In these days of turmoil within the Roman Catholic Church – on whether longtime doctrine should stand, or priests should remain celibate, or obedience should extend to certain apostate shepherds, or select traditions should be “relaxed” or set aside – there’s a simple but often overlooked reality in the Holy Family.
“When the Son of God came into the world on Christmas night, He surrounded His Incarnation with the aura of chastity,” the late Fr. John Hardon stated. “His mother, He made sure, would miraculously conceive Him without carnal intercourse. She would be a virgin before birth, in birth, and after birth.” He made sure He was brought up in the virginal family of Mary and Joseph. St. Joseph, Christ’s foster father, was legitimately wed to Mary, yet remained her “most chaste spouse” throughout their marriage. We even recite those words in the Litany to St. Joseph.
Christ was a virgin during His stay on earth, and He never married. During His public life, He showed special affection for pure souls, especially John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, “the beloved Apostle.”
Huh? What a square notion in today’s sexually corrupt culture. I’ve heard ‘progressive’ priests and deacons try to mitigate truths on the Holy Family and others in the Gospels and Scriptures, in homilies and parish classes, as if they were embarrassed by them. That stirs confusion and weakens faith for sure.
Church history shows there is a clear connection between upholding the traditional states of virginity and celibacy among priests, and purity of doctrine. Priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes are our ‘teaching doctors’ of the Church. If they violate the vows of their vocation, flaunt decadence, or spread disavowing opinions, they in essence become unclean in their doctrine and lose holy credibility before us all.
Surprisingly in the 16th century, it was the great unwillingness of so many priests to remain celibate that tilted the pressure in favor of Protestantism – the mortal split from Catholicism that divided the flock. Though there were other issues as well that splintered Catholic unity, the central issue was really priestly celibacy.
And what value is there in Catholic priests remaining celibate?
If a priest is to be like Christ – in persona Christi
–if he is to realistically represent the Savior, be an authentic teacher to the people, administer sacraments and counsel in Confession, and offer pure sacrifice at Mass, isn’t it fitting that he, like his Master, should remain virtuously aligned with God – in and out of season? Celibacy isn’t a ‘choice’ or something a priest simply endures. It is a gift from God – a charism – for men called to Holy Orders, in perfect imitation of the life and ministry of Christ.
Christ Himself endorsed priestly celibacy, saying that there are “…those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom,” and He added that “not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given” (Mt 19:12).
Celibacy is a great gift to Christ’s chosen priests, one worth preserving for the High Priest and His kingdom.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.