Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Priestly Celibacy As The Antidote To Secularism

Catholicism's first coach gives his players the game plan and it doesn't seem it involved celibacy.

In a recent Zenit article, Cardinal  Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy gives a rousing pep talk on the celibate priesthood as the antidote to secularism.  The following is an excerpt of the Cardinal's rationale for his thinking.  He doesn't mention other game plans like the Sermon on the Mount.

Cardinal: Support Celibacy to Fight Secularization 
Zenit - 1/27/2011

.........."In a world which is gravely secularized, it is ever more difficult to understand the reasons for celibacy," the cardinal acknowledged. 

He continued, "However, we must have the courage to ask ourselves, as the Church, if we wish to resign ourselves to such a situation, accepting the progressive secularization of society and of culture as an unchangeable fact, or if we are prepared for a task of a profound and real new evangelization at the service of the Gospel, and thus of the truth of man."  (If those scientific/techonological types would just stop with the forward progress already, Catholicism could once again reign supreme with it's unchanging always taught absolute truths.)

The prelate asserted, "I hold, according to that meaning, that the reasoned support of celibacy and adequately evaluating its worth in the life of the Church and the world might represent some of the most effective means to overcome this secularization."

He added, "What else could the Holy Father Benedict XVI mean when he says that celibacy shows that 'God enters into the reality of our time?'"

Intrinsic demand

"The reduction of celibacy to a mere ecclesiastical law, common in some environments, is to be absolutely overcome in light of the papal magisterium," Cardinal Piacenza pointed out.

He continued: "It is a law only because it is an intrinsic demand of the priesthood and of the configuration to Christ that the sacrament determines. (Unless you are Anglican or Lutheran and then it's not intrinsic to one's configuration to Christ.)

"In this sense, formation for celibacy, above and beyond every human and spiritual aspect, must include a solid doctrinal dimension, because it is with difficulty that one lives that which one does not understand." (Why is it that priests have to be 'formed for celibacy' but every other single person is just supposed to live it and understand it?)

The cardinal noted that "the debate concerning celibacy, which is reignited periodically over the centuries, does not contribute to the serenity of the younger generations in coming to an understanding of a fact that is to determinant of the sacerdotal life.(Maybe all the hypocrisy surrounding celibacy has something to do with upsetting the serenity of younger generations.)

He urged, "We must not betray our young!"  (No comment.)

"We must not lower the level of formation, nor, in fact, what the faith proposes," the prelate exhorted. "We must not betray the holy people of God, which awaits saintly pastors, such as the Curé of Ars." (Better to deny them any sacramental life at all, then give them a married priest!  Hear! Hear!)

He added, "We must be radical in the sequela Christi!"

Divine logic

"Let us not be afraid of the fall in the number of clerics," Cardinal Piacenza urged. "The number decreases when the temperature of the faith is lowered, since vocations are a divine affair and not a human one, and they follow the divine logic, which is foolishness from a human point of view. Faith is called for!" (It's not the doctrine that's at fault!  It's the laity!)

"Celibacy is a question of evangelical radicalism," he affirmed.

"The essential question, then, is not to direct the debate so much to celibacy as to the quality of the faith of our communities," the cardinal stated.

He continued, "Could a community which lacks great esteem for celibacy, as an awaiting for the Kingdom or as a Eucharistic yearning, be truly said to be alive?" (Yes it can.)

The prelate exhorted, "We must not allow ourselves to be conditioned or intimidated by a world without God, which does not understand celibacy and that would like to remove it."

"On the contrary," he said, "we must recuperate the reasoned understanding that our celibacy offers as a challenge to the world, placing its secularism and agnosticism in profound crisis and crying out, through the centuries, that God is present and active!" (I don't think I get this last bit at all.)


Cardinal 'Knute Rockne" Piacenza has really given quite the locker room speech here.  I feel all revved up to go out and knock a few of those secularist sexual libertines upside the head and win one for the celibates. OK not really.  Actually I would rather sit down and plead with the Vatican to quit jamming the 'ontologically superior' celibate male priesthood down our throats.  It might not be so irritating if the laity wasn't being asked to cough up over two billion dollars to pay for their abusive ugly non celibate lapses.

Everything coming out of the Vatican seems designed to shore up the Trentan definition of sacramental priesthood. (at least for baptized Roman Catholics).  Whether it's the new Mass translations, or the Year of the Priest, or the instant excommunication for women who 'attempt ordination', or this peppy speech from the good Cardinal, nothing except maybe gay marriage, abortion, and suddenly exorcism,  is more important to Catholic identity than the celibate priesthood.  It makes me wonder if these ordained men ever consider that their personal world view might not be everyone's world view and might in fact actually be the problem for the major shortage of priests?  Are they not getting that a large number of laity know how to Google and that the clerical caste no longer has a strangle hold on all the available knowledge? 

To be honest I'm not quite sure what the Vatican actually means by secularism.  It seems it might be synonymous with 'modernism' or maybe with individualism or consumerism or satanism or all of the above.  But whatever it is, it is diametrically opposed to the celibate priesthood and it produces spiritually weak laity who have lost the ability to conjur up--I mean pray up-- enough priests.  Somehow the lack of priests is never a message that maybe, just maybe, today's laity are evolving beyond the need for a paternal father figure with quasi magical qualities.  

