Yesterday, Cameron Slater of Whale Oil Beef Hooked posted an article reporting on a Victorian (Australian) Parliamentary Inquiry, presumably on the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations that is being held there. A Professor Paul Mullen gave his opinion to the Inquiry that if the Catholic Church didn't require celibacy for her priests, then they wouldn't sexually molest children. Leaving aside the ridiculous idea that marriage would somehow cure paedophilia, the professor also opined that celibacy has no basis in theology:
The Catholic Church should get rid of celibacy as a way of preventing clergy from preying on children, an inquiry has been told.
Former clinical director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Health, Professor Paul Mullen, says celibacy has no basis in theology and is just a form of discipline in the priesthood.
The professor's reasoning ability seems faulty as he appears to assume that marriage will cure paedophiles. Marriage is not a cure for anything; it requires a certain maturity and ability for self-sacrifice in order for the marriage to be a success, so a paedophile is already at a serious disadvantage there. Anyone who is so tempted by children that they can't help themselves is not going to be particularly normal in other areas of their life.
However, I'd like to address his claim that celibacy has no basis in theology. Here is a theological explanation of celibacy from Pope John Paul II in 1994 that is not too long and if you are interested in understanding why the Catholic Church requires celibacy from her priests, it is worth your time to read:
According to the Second Vatican Council, the precious gift of "perfect continence, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven," is outstanding among the evangelical counsels. This is a gift of divine grace, "given by the Father to certain souls, (cf. Mt 19:11; 1 Cor 7:7), whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34).... Perfect continence for the love of God is an incentive to charity, and is certainly a particular source of spiritual fecundity in the world" .
Traditionally, three vows are usually spoken of--poverty, chastity and obedience--beginning with the discussion of poverty as detachment from external goods, ranked on a lower level with regard to the goods of body and soul (cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., II-II, q. 186, a. 3). The Council, instead, expressly mentions consecrated chastity before the other two vows (cf. LG 43; PC 12, 13, 14), because it considers chastity as the determining commitment of the state of consecrated life. It is also the evangelical counsel that most obviously shows the power of grace, which raises love beyond the human being's natural inclinations.
Its spiritual greatness stands out in the Gospel, because ,Jesus himself explained the value he placed on commitment to the way of celibacy. According to Matthew, Jesus praised voluntary celibacy after he asserted the indissolubility of marriage. Since Jesus forbade husbands to divorce their wives, the disciples reacted: "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." Jesus answered by giving a deeper meaning to the phrase, "It is not expedient to marry": "Not all can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" (Mt 19:10-12).
In stating this possibility of understanding a new way, which was that practiced by him and the disciples, and which perhaps led those around them to wonder or even to criticize, Jesus used an image that alluded to a well-known fact, the condition of "eunuchs." They could be such because of a congenital imperfection or because of human intervention. But Jesus immediately added that there was a new category--his!-- "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." It was an obvious reference to the choice he made and recommended to his closest followers. According to the Mosaic law, eunuchs were excluded from worship (Dt 23:2) and the priesthood (Lv 21:20). An oracle in the Book of Isaiah had foretold the end of this exclusion (Is 56:3-5). Jesus opened an even more innovative horizon: the voluntary choice "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" of this situation considered unworthy of man. Obviously, Jesus' words did not mean an actual physical mutilation, which the Church has never permitted, but the free renunciation of sexual relations. As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptionis Donum, this means a "renunciation therefore--the reflection of the mystery of Calvary--in order 'to be' more fully in the crucified and risen Christ; renunciation in order to recognize fully in him the mystery of one's own human nature, and to confirm this on the path of that wonderful process of which the same apostle writes in another place: 'Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day' (2 Cor 4:16)" (RD 10).
Jesus was aware of the values renounced by those who live in perpetual celibacy. He himself had affirmed them shortly before when he spoke of marriage as a union of which God is the author and which therefore cannot be broken. Being committed to celibacy does indeed mean renouncing the goods inherent in married life and the family, but never ceasing to appreciate them for their real value. The renunciation is made in view of a greater good, of higher values, summed up in the beautiful Gospel expression of the "kingdom of heaven." The complete gift of self to this kingdom justifies and sanctifies celibacy.
