimacy, even within married life. By “continence,” we refer to the practice of refraining from any sexual pleasures, even those which may be legitimate.
For a celibate, to be chaste requires being entirely continent. However, it is important to realize that even a married couple could be continent by refraining from the conjugal act and all sexual intimacies – living “as brother and sister.”
In this article, I want to discuss the question of clerical continence primarily, and only make a brief comment about clerical celibacy at the end.

Clerical continence for married priests
From the Code of Canon Law:
“Can. 277 §1 Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy. Celibacy is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbour.”

Dr. Ed Peters has offered extensive commentary on this canon, which can be found at his blog [here]. It is quite clear that, at least on the most obvious reading of this canon, all clerics (married deacons and priests included) are bound to observe perfect and perpetual continence.
It is no small thing that, as this canon was being inserted into the Code, any exception for married clerics was specifically rejected.
Though not interpreted in this most obvious way by (practically) anyone of any authority in the Church, the Law is strikingly affirmative of clerical continence even for married priests and deacons.

It is quite likely that, in the early Church, the married men who were chosen as priests lived perpetual continence. While I will not enter into the scholarship, I simply point to the superb work by Cardinal Stickler, The Case for Clerical Celibacy.
In other words, though it is true that many priests in the early Church were married, it is also true that there was an equally ancient discipline according to which married priests refrained from any sexual intimacy.
Thus, both by the current Law of the Church, and by the ancient tradition, there is much to be said for clerical continence even among the married clergy.

Magisterial teaching on the primacy of celibacy
Because I know that there are some who will object to statements like “celibacy is a higher calling that married life” or “consecrated virginity is a more perfect vocation than marriage,” I offer magisterial statements to the same effect:

Pope John Paul II , Vita Consecrata, no. 32: “As a way of showing forth the Church's holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ's own way of life, has an objective superiority. Precisely for this reason, it is an especially rich manifestation of Gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church's purpose, which is the sanctification of humanity. The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery,[62] will be achieved and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, but will be like the angels of God (cf. Mt. 22:30)”

Pope Pius XII, Sacra Virginitas, no. 32: “This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, as we have already said, revealed by our Divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy council of Trent, and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church."

Council of Trent, pg. 225: "If anyone saith that the marriage state is to be preferred before the state of virginity, let him be anathema." [...]  "writing to the Corinthians, [Paul] says: I would that all men were even as myself;  that is, that all embrace the virtue of continence...A life of continence is to be desired by all.”


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