Una promesa nuestra al Concilio 2. La realidad y los problemas 4. Mt 19, Los Padres de la Iglesia 6.
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Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when the outlook of men and the state of the world have undergone such profound changes. Amid the modern stirrings of opinion, a tendency has also been manifested, and even a desire expressed, to ask the Church to re-examine this characteristic institution. It is said that in the world of our time the observance of celibacy has come to be difficult or even impossible.
This state of affairs is troubling consciences, perplexing some priests and young aspirants to the priesthood; it is a cause for alarm in many of the faithful and constrains Us to fulfill the promise We made to the Council Fathers.
We told them that it was Our intention to give new luster and strength to priestly celibacy in the world of today. Some Serious Questions 3. The great question concerning the sacred celibacy of the clergy in the Church has long been before Our mind in its deep seriousness: must that grave, ennobling obligation remain today for those who have the intention of receiving major orders?
Is it possible and appropriate nowadays to observe such an obligation? Has the time not come to break the bond linking celibacy with the priesthood in the Church? Could the difficult observance of it not be made optional? Would this not be a way to help the priestly ministry and facilitate ecumenical approaches?
And if the golden law of sacred celibacy is to remain, what reasons are there to show that it is holy and fitting? What means are to be taken to observe it, and how can it be changed from a burden to a help for the priestly life? Our attention has rested particularly on the objections which have been and are still made in various forms against the retention of sacred celibacy.
Our intention is to do in all things the will of Him who has called Us to this office and to show what we are in the Church: the servant of the servants of God. It may be said that today ecclesiastical celibacy has been examined more penetratingly than ever before and in all its aspects. It has been examined from the doctrinal, historical, sociological, psychological and pastoral point of view.
The intentions prompting this examination have frequently been basically correct although reports may sometimes have distorted them. Let us look openly at the principal objections against the law that links ecclesiastical celibacy with the priesthood. The first seems to come from the most authoritative source, the New Testament which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles. It does not openly demand celibacy of sacred ministers but proposes it rather as a free act of obedience to a special vocation or to a special spiritual gift.
The close relationship that the Fathers of the Church and ecclesiastical writers established over the centuries between the ministering priesthood and celibacy has its origin partly in a mentality and partly in historical circumstances far different from ours. In addition, it is said that the old arguments no longer are in harmony with the different social and cultural milieus in which the Church today, through her priests, is called upon to work. Vocation and Celibacy 7.
And so people ask whether it is right to exclude from the priesthood those who, it is claimed, have been called to the ministry without having been called to lead a celibate life.
The Shortage of Priests 8. It is asserted, moreover, that the maintaining of priestly celibacy in the Church does great harm in those regions where the shortage of the clergy—a fact recognized with sadness and deplored by the same Council 4 —gives rise to critical situations: that it prevents the full realization of the divine plan of salvation and at times jeopardizes the very possibility of the initial proclamation of the Gospel.
Thus the disquieting decline in the ranks of the clergy is attributed by some to the heavy burden of the obligation of celibacy. Then there are those who are convinced that a married priesthood would remove the occasions for infidelity, waywardness and distressing defections which hurt and sadden the whole Church. Human Values There are also some who strongly maintain that priests by reason of their celibacy find themselves in a situation that is not only against nature but also physically and psychologically detrimental to the development of a mature and well-balanced human personality.
And so it happens, they say, that priests often become hard and lacking in human warmth; that, excluded from sharing fully the life and destiny of the rest of their brothers, they are obliged to live a life of solitude which leads to bitterness and discouragement. Inadequate Formation Again, in view of the way in which a candidate for the priesthood comes to accept an obligation as momentous as this, the objection is raised that in practice this acceptance results not from an authentically personal decision, but rather from an attitude of passivity, the fruit of a formation that neither is adequate nor makes sufficient allowance for human liberty.
For the degree of knowledge and power of decision of a young person and his psychological and physical maturity fall far below—or at any rate are disproportionate to—the seriousness of the obligation he is assuming, its real difficulties and its permanence.
We well realize that there are other objections that can be made against priestly celibacy. This is a very complex question, which touches intimately upon the very meaning of being alive, yet is penetrated and resolved by the light of divine revelation.
Testimony of the Past and Present The sum of these objections would appear to drown out the solemn and age-old voice of the pastors of the Church and of the masters of the spiritual life, and to nullify the living testimony of the countless ranks of saints and faithful ministers of God, for whom celibacy has been the object of the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign.
