Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Clergy and Sex
The following Canon has caused a great deal of fluttering in various hen coups on the net.
1983 CIC 277. § 1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.
§ 2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.
§ 3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.
The normal interpretation of "continence" in this context, for those vowed to to life long celibacy it is perpetual chastity, for those who clergy who are married it is that their relationship with their spouse is exclusive, even after death of a spouse, remarriage is not permitted. Continence for marriage is living married life according to the Church's teaching.
Married clergy are not expected to forgo the marriage bed.
The ancient discipline in most places seems to have been modelled on that of Jewish priests in the Old Testament. Those chosen to ascend to the altar were expected to refrain from intercourse with their wives. In the first millennium various councils and local synods reminded clergy that after ordination they were to either live apart from their wives or refrain from sexual intercourse.
In the second millennium by the twelfth century only vowed celibates were ordained in the Western Church, this seems to have been a slowly growing movement from below rather than an imposition from above as it is often pictured. In the East only celibates were ordained to the Episcopate but married priests were still ordained to the diaconate and priesthood Those who were married are regarded as inferior to monastic celibate clergy. However in the East there were numerous decrees stating that married clergy were to refrain from sexual intercourse on the days they officiated at the altar.
In the West the revival of the permanent Diaconate, for married men, after the Council and the admission of former non-Catholic married clergy to the priesthood, a concession first granted by Pius XII to certain Lutherans, seems to have been done in ignorance of the historic understanding of celibacy. Most of the Patristic studies of celibacy seems to have been done by men like Roman Cholij after these modern introductions, which is perhaps an interesting practical example of the development of doctrine.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake