Priestly celibacy, Pope Benedict XVI recently told a gathering of priests, as reported by the Italian journalist Sandro Magister,
is an anticipation “of the world of the resurrection.” It is the sign “that God exists, that God is part of my life, that I can base my life on Christ, on the future life.”
For this reason he continued celibacy “is a great scandal.” Not only for today’s world, “in which God has no place.” But for Christianity itself, in which “God’s future is no longer considered, and the now of this world alone seems sufficient.”
In The Pope “Rethinks” Clerical Celibacy. In Order to Reinforce It , Magister argues that the pope “connect[s]the celibacy of the clergy with the ‘priority’ of leading men to God,” quoting parts of his address to the Roman curia in December 2006 as well as his recent remarks to the priests. In his answer to the priest’s question, Benedict touched on the secular criticism of the idea:
In a certain sense, this permanent criticism of celibacy can be surprising, at a time in which not getting married is becoming increasingly fashionable. But this not getting married is something totally, fundamentally different from celibacy, because not getting married is based on the desire to live only for oneself, not to accept any definitive bond, to have life at every moment in full autonomy, to decide at every moment what to do, what to take from life; and therefore a “no” to commitment, a “no” to definitiveness, a having life only for oneself.
While celibacy is precisely the opposite: it is a definitive “yes,” it is allowing ourselves to be taken in hand by God, giving ourselves into the hands of the Lord, into his “I,” and therefore it is an act of fidelity and trust, an act that the fidelity of marriage also supposes; it is the exact opposite of this “no,” of this autonomy that does not want to be obligated, that does not want to enter into a bond; it is precisely the definitive “yes” that supposes, that confirms the definitive “yes” of marriage.
And this marriage is the biblical form, the natural form of being man and woman, the foundation of the great Christian culture, of the great cultures of the world. And if this disappears, the root of our culture will be destroyed.
The column also includes his answers to questions on the nature of “scientific theology” and the decline in vocations to the priesthood.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?