But no, this voice, still strong and untroubled, is the voice not just of the past but of the present too. Nor can we overlook the immense ranks of men and women in religious life, of laity and of young people too, united in the faithful observance of perfect chastity. They live in chastity, not out of disdain for the gift of life, but because of a greater love for that new life which springs from the Paschal mystery. They live this life of courageous self-denial and spiritual joyfulness with exemplary fidelity and also with relative facility.
This magnificent phenomenon bears testimony to an exceptional facet of the kingdom of God living in the midst of modern society, to which it renders humble and beneficial service as the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth. The Law of Celibacy Confirmed Hence We consider that the present law of celibacy should today continue to be linked to the ecclesiastical ministry.
This law should support the minister in his exclusive, definitive and total choice of the unique and supreme love of Christ; it should uphold him in the entire dedication of himself to the public worship of God and to the service of the Church; it should distinguish his state of life both among the faithful and in the world at large.
The gift of the priestly vocation dedicated to the divine worship and to the religious and pastor al service of the People of God , is undoubtedly distinct from that which leads a person to choose celibacy as a state of consecrated life. It is, therefore, the task of those who hold authority in the Church to determine, in accordance with the varying conditions of time and place, who in actual practice are to be considered suitable candidates for the religious and pastoral service of the Church, and what should be required of them.
Purpose of the Encyclical In a spirit of faith, therefore, We look on this occasion afforded Us by Divine Providence as a favorable opportunity for setting forth anew, and in a way more suited to the men of our time, the fundamental reasons for sacred celibacy.
If difficulties against faith "can stimulate our minds to a more accurate and deeper understanding" of it, 9 the same is true of the ecclesiastical discipline which guides and directs the life of the faithful. We are deeply moved by the joy this occasion gives Us of contemplating the richness in virtue and the beauty of the Church of Christ. These may not always be immediately apparent to the human eye, because they derive from the love of the divine Head of the Church and because they are revealed in the perfection of holiness 10 which moves the human spirit to admiration, and which human resources cannot adequately explain.
Virginity undoubtedly, as the Second Vatican Council declared, "is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself. This is clear from the practice of the early Church and the traditions of the Eastern Churches. In addition, it set forth the motives which justify this law for those who, in a spirit of faith and with generous fervor, know how to appreciate the gifts of God.
Even if the explicit reasons have differed with different mentalities and different situations, they were always inspired by specifically Christian considerations; and from these considerations we can get an intuition of the more fundamental motives underlying them. In this process the experience gained through the ages from a deeper penetration of spiritual things also has its part. Christological Significance The Christian priesthood, being of a new order, can be understood only in the light of the newness of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff and eternal Priest, who instituted the priesthood of the ministry as a real participation in His own unique priesthood.
Being entirely consecrated to the will of the Father, 19 Jesus brought forth this new creation by means of His Paschal mystery; 20 thus, He introduced into time and into the world a new form of life which is sublime and divine and which radically transforms the human condition. Matrimony, according to the will of God, continues the work of the first creation; 22 and considered within the total plan of salvation, it even acquired a new meaning and a new value. Jesus, in fact, has restored its original dignity, 23 has honored it 24 and has raised it to the dignity of a sacrament and of a mysterious symbol of His own union with the Church.
But Christ, "Mediator of a superior covenant," 26 has also opened a new way, in which the human creature adheres wholly and directly to the Lord, and is concerned only with Him and with His affairs; 27 thus, he manifests in a clearer and more complete way the profoundly transforming reality of the New Testament.
Christ, the only Son of the Father, by the power of the Incarnation itself was made Mediator between heaven and earth, between the Father and the human race. Wholly in accord with this mission, Christ remained throughout His whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified His total dedication to the service of God and men. This deep concern between celibacy and the priesthood of Christ is reflected in those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and mission of the Mediator and eternal Priest; this sharing will be more perfect the freer the sacred minister is from the bonds of flesh and blood.
Jesus, who selected the first ministers of salvation, wished them to be introduced to the understanding of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," 29 but He also wished them to be coworkers with God under a very special title, and His ambassadors.
