The following unsigned editorial appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
The issue of clerical celibacy is once again in the news when Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ recent choice for the all-important position of Secretary of State, made headlines when he said celibacy represented a discipline, and not a dogma, of the church.
Nothing he said was revolutionary, nor merited the headlines suggesting the church was ready to reject the tradition of a celibate clergy.
What the church teaches about celibacy comes from the words of Jesus himself. Some are called to renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:12). Like Christ who was unmarried, those promised to celibacy live in anticipation of heaven where we are not married or given in marriage (Mt. 22:30).
The value of celibacy as the great sign of heaven lived out in a service of love is a gift to the church. Its special connection and value for priesthood should be unchangeable.
As seminarians will tell you, although they recognize the gift of marriage, they don’t desire to be married priests. Very much part of their calling is to leave everything in service to God’s people.
It is true that from the beginning the church has ordained some married men. That continues today in the Eastern Catholic Churches as well as the some former Anglicans received into the church. This, however, should in no way undermine the special gift of a celibate clergy.
The Second Vatican Council rightly explained: “This holy synod asks not only priests but all the faithful that they might receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts and ask of God that he will always bestow this gift upon his church.”
Despite reports to the contrary, celibacy is here to stay. As Vatican II says, it should be received as a precious gift.
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