Even Knute Rockne knew he couldn't win football games without the right players operating in the right scheme, and even with all his success he still changed with the game.  In fact he changed the game.  Benedict should take a page from Rockne's play book and try a forward pass instead of constantly calling for backward laterals.  He might start winning a few fans back--so to speak.


  1. Paternal father figures with quasi magical qualities??-I love it! Just this past week two people said to me that they know the parish priests here are harsh, critical, and put people down as incompetent who have served the parish for years-but-we need them for the Eucharist! No,we don't. They just keep insisting we do!
    What if we discovered we all have the power?

  2. The cardinal noted that "the debate concerning celibacy, which is reignited periodically over the centuries, does not contribute to the serenity of the younger generations in coming to an understanding of a fact that is to determinant of the sacerdotal life."

    Lets not worry their impressionable young minds with all that thinking and questioning, and God forbid! thinking that there's a chance anyone who's ordained might be wrong about something!

  3. The more the crisis of vocations deepens, the more the clergy reject reform.

    A telling symptom.

    Consider the now automatic excommunication for "attempting" the ordination of a woman: it's a defensive action, not for the benefit of the benighted masses untutored in sacramental theology.

    The Catholic priesthood/clergy is becoming a cult.

    Read this (I put it through the rough but ever-improving Google Translate tool)
    It's an 1989 interview with Eugen Drewermann about his then forthcoming book, Kleriker. Psychogramm eines Ideals (Cleric: Psychological Profile of an Ideal)



    What defines the "current state of the Catholic Church"?
    Answer: "The inhumanity of a centuries long-established system of systematic destruction of individuals at all levels of personal existence."

    Why are Catholic priests and religious sick?
    Answer: Due to a "systematic alienation and a denial of the whole person" There are men, amongst whom "have a feeling of playing no role whatsoever" and "fundamentally only able to recognize what is warranted by foreign authority"

    How do officials deal with Catholic faith?
    Answer: "The failure of each one's will and thinking," causing them "to deal with other people just as with himself, 'disciplined', so to speak, with the process of institutional safeguards.

    What Catholics today usually still go to church?
    Answer: "Almost only people who are in their" obedience of faith 'mentally retarded based on the state of consciousness of their contemporaries, and for centuries, based on their own biography in which time has stopped before puberty.

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  5. Like so much else in the Tradition, celibacy was not always a requirement for the priesthood.

    Though argued in both directions over the centuries, changing social conditions and secular rules of inheritance eventually swayed Church to institute the reform at the First Lateran Council (1123), reaffirmed in the Second Lateran Council (1139) and Trent(mid 16th century).

    Thus, one can see the irony in the notion that celibacy is to be a guardian against the very forces which created it.

    I will give the good Cardinal the benefit of the doubt in one area. The shortage of priests appears to be a self-correcting problem as the parishioners are leaving at approximately the same rate. *coughs*

  6. Can someone tell me what it means to be "gravely secularized"?

    I am amused at the church folk who are so upset at the world that is not their little church kingdom.

    The words from the German Theologians ring more true to me than all their loud protestations.

    "When it comes to acknowledgement of each person's freedom, maturity, and responsibility modern society surpasses the Church in many respects."

  7. Wildhair, why do you suppose it's so hard for the Church to admit the laity have grown up? Do you suppose it's because too many denizens of the Imperial City have not grown up themselves?

  8. why do you suppose it's so hard for the Church to admit the laity have grown up?

    I realise the question was directed at Wildhair, but I would argue that it is not different than some parent/child relationships.

    That means that the parent is growing old, that the child doesn't need the parent anymore as it once did and that the relationship has fundamentally changed.

    These questions are coming to an institution which is already having a mid-life crisis regarding identity and relevance in the 20th/21st centuries.

    Mebbie someone needs to buy his Holiness a red corvette? :)

  9. Colleen, why does any parent not want to let go of the child? I think it is mostly because of how the parental role is defined. It is all-encompassing, with no other identity left for the parent.

    I personally defined being a parent as the need to work myself out of a job in 18-21 years. It is a constant process of judging when the time is right and then actually letting go. I knew there would come a day when I would have time and energy for other things in my life because parenting was going to take less.

    Too many parents would rather keep their child in bubble wrap and tightly scheduled. And then continue to make wake-up calls once that child is in a college dorm because they never taught the child how to use an alarm clock. Those parents don't have the imagination or creativity to reinvent themselves into people NOT primarily defined as 'parent'.

    I think maybe this is a lesson intended for humans by God in the story of the apple in Eden. Why did God let Adam and Eve have a choice? Because He knew it was time to let go.

  10. wild hair: I suppose an argument could be made that while he said 'gravely secularized' he meant 'gravely disordered'. 'Gravely disordered' being also the term of choice used to describe anything he thinks is 'icky'. ;)

  11. @T'Pel

    I thought gravely disordered was when someone jumbled all the headstones up.

    *ducks and runs*

  12. Let's face it. What the cardinal means: I'm better than you (the laity( because I have no sex thoughts or actions,

  13. You know Mark, I think for some of our Cardinals that is sadly true. I can remember one day I was stroking out over the whole return of 'consecrated virgins' and my daughter was like whoaaa what's the big deal? In her opinion it might be a nice way to remove oneself from the dating rat race while avoiding the convent. She has a somewhat utilitarian spirituality. I need to reparent her!

  14. Or should I say re evangelize her?

  15. Mark, yeah, right. That is what they would like us to think. A lot of us aren't buying it anymore.