Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cardinal Piacenza's Address to Priestly Celibacy Congress

Cardinal Piacenza the recently appointed head of the Congregation for the Clergy recently addressed a congress on priestly celibacy, Zenit carries his speech, which deals with the Magisterial statements of recent Popes, in its entirety here.

He speaks of the pronouncements of the Council of Elvira and the Second Council of Carthage regarding celibacy as "dogmatic pronouncements".

He also specifically denounces the idea that celibacy is merely "ecclesiastical law", explaining that celibacy is "an intrinsic demand of the priesthood and of the configuration to Christ that the sacrament determines."
thanks to Rorate

One of the questions that has been buzzing around in my head for sometime is: how does the Church make celibacy a real vocational choice for all Catholics, without them either becoming a priest or a religious?

I don't want to see celibacy becoming optional for priests of the Latin Rite but I want to see it becoming a real possibility for the laity.

18 comments:

Victor said...

Of course there are the consecrated virgins - I am not sure whether they count as religious per se. I never understood why there is no possibility for males to be consecrated to virginhood though...

grasshopper said...

Cardinal Piacenza writes:

[Celibacy] is a law only because it is an intrinsic demand of the priesthood and of the configuration to Christ that the sacrament determines.

In the same address, he quotes Pope Benedict XVI:

While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches, there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate.

I do not understand how one can hold Cardinal Piacenza's view while agreeing with Pope Benedict. If celibacy is really "an intrinsic demand of the priesthood", how can we respect the different practice and tradition of the Eastern clergy in this matter? Patristic writings suggest that all of the apostles were married except for St John. Were they lacking in something intrinsic to the priesthood?

Anagnostis said...

Well, well...

As feared, momentum seems to have passed the critical point and, barring some dramatic intervention, another "dogmatic development" is being minted before our eyes.

I watch in utter dismay.

Deacon David said...

I thought the address was very good in explaining and defending the value and significance of celibacy for priests upheld in the Roman Church's tradition. But it seemed to me that His Excellency's conclusions exceeded what he had demonstrated. How can he say, e.g., that celibacy is "intrinsic" to the presbyterate when (a) the Magisterium has taught otherwise (in Sac. Cael. and elsewhere) and (b) several branches of the Catholic Church, and now also the Roman Church in very narrowly defined circumstances, ordain married men to the priesthood? And to push his central points a little further, if priests must or ought be celibate, what does the fact of a married diaconate imply about their participation in the one Priesthood of DNIC?

Fr William R Young said...

There is a distinction between celbacy and continence. See the blog In the Light of the Law.

Gregorius said...

Anag.

Wouldn't Orthodox, both those in Communion with Rome and those not, say that celibacy of Bishops was a dogma?

Isn't there a distinction between married and celibate Orthodox clergy? Would not Orthodox Christians say that was of Dominical origin?

I think it is a shame that an Orthodox Christian is so sneering towards the West rather than trying to see unity in diversity. A common origin to something we both hold holy.

Asceticism, of which sexual continence is an important part, is e4vidently an important part of the Gospel proclamation.

grasshopper said...

Anagnostis,

I've pointed out why Cardinal Piacenza's claims seem flawed, and suspect others will do the same in the coming days. It should be noted that a cardinal's address is not a dogmatic definition, though I appreciate that those in the Eastern Orthodox communities don't have the same clear criteria for determining what is and isn't dogma. "Given your ecclesiology, how would you know that a contested council was valid?" remains an awkward question for historically-aware members of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Benedictus said...

Ah, Gregorius, I know the Convertodox all too well. I used to be one myself so I understand the M.O. (I remain Orthodox though). The irrational resentment is just palpable.

The cheap pot-shot notwithstanding, it's pretty clear that the Cardinal's viewpoint is novel and supported by a narrow group of neo-conservatives in the Latin Church.

Neither the Tradition (both East and West) nor the current Magisterium support it. The Pope himself certainly doesn't buy it.

B flat said...

Gregorius, I for one would definitely deny that celibacy for bishops is a dogma. I know of no dogmatic pronouncement to that effect. I don't think one can argue from Canon Law that this is dogma. It is an invariable practice of the Orthodox Church to appoint and consecrate a bishop from the ranks of monastics; if he is a widowed priest, he first receives monastic tonsure. This makes it no more dogma, than the general (and for centuries invariable) practice in the Roman Catholic Church to only ordain celibate (or widowed) celibate males to the priesthood.

An interesting example of early practice is St Gregory of Nazianzen, whose son, (also Saint) Gregory was his auxiliary for a time, and later became archbishop of Constantinople. This son is known as St Gregory the Theologian in the East, and (confusingly, because of his overlooked father) as St Gregory of Nazianzen in the West, and is a foremost Father (Doctor) of the Church.

I would agree with the misgivings of Anagnostes, although I think he is premature in his alarm.
This question of celibacy and priesthood is ideal for discussion with all the Eastern Churches, who preserve the priesthood in its Catholic understanding. It would be a pity if Rome developed its ancient practice into doctrine which deepened the divide between East and West. A dispassionate, but learned and spiritually mature colloquium could shed much light and bring enrichment to all sides.

Mercury said...

Fr. Blake, I really do believe in priestly celibacy, and your post from last week explains the reasons why far better that I could. But hasn't the rationale for it changed, or at least developed? For instance the defenders of celibacy at the time of the council of Elvira probably shared views not unlike those of St. Jerome and Pope Siricus. And when one reads the defenders of celibacy in the Church's history, such as Gregory the Great, Peter Damian, Bridget of Sweden, etc they all imply or directly state that one reason is that sex is something sordid and impure and unbecoming of a minister of God.

