Opinion: Cardinal O'Brien, Chaste Celibacy, Chaste Marriage and Clerical Service
Clerical celibacy chosen for the Kingdom of Heaven and suited to the priesthood is to be greatly esteemed everywhere
Cardinal Keith O'Brien was not the right man to raise the issues which a full, historic and proper discussion of the mandatory nature of this ancient and revered discipline of mandatory clerical celibacy for priests deserves.Given the challenges Christ's Church faces, and the necessary purification which she is undergoing, I doubt the question the question of mandatory celibacy in the Latin or Western Catholic Church is high on the agenda.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien was not the right man to raise the issues which a full, historic and proper discussion of the mandatory nature of this ancient and revered discipline of mandatory clerical celibacy for priests deserves.
EDINBURH, Scotland (Catholic Online) - Pope Benedict XVI's resignation of his office and the call for a papal conclave where his successor will be elected have brought a myriad of press reports, opinion pieces and editorials concerning the Catholic Church. Among the media's preoccupations is an old one, clerical celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church.
The most recent venture into that matter involved an interview by the BBC with Cardinal Keith O'Brien. I originally used that article to weigh in on the issue it raised, whether the Latin or Western Catholic Church practice regarding mandatory celbiacy among the men it calls to the order of priest might ever be relaxed to allow both celibate and married candidates in the discernment process.
Sadly, within a day, allegations regarding Cardinal O'Briens allegedly immoral behavior some thirty years ago emerged. I do not know the Cardinal. So, as I do with all thosewho are in ordered service to the Lord and His Catholic Church, especially Bishops, I presumed the best about him.
Further, given his recent strong defense of marriage as between only one man and one woman, I wondered whether he was being singled out by some who seek to remake the Church into their own image. There is no doubt that there are those - both within the contemporary culture and within the Catholic Church - who seek to argue that homosexual practice be given a moral and legal equivalence with true marriage and the family and society founded upon it.
Next, an announcement was made that the Cardinal denied the allegations and had sought legal counsel. My hopes continued. Finally, came the news on Monday February 25, 2013 that the Cardinal had sumitted his resignation. The timing was certainly of interest. My prayers are with him, with those making the allegations, and with the Church, and perhaps civil tribunal, which must judge them. These are trying times.
The Cardinal indicated he submitted his resignation in accordance with the requirements of his office on his 75th birthday, February 18, 2013 and that it was only accepted by the Holy Father on Monday Feb. 25, 2013. Of course, the details surrounding these allegations and this entire incident cast a cloud on his comments to the BBC. This turn of events, along with what I presumed was his inarticulate expression of his position, also renders him a less than helpful proponent of the issue.
However, I believe that the issue still merits discussion. The ancient practice of choosing celibate or married men for priestly ordination is still the norm in the Eastern Catholic Churches (Byzantine). The decision for marriage or consecrated celibacy is made prior to the first clerical ordination to the diaconate. Both married and celibate men can then be considered for ordination to the priesthood from the ranks of deacons. Bishops are always celibate and monastic. Even in the instances of married men ordained, as deacons or priests, those ordained clerics pledge not to remarry should their spouse die.
Rather than rely on one of the many secondary scholarly sources which surround the discussion of this matter - both for an against - I undergird my claim with a reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It should settle the truth of the observation for most, except perhaps a few traditionalist brethren who simply do not like the practice and may still be suspect of the Catechism. These paragraphs are taken from the treatment of Holy orders in Article Six of the Official Catechism of the Catholic Church. I commend this entire section to all who want to understand the issues surrounding the gift of ordained service to the whole Church.
The Catechism text contains important footnotes to sources of authority, drawn from the Scriptures and the Sacred tradition, which are well worth studying. Remember, if you want to know what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches, go first to the Scriptures and to the Catechism. In an age which reflects a decreasing respect for the Church, this task is essential! In addition, even in the ranks of those who are faithful Catholics, opinions can often be confused with official teachings of the Church.Here are the words of the Catechism:
"Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination." The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. ...
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