Sunday, May 22, 2011

Do not Diminish the Power of the Witness of Celibacy

Mass for the 5th Sunday of Easter

I was walking though a supermarket one day, minding my own business when a woman stopped me and asked me with disgust in her face, "What are you?" I prayed to the Holy Spirit. I heard myself reply, "I am Celibate. Jesus is Celibate to be totally dedicated to our salvation and so am I." She was one of those that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 19:11, "Not all can receive this, but only to those to whom it is granted." Not everybody can understand celibacy, however, that does not mean that we ought to diminish the sign that Jesus has made it by allowing people to tarnish its beauty or diminish its power.

When a man gifts his whole manhood in Christ to the Father for the sake of salvation ofsouls,it is powerful. He thinks, moves, and breathes for the pu
rpose of getting as many people to open their hearts to the One who loves them as possible. He does this day and night without rest because it is the reason for his existence, he is consecrated for it. I myself have the common experience of fatherly anxiety for my flock, waking up in the middle of the night praying for my parishioners, being preoccupied with their welfare and constantly concerned about their good. I can do this, I am free to do this because for this is I am consecrated. When I speak the words of consecration at Mass in which we believe that Jesus gives us his true Body and Blood, "This is my body," I don't just say it in Persona Christi, but I say it to my parishioners as well, this body is consecrated for you and is yours to serve you and to make you know that you are worth it, that God is worth it, worth a man laying down his whole life.

At this time, there is an attack on the witness of celibacy, and we ought to take care that through
our own negligence or ignorance we don't add to it. The modern media has tried to blame celibacy as the root cause of paedophilia. In a recent study conducted by the US bishops, it has been made clear that celibacy is not the cause of the priest crisis, as CNN and BBC would like you to believe. In fact Catholic priests have the least amount of offenders than in any other profession. Christian Pfieffer, the famed independent German criminal sociologist "reported that approximately 0.1 percent of all offenses are committed by priests. Among clergy offenders Catholic priests are least likely to offend" (Peter Seewald, Light of the World). Insurance claims in the United States report that while 13% of the offenders reported are from protestant married clergy, 6% are catholic priests - less than half!

It seems that priests are being branded, identified, or typified as the ones who are offending yet they are the very least of society and of most Christian denominations. Why then is the news media permitted to do this? Why is there a double standard? George Wiegel, a biographer of Pope John Paul II and a famous Catholic lecturer, has an interesting take on this. He says that it is an implicit recognition of the dignity of the Catholic priesthood. It should be held to a h
igher account because it is a higher calling than simply being Pastor Joe of Joe's church. And why not? There should be 0% cases. The law in every country is stricter on priests than any other group. The statute of limitations is absolutely waived in the United States. "Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde, a former German constitutional judge, remarked, 'The words that Pope Benedict used years ago in the Untied States and now in his Letter to Irish Catholics could not be harsher,'" (Peter Seewald, Light of the World).

We must then hold celibate priests to a higher standard, yet not diminish the power of its witness by perpetuating lies or slurs that have been cast on its true purpose. I met an Anglican priest a few weeks ago. He said that he thought celibacy is an obstacle to vocations. "You don't really buy those lies, do you?" I asked him. We need to point out the lies to those around us, to unmask them. The fact is, this Archdiocese of Southwark has 39 men preparing for celibate priesthood while the Anglican diocese this priest belongs to has less than 4 candidates. It is a lack of faith that diminishes vocations, not the charism of celibacy. If anything, men are attracted to the high ideals and high standard, not repulsed by it.

Celibacy also has power to complement the married state. It is not in competition, does not diminish, or lessen, the dignity and vocation of marriage. When you see that a man can be faithful to his vow of celibacy you are inspired to be faithful to your vows of marriage and vice versa. If a man can be faithful to the flock of God another man can be faithful to his own little flock, his family. It is possible for him to be madly and passionately in love with one woman for his whole life because the same principle of chastity that is working in celibacy is working in marital chastity. The way a woman treats her spouse, thinks and feels about him, loves him or doesn't love him, is the very way she treats Jesus, thinks and feels toward him. At the end of her life, Jesus will ask her, how much did you love me and permit me to love you in your husband? Yes, this is not easy, but the witness of celibacy encourages us to be faithful.

The person who helps us be faithful is Mary most pure. She can obtain for the Church to be the shining witness of purity and holiness that Jesus calls us to. She can pray for us to obtain holy priests, who are preoccupied in a holy way with the salvation of souls and the welfare of the Christian people. May Our Lady bring about this shining witness and help us not to diminish the power of the witness of celibacy.


  1. As a divorced Catholic, I am called to live as though celibate. People find it hard to understand not answering the call of nature to sexual fulfillment. Especially, when told that includes not the denial of self-pleasure, rather the freedom of living a holy life in the Spirit without any form of the sexual act. This is difficult. Indeed, it is impossible for me without God's gracious action upon my natural human desire. This way of living chastely comes from the blessing of prayer for sexual freedom. Once a slave to this carnal desire, now in Christ I am free to devote my desires to adoration of the most Holy Trinity by imitation of Christ.
    Christ attended to life. He celebrated in all aspects of life such as eating, socializing, and working, etc. But, He did so according to His station, both as human and as divine person. Priest and lay person alike are called to strive to act as though divine --by grace-- each according to their circumstances. The majority are called to holy union with God in marriage. A lesser number are called to holy union as singles or religious. And, fewer still are called to be anointed with sacred oil to the celibate priesthood. Blessed is each person who discerns and accepts their fitting vocation according to God’s plan. HIS will be done. Lord clearly show me my vocation, as I desire to glorify You in the freedom of knowing and accepting Your call not for the joy it is certain to bring me, but out of pure adoration of You.
    As a lay member of the royal priesthood, I am now at full liberty to serve our kingdom under the divine mercy of the Father, obtained for all who accept it through the cross of Christ’s death and resurrection, through the power of the Spirit, Who is the binding love of the Father and the Son. This Spirit is the promised Gift poured out through the pierced heart of Christ to guide us and provide the grace to live without sin. This same Spirit provides the grace of repentant and contrite hearts in every occurrence of sin forgiving as each forgives others.
    Unless a person prays to be in full union with the Godhead, the person is of two minds unable to live life in the fullest sense of living. My daily prayer becomes the asking to be made holy in order to become one with Jesus out of pure adoration for God. No amount of effort on my part can make this so. However, God rewards man’s efforts with the pleasure of His infinite grace. It is this grace that ennobles the person and brings the individual to a state of self-denial to every inordinate desire. Then every temptation becomes a gift to pray for every creature not yet perfected in God, including oneself. We stumble and fall who are still tied to our flesh until God provides us with the incorruptible body joined to the soul which is perfected at the final separation of those who accept mercy from those human persons who refuse His love. Then every human person will live even as the heavenly beings live without need or desire for sexual union. Every desire will be fulfilled in joyful union with God. Those called to the holy anointed celibate life, living in its grace, are shadows of the perfected life to come. God, protect every man who chooses holy orders from every temptation and in every success and weakness Your glory. Amen

  2. Forgot to mention how much I like your blog entry Fr. Sam. I thank God for you and every priest.

  3. I am the mother of three adolescent boys, the oldest of whom thinks he might become a priest. I will share this powerful message with him and the others. Chastity is cherished in our home. Thank you Fr. Sam, and may God continue to bless you and strengthen you.

  4. Thanks be to God for the vocation to belong to Christ! Whether this is lived in a celibate or permanently continent vocation or married life, all are called to chastity. May the Holy Spirit grant us to continue to pray for and inspire one another. Alleluia! Ave Maria!