Preface and Contents to Priestly Celibacy Today
by Fr Thomas McGovern
However, current discourse on this topic suggests that there is a confused understanding of the historical development of this charism in the Church, which inevitably leads to erroneous judgements and conclusions. There are also, it would appear, large gaps in the scriptural and theological appreciation of celibacy which result in a reductionist approach to it, causing people to see it primarily from a human and sociological perspective.
What I am attempting in this book is to try to present again the wisdom of the Church and the memory of a tradition about a particular aspect of the Catholic priesthood. Recovering this tradition is important if priests are going to have a sense of conviction about their commitment, and be able to offer reasons for the hope that they have for the future. They also need a sense of discrimination to recognise the shallowness and ideologica1 bias which characterise much of contemporary comment about celibacy. Indeed, Pope John Paul II refers to 'a systematic propaganda which is hostile to celibacy' and 'which finds support and complicity in some of the mass media'. 
A theological and historica1 study of celibacy explains many basic ideas about this discipline.
Still, this is never a substitute for the witness of celibacy as lived by priests who have been faithful to their
calling, both in times when they were revered for doing so, and at other times, as now, when perhaps they feel
they are regarded as freaks. The lives of such priests are the best advertisement for celibacy, and it is their
example, more than anything else, which will continue to inspire young men to respond to the Master's invitation.
In doing so, it will become clear that I draw heavily on John Paul II's teaching on celibacy as he has developed it over the twenty years of his pontificate. His clarity, theological penetration, and supernatural optimism when he speaks about this topic should be an inspiration for every priest.
As a result of researching and writing this book three fundamental ideas have crystallised in my mind. In the first place, to study priestly celibacy is, to paraphrase Newman, to be deep in history. And, without an awareness of the historical tradition related to celibacy, it is impossible to appreciate or understand it fully.
Secondly, it is not feasible to penetrate the meaning of this charism, or to justify it, without a deep appreciation of the virtue of chastity. Here, I am referring to a chastity, not in the diminished or anaemìc sense in which it is perceíved by a sensate culture, but to one which has all the vigour and freshness of a Christian virtue.
Finally, and at first sight paradoxically, only the person who grasps the greatness of the Christian vocation to marriage will be able fully to appreciate the call to priestly celibacy. The interdependence of these three ideas will be a recurring theme of the chapters ahead.
This volume is not meant to be an academic treatise about celibacy. It has a different objective.
Its purpose is to draw attention to some basic considerations related to the charism of celibacy which are frequently
absent from current discourse about it, and thus enable people come to a more balanced judgement regarding this
gift of the Spirit. It is also my hope that a fuller presentation of the supernatural richness of this commitment
will help to reinforce in priests their conviction and pride in the gift that is theirs. If it achieves this aim,
I will feel that this effort has been well worthwhile.
1. Addrcss, 27 Octobcr 1990. All the papal addresses referred to in thc text are available in thc English language weekly edition of Osservatore Romano, usually about one week after thc evcnt. Since these arc easily accessible, to avoid overloading the footnotes we will omit thc actual dates of publication.
2 Apostolic Exhortation, 25th March 1992, No. 29
PREFACE 9 INTRODUCTION 13 Church teaching on celibacy 14 Theological influences on priesthood 15 New interpretations of priesthood 17 Celibacy after Vatican II 19 Changing moral perspectives 20 Intellectual and cultura1 influences 21 Freedom and truth 22 Relativism 23 Scientism and utilitarianism 24 Individualism and democratisation 25 Privatising morality 26 Recovery 27 Renewal 30 1 A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE 32 Celibacy in the Latin Church 35 Council of Carthage 36 Decretals of Pope Siricius 37 Patristic evidence 39 Sixth-century legislation 41 Attempts at reform in the West from the seventh to the tenth centuries 42 The Gregorian reform 44 Developments leading up to the Council of Trent 47 Response to the Reformers 49 Council of Trent 50 From Trent to the present 54 Oriental Church legislation 55 Imperial laws 57 Council of Trullo (691) 58 Consequences of Trullo for Western canon law 64 The compulsory marriage of priests 65 Consequences of Trullo for the theology of priesthood 67 Temporary continence and the introduction of celibacy 68 2 SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATIONS 70 Old Testament attitudes 72 Jeremiah's celibacy 74 Virginity a misfortune 75 The nuptial mystery 75 Friend of the Bridegroom 76 Christ preaches on celibacy 77 Celibacy a turning point in salvation history79 Christ calls to celibacy 80 Celibacy and self-giving 81 Pauline teaching 82 Priesthood, celibacy and service 84 Levitica1 priesthood and continence 85 Cultic argument for celibacy 86 Marriage, continence and cult 87 Man of one wife: unius uxoris vir 89 A woman companion 92 Covenant and Scripture 93 Marriage as covenant 94 Covenanta1 dimension of celibacy 95 3 THEOLOGY OF CELIBACY 99 Christologica1 significance 100 Ecclesia1 considerations 102 Spousa1 love 104 Mary and Joseph 107 Spiritual paternity 108 Eschatologica1 and sa1vific meaning 111 Celibacy and marriage 112 Celibacy, freedom and faith 114 Celibacy and holiness 116 Theology of relationships with women 117 4 ANTHROPOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS 120 Development of a Christian anthropology 120 The nuptia1 meaning of the body 123 Old Testament teaching on chastity 124 Consequences of the Fall 126 Adultery of the heart 127 Chastity in the teaching of the New Testament 128 Chastity and the call to holiness 129 Modesty and chastity 130 Marriage and earthly life 131 Marriage in Ephesians 133 Old Testament references for Pauline analogy135 Conclusion 136 5 FORMATION FOR CELIBACY 139 Formation in chastity 141 Christian philosophy of sex education 142 Call to holiness 143 Supportive virtues 143 John Paul II and response to youth about chastity 144 Formation of seminarians in celibacy 145 Presuppositions for training in celibacy 147 Formation in human maturity 148 Affective maturity 149 Training in asceticism 151 Perseverance in vocation 152 Celibacy - formation in freedom 153 Freedom and conversion 156 Freedom and adoration 157 Mary and freedom 158 6 CELIBACY A WAY TO HOLINESS 160 Vocation to sanctity 160 Ascetica1 formation for celibacy 161 Prayer life 162 Preservation of chastity 165 Celibacy and devotion to our Lady 166 Spiritua1 guidance 167 Objective self-knowledge 168 Priestly fraternity 171 Guard of heart 173 Practical considerations 175 Pastora1 relationship 176 Celibacy and marriage - mutual relationship 178 The Cross in the life of the priest 180 Mortification 181 Purity of Christ 182 7 OBJECTIONS TO CELIBACY 185 Celibacy not a datum of Revelation 185 Rights of the individual 186 Shortage ofpriests 187 North American experience 188 Increase in vocations 189 Different caste 191 Celibacy as isolation 193 Affective needs 194 Priest and people 195 Celibacy the price of priesthood 197 Persona1 responsibility 198 Lack of formation 198 Formation in fidelity 199 Frustrations 201 Media presentation of celibacy 202 Celibacy and anthropology 205 8 WITNESSES AND TESTIMONIES TO CELIBACY 207 Newman and celibacy 207 Bishop Alvaro del Portillo 212 Mother Teresa of Calcutta 215 Disadvantages of a married clergy 217 Under the Chinese Communists 218 The lost Christians of Nagasaki 220 Love for Christ 221 John Paul II on celibacy 222 EPILOGUE 224 BIBLIOGRAPHY 235 INDEX 243
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