Jesus called attention to the gift of divine light needed to understand the way of voluntary celibacy. Not everyone can understand it, in the sense that not everyone is "able" to grasp its meaning, to accept it, to practice it. This gift of light and decision is only granted to some. It is a privilege granted them for the sake of a greater love. We should not be surprised then if many, who do not understand the value of consecrated celibacy, are not attracted to it, and often are not even able to appreciate it. This means that there is a variety of ways, charisms and roles, as St. Paul recognized. He spontaneously wished to share his ideal of virginal life with everyone. He wrote: "I wish that all were as I myself am. But each," he adds, "has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (1 Cor 7:7). Moreover, as St. Thomas observed, "The Church derives a certain beauty from the variety of states".
For his part, the individual is required to make a deliberate act of will conscious of the duty and the privilege of consecrated celibacy. This does not mean simply abstaining from marriage, nor an unmotivated and almost passive observance of the norms imposed by chastity. The act of renunciation has a positive aspect in the total dedication to the kingdom, which implies absolute devotion to God "who is supremely loved" and to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, the choice must be well thought out and stem from a firm, conscious decision that has matured deep within the individual.
St. Paul states the demands and advantages of this dedication to the kingdom: "The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord, but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit, but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (1 Cor 7:32-34). The Apostle does not mean to condemn the married state (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-3), nor "to lay restraint" on anyone, as he said (1 Cor 7:35). But with the realism of experience enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he speaks and counsels--as he wrote--"for your own benefit...to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Cor 7:35). This is the purpose of the evangelical counsels. Faithful to the tradition of the counsels, the Second Vatican Council states that chastity is "the most suitable means by which religious dedicate themselves with undivided heart to the service of God and the works of the apostolate".
Consecrated celibacy has been criticized over and over again in history, and many times the Church has had to call attention to the excellence of the religious state in this regard. One need only recall the declaration of the Council of Trent, which Pius XII cited in the Encyclical Sacra Virginitas because of its magisterial value. This does not mean casting a shadow on the married state. Instead we must keep in mind what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other". The Second Vatican Council warns that accepting and observing the evangelical counsel of consecrated virginity and celibacy requires sufficient "psychological and emotional maturity". This maturity is indispensable.
Hence, the conditions for faithfully following Christ on this point are: trust in God's love, and prayer to him stirred by the awareness of human weakness; prudent and humble behavior; and above all, a life of intense union with Christ.
This last point, which is the key to all consecrated life, contains the secret of fidelity to Christ as the one bridegroom of the soul, the only reason to live.
I posted the above theological basis for celibacy in the priesthood on Whale Oil's site, expecting that if I just put up a link, no one would read it and then keep claiming there is no theological basis for celibacy. However, if I put a whole lot of text there in the comment box, at the very least those that constantly ignore evidence would not be able to ignore the fact that there is at least some sort of rationale for celibacy that involves a whole lot of words and Bible quotes. A person doesn't have to agree with all the words, but they could at least acknowledge that the requirement for celibacy is not just invented. It's also not just about the money as Professor Paul Mullen claimed when he presented his opinions to the Inquiry in Australia, there is a deeper rationale for it.
Yes, it's long and complicated and if you are not theologically inclined, it's not that interesting unless you find matters spiritual interesting, and if you don't actually want to be pulled out of your bias against celibacy, then you'll find reading it tedious. Some commenters on Whale's site, predictably complained that it was too long to read and/or too boring. Fine, these types of people are never going to understand any subject in depth if they are not willing to read anything about it. But the problem is, though, the lack of knowledge doesn't seem to stop a great many people from arguing against a position they know very little about and are not even interested in learning about.
Cameron Slater, who as a blogger posting on these sorts of matters should be taking the time to learn more about them himself, but so far I've seen no evidence that he does so or is even interested in doing so.
On the positive side for me, I'm learning quite a lot from investigating these subjects in depth. What I find really interesting is the idea that one can only really understand celibacy if one understands marriage.
Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other.While as here in New Zealand, following in the footsteps of some other countries (including Australia who rejected it) are trying to redefine marriage. Those that esteem marriage want it left how it is and those that don't esteem marriage want to change it. A small amount of same-sex couples want to be able to get married and have the 'marriage' label which will prove that they will be treated 'equally', so no evidence of any sort of esteem of the institution from them, either. Any person that believes in redefining marriage is not going to get their head around celibacy at all, and it's ironic that a site that doesn't believe that celibacy is even possible is so pro-same-marriage.
Related links: A good plan for Catholic ratbags ~ Whale Oil Beef Hooked
Get rid of celibacy to stop abuse: inquiry ~ Sydney Morning Herald
Chastity for the Sake of the Kingdom ~ General Audience, November 16, 1994, Vatican