Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Our Sunday Visitor: May 27, 2007

In the "Our Sunday Visitor" from May 27, 2007, my blog is mentioned in regards to an article on priestly celibacy (page 12). A few weeks ago the author of the article emailed me and asked my opinion on three questions. I replied to him, but he was only able to include a little amount of my words due to limited space. Here is what is written:

"Two seminarian bloggers - Matthew ( said that the abuse scandal is often put forward as an argument against priestly celibacy." The article goes on to refute arguments that attack the practice of mandatory priestly celibacy.

Below is a copy of his questions to me and my response. Although these were not published in the periodical, they are still something that I want to share.

1. In his recent apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that priestly celibacy remains obligatory in the Latin tradition (no. 24). What are the most common objections you have encountered to obligatory priestly celibacy, and how might you answer those objections?

First and foremost, as a Roman Catholic Seminarian preparing to enroll at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Minnesota, I am honored to be part of group of a holy and reverent seminarians upholding the Traditions of the Church. Priestly celibacy is a gift from God. If a man is truly called to the priesthood, he is not called to the married life. If priests did marry, they would be unable to provide adequate time and devotion to either the family or the congregation. Both vocations - marriage and the priesthood - require full-time attention and devotion. I am proud to go to a seminary with Catholics who hold similar opinions.

However, some Catholics do prescribe to the ideology that priestly celibacy is harmful to the Church. One of the most common reasons cited to end the ancient practice of mandatory priestly celibacy is that it would stop the sexual abuse of minors. Firstly, I must state that the abuse of minors by members of the clergy is not only mortally sinful but repulsively disgusting and scandalous. However, removing the requirement for priestly celibacy will not improve the situation. Statistically, the number one abusers of children are not priests but rather parents. After considering the number of married men and non-Catholic ministers that have committed the grievous sin of molesting children, the argument against celibacy is negated.

Some people claim that mandatory priestly celibacy burdens a priest with unrepressable sexual energy. However, if a man is called to the priesthood, wouldn't God give him the ability to respond to the call and fulfill the obligations established by the Church? Of course - a man truly called to the priesthood would have the ability to forsake marriage and love celibacy by the grace of God. As St. Paul affirmed in the midst of trial and persecution: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). And priests can do all things through the grace of Christ. Relaxing requirements would only allow more doctrinal and theological room for error. The Catholic Faith does not principally flourish in areas where the priest does whatever he wants. Rather, the Faith flourishes in the midst of intense obligations and requirements. Since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, modernism and liberalism have spread around the globe, and a decline in not only vocations to the priesthood but also to the married life has taken place. There are more and more divorces. According to statistics, 1 in 2 families experienced divorce in the 1990s compared to 1 in 7 in the 1950s. The current crisis in our world is simply a crisis in commitment and removing mandatory priestly celibacy would not correct the crisis.

Some people claim that with the implementation of mandatory priestly celibacy men will become fearful of women. This again is unfounded. By learning and internalizing the teachings of the Church through the centuries, man can communicate with women without difficulties. I see this all of the time with priests. I have never met a priest or a seminarian scared to talk with women. Celibacy is a gift, and if a man is truly called to the priesthood, the gift will not be a burden but rather a blessing.

2. What, in your judgment, is the single most compelling objection to obligatory priestly celibacy, and how might you answer that objection?

I believe it is the argument against the sexual abuse of minors, and I previously addressed that.

3. Do you have any additional, more general reflections on priestly celibacy that you might wish to share with Our Sunday Visitor readers?

We must remember the words of Our Savior: "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it" (Matthew 19: 11,12). Similarly, St. Paul remained celibate for the safe of the Kingdom of God and his words formulate the essential reply to critics of mandatory celibacy: '' I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Cor 32-35)

To follow Jesus as a priest requires commitment and commitment is the answer to the current crisis in commitment in our society. By remaining celibate and following the words of Jesus and St. Paul in the New Testament, a priest places all of his trust in Jesus and renounces Himself for the Gospel (Luke 9:23). By living a life of Sacrifice, the priest becomes more and more like Christ, which is gravely important since the priest is an "alter Christi" at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Just as the habit is a symbol of faith in the midst of a secular world, celibacy is a sign that a priestly soul is entirely dedicated to furthering the Kingdom of God.

8 comment(s):

del_button June 13, 2007 at 2:40 PM
Anonymous said...

Excellent...well done

del_button June 13, 2007 at 3:51 PM
Anonymous said...

This is the first post I've read on your blog, but it's a clear and eloquent defense. I look forward to reading more.

del_button June 14, 2007 at 4:28 AM
Kat said...

Do me a favor, once you are a priest never ever ever ever ever talk about someones confession especially to give identifying information that someone can figure out who the penitent is if they know the history between the priest and penitent.

And pray for a priest who did this.

del_button June 14, 2007 at 10:10 AM
Anonymous said...

I will be in OSV sometime this fall. I will email you the questions latter on. God bless.

del_button June 14, 2007 at 10:11 AM
Becky said...

I stumbled across your blog and am very impressed. Very nicely written. Praise God for the priesthood, and men like you who are called to it. God bless+

del_button June 14, 2007 at 10:14 AM
Sanctus Belle said...

You will surely make a most excellent priest! Please God send more the likes of this to the seminary to feed your lambs!

del_button June 14, 2007 at 11:52 AM
beez said...


This is a very good post.

As someone who is expecting to be entering seminary this fall, I have get these questions all of the time.


del_button June 14, 2007 at 11:56 AM
EC Gefroh said...

Good response! Nicely done Matthew.

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