Ed Peters has posted again on clerical continence and celibacy, you can read what he has to say for yourself here.
I am willing to concede that we are in a bit of mess over celibacy both canonically but also more significantly spiritually and we are only just beginning to address it. It is not that I imagine every other priest is breaking his promise, if he is a secular and vow if he is a religious and doing those things St Paul tells us we should not even speak about. I mean that we have lost sight of any distinction between celibacy and comfortable bachelorhood.
It has become unpopular to see celibacy as a higher way of living than marriage, despite the fact that this is what the Gospels plainly teach, providing of course it is for the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is very easy when we lose a sense of the supernatural to see celibacy merely in terms of a celibate priest being cheaper to keep and easier to move than one who is married, or equally cynically counting as a blessing that celibacy gives him the advantage of not being prone to divorce or having children that might disgrace his vocation.
Is it just me or do other priests see a breakdown over the last ten years in that fundamental relationship of father and son that is supposed to exist between a bishop and his priests since the tsunami of abuse was revealed in the Church. Bishops seem increasingly to see themselves as corporate executives and priests somehow as employees who can cause problems and even lead their diocese down the road of bankruptcy
Augustine used to taunt hermits by shouting at them, "Whose feet will wash in your hermitage?" The Church's assumption is that it is not good for a man to live alone, it saw celibacy as an exchange of a natural family for a supernatural one, but because we are Catholics, it was a supernatural one expressed in sacramental terms of a relationship with the Church. For women it was expressed in such terms such as "Bride of Christ", for Bishops the receiving of a ring, both speak of a mystical marriage, terms such as Father, Brother, Sister, Mother speak of a familial relationship. Now, these terms are dropped or used only formally, substituted by, "Call me N", I can't help think this this an indication of the rejection of familial ties which are part of the mystery of the Church. I have sympathy with bishops who are uneasy about handing over criminal sons to the law as anyone would about a father handing over his son, it should never be easy, or a matter of mere procedure but should cause great pain.
For many priests and religious celibacy can become a very lonely vacuum, filled more often by self gratification than by mistresses or lovers. The ancient intention was that it should be filled with Christ. The vacuum was deliberately designed to create a hunger for Christ but with a spirituality fed by a liturgy and theology of Christ and his Church that is essentially horizontal rather than vertical, it can so easily be filled with the things of this world, the very antithesis of Christ, what Cardinal Biffi would describe as anti-Christ.
Pope Benedict's attempts at liturgical renewal, are important in themselves but they are also aimed at refocusing the priesthood on God and worship, as was the Year for Priests. The community, the horizontal, is important but priests and religious are not social workers or even primarily pastoral workers. Chrysostom tells us, somewhere, that the role of the priest is to offer the Holy Sacrifice and when he is not doing that he should be preparing the sacrifice. The burden of saving a single soul is too much for most people, indeed it is blasphemous to think anyone can, Christ is the Saviour, the role of the Church and its members simply to co-operate with grace. It is not about us, it is about Him.
has been exploring the Diaconate over the past few days in a fascinating series of posts, he suggests that there has been a radical change in our view, seeing diakonia in terms of good works rather than in terms of cult and the Eucharist. The same suggestions could of course apply to the priesthood. So often it is stated that celibacy is "merely
a discipline" of the Church it is not of its essence but considering the the Lord's own celibacy, Our Lady's perpetual virginity, St Joseph's chaste relationship with her, St Paul's wish that the Corinthians might remain unmarried like him, not to mention the Lord's own words about "eunuch's for the sake of the Kingdom", we do celibacy and celibates a grave disservice by downplaying it. For though it is not an absolutely necessary part of the priesthood, it is seems to be of the essence of Christianity, of preferring nothing to Christ, of the proclamation that Christ is all in all and fulfils all our needs.