Rorate Caeli

Celibate priesthood, the glory of the papacy:
"Nothing is forgiven them, because everything is expected of them."

I am far from exaggerating and wishing to speak of the law of celibacy as a dogma, properly so called; but I hold that it belongs to the highest discipline, that it is of unrivalled importance, and that we cannot be too grateful to the Sovereign Pontiff* to whom we are indebted for having maintained it.

The priest who belongs to a wife and children, belongs no longer to his flock, or does not sufficiently belong to it. An essential faculty is always wanting to him — that of giving alms, of exercising charity without sometimes considering too narrowly his own means. In thinking of his children, the married priest dares not follow the impulses of his heart; his purse is tied up against indigence, which has nothing to expect at his hands but cold exhortations. Moreover, the dignity of the priest would be mortally wounded by certain kinds of ridicule. The wife of a superior magistrate who should manifestly forget her duties would do more harm to her husband than the wife of any other man. And why? Because the higher magistracies possess a kind of holy and venerable dignity, by which they resemble the priesthood. What would it not be, then, in regard to the priesthood itself?

Not only do the vices of the wife reflect great discredit on the character of the husband-priest, but the latter, in his turn, escapes not the danger common to all men engaged in the married state — that of living criminally. The multitude of reasoners who have treated the great question of ecclesiastical celibacy, always found upon the notable sophism, that marriage is a state of purity, whilst in reality it is clean only to the clean. How many marriages are irreproachable before God? Infinitely few. The man who is blameless in the eyes of the world may be infamous at the altar. If human weakness or perversity establishes a conventional toleration in regard to certain abuses, this toleration, which is itself an abuse, is never suited to the priest, because the conscience of mankind ceases not to compare it with the type of sacerdotal perfection it contemplates within itself; so that it makes no allowance for the copy, whenever it ceases to be like the pattern.

In Christianity there is much that is high and sublime; between the priest and his people there are relations so holy and so delicate, that they can only belong to men absolutely superior to other men. Confession alone underlines the need for celibacy. Never will women — and they must be particularly considered in regard to this point — give their full confidence to a married priest. But it is not easy to write on this subject.

The churches so unfortunately separated from the center of unity were not wanting in conscience, but in strength, when they sanctioned the marriage of priests. They accuse themselves by excepting bishops, and by refusing to consecrate priests before they are married. ... Thus do they acknowledge the rule that no priest can marry; but they admit that, by toleration and for want of subjects, a married lay person may be ordained. By a species of sophistry which, from custom, no longer shocks, instead of ordaining a candidate although married they marry him in order that he may he ordained; so that in violating the ancient rule they distinctly bear witness to it.


Even the censures that are addressed to the Catholic priesthood prove their superiority. Voltaire admirably says: "The life of secular men has always been more vicious than that of priests; but the disorders of the latter have always been more remarkable, from their contrast with the rule." Nothing is forgiven them, because everything is expected of them.

The high nobility of the Catholic clergy is entirely due to celibacy; and this severe institution, being solely the work of the Popes, inwardly animated and guided by a spirit in regard to which conscience cannot be deceived, all the glory of it is attributable to them, and they must be considered by all competent judges the real founders of the priesthood.

Joseph de Maistre
Du pape

* A reference to Pope Saint Gregory VII, the great reformer and restorer, and the subject of de Maistre in the preceding lines.


Mike Ortiz said...

As a married layman, I endorse these sentiments 100%.

Married Catholics need a celibate priesthood, if only to remind them of the Love of all loves that should form and foster every heart.

De gloria olivae said...

I would take the post down as well - it's completely stupid !

New Catholic said...

Whereas your comment is brilliant.

Boethius said...

I wonder what those who have come in through the Anglican Ordinariate would say about this?

I wonder what our Pope would say in response to this, given he has dispensed men from such obligations.

New Catholic said...

He would say what he has ALWAYS said on the subject - I guess you have not been following it, though we have covered it every time he mentions it. That it is a solemn discipline, that it is a great treasure, that it must be maintained, that it must not be changed. On the former Protestant ministers, he would certainly state that it is an exceptional situation, which it is in the Latin Church - and the words would certainly not be much different than those used by Paul VI on this exceptional situation in his next-to-last encyclical, unfortunately very ignored, and dedicated to the glory of priestly celibacy (Sacerdotalis caelibatus), celebrated by us at the time of its 40th anniversary.

But do not take my word, read it: there is a small chapter entirely dedicated to this matter in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:

"While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches, there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate. These Churches also greatly esteem the decision of many priests to embrace celibacy. This choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God. The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the Cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church. It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride. In continuity with the great ecclesial tradition, with the Second Vatican Council and with my predecessors in the papacy, I reaffirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition. Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself."

New Catholic said...

As for the former Anglican ministers, the firmness of most of them is admirable - have you ever seen them campaigning for a "married priesthood" in the Latin Church? Most of them know that their situation is exceptional, and are probably quite glad for having been granted this exception, but they are also too familiar with what campaigns for the introduction of novelties in their former communities, particularly in the Anglican Communion, have wrought, even when well-intentioned...

Confusius said...

Celibacy will never make real sense to the unspiritual man. Celibacy will only be appreciated by Catholics once they have recaptured the understanding that the Church on earth is the Church Militant, engaged in a constant supernatural warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. In this war priests and bishops are the chief combatants, and in this war there is no respite from conflict by day or by night. No sane combatant would take a wife and children onto the field of battle with him. He enters the battlefield with only the armour and the weapons he needs to survive and to achieve victory. Holy Michael Archangel, Defend us in the day of battle!