I do not pretend to believe for a moment the maxim floated around "the church has always upheld the goodness of sex and marriage". Any look in a history book, or reading of those saints will show that many of then hated, hated sexuality. Even the married were expected to do it as little as possible, and then not to enjoy it. And for many of them, procreative intent (not openness to life) was the only thing that "excused" it. Even those who defended it merely said it was not a sin, but they'd have been appalled at the idea that sex could be something spiritually beneficial for married people, which is undeniably taught today.

Obviously, such views are now condemned by the Church, or at least seem to be. But then how do we deal with the fact that such views contributed to the statements of the Councils and of certain Church Fathers? I'm not knocking the Church or those saints, I'm just asking how do we deal with a fundamental disconnect between now and then on the issue of sexuality?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Mercury,
I agree, there has definitely been a development here.

I do not know if Orthodoxy still teaches about sexual relations from an ancient non-developmental perspective.
I did know of an Orthodox priest who was also a Freudian analyst who had a rather sour view of fallen human nature.

Anagnostis said...

Wouldn't Orthodox, both those in Communion with Rome and those not, say that celibacy of Bishops was a dogma?

No.

Isn't there a distinction between married and celibate Orthodox clergy? Would not Orthodox Christians say that was of Dominical origin?

No

I think it is a shame that an Orthodox Christian is so sneering towards the West rather than trying to see unity in diversity. A common origin to something we both hold holy.

Forgive me. I am not sneering, at any level. I am expressing "dismay", because, like most people of good will, I continue to hope for unity in the Faith, as delivered once and for all. These "developments", strike at that hope, at a fundamental level, in exactly the same way as the Anglican decision to ordain women. Who is sinning against unity? Those who unilaterally pretend to discern and impose "developments" or those who express "dismay"? As for the "Orthodox" in communion with Rome, I hope in the interests of all of us that they're able to generate some counter-momentum, before it's too late. I'm not holding my breath, though. It's beginning to look like 1870 all over again, and I feel desperately sorry for those Uniats who'll be placed in an absolutely impossible position.

Asceticism, of which sexual continence is an important part, is e4vidently an important part of the Gospel proclamation.

May I refer you to my comments on an earlier thread?

"I suspect the “doctrinal/disciplinary” duality is forcing many to think about the problem in an artificial way, and driving them to gravely mistaken conclusions. Clerical celibacy has been under attack for many years on the basis of an agenda broadly identifiable as “liberal” which ascribes little or no importance to ascetical struggle, and for which celibacy represents nothing more than a burdensome discipline, useful principally to those exercising ecclesiastical power. Unfortunately this tendency is not confronted in the Latin Church today by any opposing, vigorous apprehension of the ascetical life, which has largely faded from the consciousness of Western Christianity. Instead, there arises this movement seeking to defend and re-establish clerical celibacy on an “ontological” basis, as something inseparable from the proper functioning and essential character of ordained ministry per se.

Ascetical struggle, of which consecrated celibacy/virginity is one radical expression, is, on the contrary, “ontologically”, essentially, part of the Christian vocation, per se. It is not, and never was in the wider Tradition, something considered “ontologically” quintessential to the ordained ministry; it has nothing especially to do with it per se. Consecrated singleness is identified as mon-astic, not clerical."

parepidemos said...

Cardinal Piacenza is quite wrong to say that celibacy is an "...intrinsic demand of the priesthood..."

Presbyterorum Ordinis, which deals with the Presbyerate in the Latin Rite, praises celibacy highly, but also states that: "...it is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches."

One would, rightly, expect the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy to express Church teaching on such an important occasion; he should certainly not have used the term 'dogma' so lightly. I hope that B16 has a word with the good cardinal.

Anagnostis said...

Benedictus

My dismay is perfectly genuine. It's neither the expression of an "MO", nor, I trust, a "cheap pot-shot". I'm too long in the tooth for "convertitis" and I try very hard never to do those.

Anagnostis said...

Ad hominem remarks are hardly worth responding to; I feel compelled nevertheless to insist that I continue to hold my former communion in respect and affection. We parted company on principle, and I'm aware of no cause whatsoever for "resentment". Ironically, I was chrismated in Orthodoxy as "Benedictus" out of loyalty to my Latin patron saint.

Maxwell said...

Benedictus:

Benedict XVI made a comment in a speech last year I believe, about priests in the true sense are not married to a woman. That their sheperdiness or pastor-ness was diminished by being married to a woman.

I must say I don't understand why Orthodox take offense at the internal affairs of the RCC. It perhaps says more about you that you regard anything the cardinal said as a cheap shot than the value of what he said. Examine thyself.

Anagnostis said...

Maxwell,

I think it was me who was being accused of taking a "cheap shot", not the Cardinal. Perhaps I've confused matters by mentioning that I share the name "Benedictus" with my accuser.

Be that as it may, it's not a question of taking offense, but of noting with "dismay" a development that will set any prospect of unity at an even greater remove, and precipitate an agonising crisis of conscience for millions of Eastern-rite Catholics. My dismay is modified only by the expectation that many of these will be compelled thereby to reassess their situation.

Lavinia Tai said...

I don't want to see celibacy becoming optional for priests of the Latin rite either. I don't want to have a priest who enjoys premarital sex on the beach (whilst the paparazzis are busy taking photos) preaching to me about Jesus in the Church. Ughh! What an ugly thing! In that case,I might as well stay at home and preach to myself.