Opinion: Cardinal O'Brien, Chaste Celibacy, Chaste Marriage and Clerical Service
"No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift. "
"All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord," they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the
Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God."
"In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry." (CCC #1577 - 1579)
Now, to another aspect of this topic which some Catholics do not know, there are already married clerics in the Western or Latin Rite Catholic Church. First, there are married clerics in the Order of Deacons. The restoration of the Order was promoted by the Second Vatican Council. Its ranks are open to both married and celibate men. Remember, married men become clerics when they are ordained as deacons. They are no longer laymen. Thus the oxymoron "lay deacons" reflects a lack of good teaching and is just plain wrong.
The adjective permanent, often used to describe married deacons, does not change the nature of the ordination or what is sacramentally conferred with the imposition of the Bishops hands on the ordinand. A deacon is a deacon. Rather, it denotes the intention of the deacon to remain in that rank of ordered service. A transitional deacon intends to be considered for ordination to the priesthood.
Second, we have a growing body of married men who have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood. For these men the discipline of celibacy was dispensed by the Church prior to ordination. Most come from other Christian communities. The most visible and fastest growing of these priests are coming to us as a gift, through the Ordinariates established for groups of former Anglicans coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Sadly, many Press reports, opinion pieces and editorials often pose the question this way, "Should priests be allowed to marry?" That reveals either a complete misunderstanding of the issues and the history or an agenda. The real issue is whether already married men should be allowed to discern a vocation to the priesthood and, if chosen by the Church, to be ordained?
Consecrated celibacy is a prophetic sign and a gift to the whole Church which was instituted and lived by Jesus, demonstrated in the lives of many of the Apostles, confirmed in the earliest witness of the ancient Church and confirmed in the unbroken tradition of the Church. (See, e.g., Matt. 19:12)
Consecrated Christian marriage is also a prophetic sign and a gift to the whole Church, especially in an age which is so preoccupied with rejecting marriage at its own peril and replacing it with profane counterfeits. At the foundation of both chaste, consecrated celibacy and chaste, sacramental marriage is a call to live the nuptial or spousal mystery in which they both participate.
The consecrated celibate does so in an immediate and prophetic way, while the married man does so in a mediated way, through his chaste love with one woman and the couple's openness to life. Both responses have a prophetic dimension as well as a pastoral one. After all, when love is perfected and complete in the Resurrection there will be no marriage.
The teaching of Jesus on this is quite clear. In heaven there will be no marriage. (See, e.g, Mt. 22:30, Mk. 12:25) We will all be married to the Lamb and live in the eternal communion of Trinitarian Love where all love is completed and perfected. (See, Rev 19:7-10)
To use an old cliché some of my best friends are priests, both celibate and married. They are living their vocation to the priesthood with dignity and holiness. Within that community of celibate and married priests, there are different expressions in the one priesthood of ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: celibacy, mandatory celibacy, chastity, chaste marriage, priesthood, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, married clerics, ordinariate, byzantine, married priests, Deacon Keith Fournier
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