By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, 9 MARCH 2010 (ZENIT)
Married priests are an exception
and the Church is increasingly convinced that they must remain
so, according to a spiritual theology professor at the
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Father Laurent Touze explained the foundations of priestly
celibacy when he spoke at a two-day conference held last week at
Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. The conference,
"Priestly Celibacy: Theology and Life," was sponsored by the
Congregation for the Clergy as an event for the Year for
ZENIT spoke with Father Touze about the exceptions to priestly
celibacy and the future of celibacy for the Church.
ZENIT: Is celibacy a dogma of faith or a discipline?
Father Touze: Neither one nor the other. It isn't a dogma of
faith because we see married priests in the Church today such
as, for example, some [priests] of the Eastern Catholic Church.
Not all but some admit married priests. Or as has been reminded
recently in the Holy Father's motu propio "Anglicanorum coetibus,"
published last Nov. 4: Among the ex-Anglicans who want to return
to communion with the Catholic Church, there will be married
ZENIT: With this measure, do you think that one day, celibacy
might become voluntary also for priests of the Latin rite?
Father Touze: No, because the Church is understanding more and
more the relation between priesthood, episcopate and celibacy.
It is something that could be likened to the revelation of a
dogma, though it isn't so at this time; one tends increasingly
to understand that a practice must be promoted among all priests
and also among Eastern Catholic priests which is truly similar
to the one lived in the first centuries.
ZENIT: But in the first centuries there were many married
priests, including the Apostles?
Father Touze: Studies have convincingly shown that this must be
questioned: Celibacy of all clerics wasn't lived, but from the
moment of inclusion in the priestly order these men had to live
continence with the permission of their wives, because this was
a commitment of the couple.
ZENIT: Why, then, are exceptions made?
Father Touze: Historically because there has been a manipulation
of texts and I believe a bad translation that the Eastern
Church, which has separated from Rome and has recognized that
what they had declared contrary to tradition, could be accepted.
In this connection there truly are some exceptions. The Church
discovered that she had the possibility of admitting exceptions
but that these should be understood as such. Respectably, as the
Second Vatican Council stressed, there are very holy married
priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches who have contributed
much to the history of the Church and to the faith in times of
persecution, but they are truly exceptions and must be
understood as such.
ZENIT: However, these exceptions are not made with bishops. Does
episcopal celibacy have a special meaning?
Father Touze: Undoubtedly. It is very different, both
theologically as well as historically. What's more, with the
constitution "Lumen Gentium," Vatican II defined that the
episcopate is the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. It
is necessary to discover the specificity of the episcopate and,
hence, episcopal celibacy. And it can be demonstrated with the
fact that for the celibacy or continence of a bishop an
exception has never been made.
This is something studied by the Church on which the Roman
pontificate has had to reflect more recently in contemporary
history on two occasions: after the French Revolution, where
some bishops, or better, former bishops, asked to marry.
This has been studied and it has been said that it is
impossible, that this had never been done, that at stake was the
dogmatic issue. Or still recently with the ordination of married
men and married bishops that were effected in former
Czechoslovakia by imposition or with the pressure of the
Communist Party in power. There also the Church affirmed on the
fact that the bishop must always be celibate or if he had
married before his ordination because he would have to live
continence from the moment of his episcopal ordination.
[Translation by ZENIT]