To them this is the mystery of the newness of Christ, of all that He is and stands for; it is the sum of the highest ideals of the Gospel and of the kingdom; it is a particular manifestation of grace, which springs from the Paschal mystery of the Savior. This is what makes the choice of celibacy desirable and worthwhile to those called by our Lord Jesus. Thus they intend not only to participate in His priestly office, but also to share with Him His very condition of living.
Fullness of Love The response to the divine call is an answer of love to the love which Christ has shown us so sublimely. And love, when it is genuine, is all-embracing, stable and lasting, an irresistible spur to all forms of heroism.
And so the free choice of sacred celibacy has always been considered by the Church "as a symbol of, and stimulus to, charity": 42 it signifies a love without reservations; it stimulates to a charity which is open to all. In a life so completely dedicated and motivated, who can see the sign of spiritual narrowness or selfseeking, and not see rather that celibacy is and ought to be a rare and very meaningful example of a life motivated by love, by which man expresses his own unique greatness?
Who can doubt the moral and spiritual richness of such a life, consecrated not to any human ideal, no matter how noble, but to Christ and to His work to bring about a new form of humanity in all places and for all generations? Invitation to Study This biblical and theological view associates our ministerial priesthood with the priesthood of Christ; the total and exclusive dedication of Christ to His mission of salvation provides reason and example for our assimilation to the form of charity and sacrifice proper to Christ our Savior.
This vision seems to Us so profound and rich in truth, both speculative and practical, that We invite you, venerable brothers, and you, eager students of Christian doctrine and masters of the spiritual life, and all you priests who have gained a supernatural insight into your vocation, to persevere in the study of this vision, and to go deeply into the inner recesses and wealth of its reality.
In this way, the bond between the priesthood and celibacy will more and more be seen as closely knit—as the mark of a heroic soul and the imperative call to unique and total love for Christ and His Church. Ecclesiological Significance The priest dedicates himself to the service of the Lord Jesus and of His Mystical Body with complete liberty, which is made easier by his total offering, and thus he depicts more fully the unity and harmony of the priestly life.
Indeed, the word of God, as preserved by the Church, stirs up vibrant and profound echoes in the priest who daily meditates on it, lives it and preaches it to the faithful. The Divine Office and Prayer Like Christ Himself, His minister is wholly and solely intent on the things of God and the Church, 48 and he imitates the great High priest who lives ever in the presence of God in order to intercede in our favor.
In fact, his individual efforts at his own sanctification find new incentives in the ministry of grace and in the ministry of the Eucharist, in which "the whole spiritual good of the Church is contained": 52 acting in the person of Christ, the priest unites himself most intimately with the offering, and places on the altar his entire life, which bears the marks of the holocaust.
Christ spoke of Himself when He said: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. In the community of the faithful committed to his charge, the priest represents Christ. Thus, it is most fitting that in all things he should reproduce the image of Christ and in particular follow His example, both in his personal and in his apostolic life.
To his children in Christ, the priest is a sign and a pledge of that sublime and new reality which is the kingdom of God; he dispenses it and he possesses it to a more perfect degree. Thus he nourishes the faith and hope of all Christians, who, as such, are bound to observe chastity according to their proper state of life.
The Pastoral Efficacy of Celibacy The consecration to Christ under an additional and lofty title like celibacy evidently gives to the priest, even in the practical field, the maximum efficiency and the best disposition of mind, mentally and emotionally, for the continuous exercise of a perfect charity. The kingdom of God, which "is not of this world," 60 is present here on earth in mystery, and will reach its perfection only with the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus.
And as she continues to grow slowly but surely, she longs for the perfect kingdom and ardently desires with all her energy to unite herself with her King in glory. Our Lord and Master has said that "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. This continence, therefore, stands as a testimony to the ever-continuing progress of the People of God toward the final goal of their earthly pilgrimage, and as a stimulus for all to raise their eyes to the things above, "where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" and where "our life is hid with Christ in God" until it appears "with him in glory.
Nel frattempo, abbiamo a lungo e ardentemente invocato i necessari lumi ed aiuti dello Spirito Paraclito ed abbiamo esaminato al cospetto di Dio pareri e istanze giunteCi da ogni parte, innanzitutto da parecchi Pastori della Chiesa di Dio. Non sarebbe maturato il tempo per scindere il vincolo che unisce nella Chiesa il celibato al sacerdozio? Non potrebbe essere facoltativa questa difficile osservanza? Le obiezioni contro il celibato sacerdotale 5.