Priests and continent celibacy

The laity needs to understand - and appreciate - the meaning of celibacy for priests

Archbishop Oscar CruzPerhaps – just perhaps – it is good and in order to put into but short writing the matter of a supposedly well known special obligation of the clerics. There seems to be a need for its right understanding on the part of laity as well as its proper appreciation on the part of those aspiring for the priesthood.

Questions: What is that special obligation of priests? What does it mean? What is the penalty for its violation?

The Obligation:

“Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for sake of Kingdom of Heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy.”

Thus provides the Universal Law of the Church in Canon 227 par. 1, Code of Canon Law: What the obligation is (continence in celibacy). What are its qualifying elements (perfect and perpetual). What is it for (the Kingdom).

Let it be noted however that priests have other special obligations such as obedience to their respective Archbishops, observance of their assigned residences, praying the Breviary and others.

The Meaning:

The law provides that clerics must observe a thorough (“perfect”) and lifelong (“perpetual”) continence or purity. Hence as a conclusion, they have to stay permanently celibate, which excludes marriage.

“Clerics” are those who receive the Sacrament of the Holy Orders. They are 3 Orders in the Sacrament, i.e., Diaconate, Priesthood and Episcopacy. All those who receive any of these Holy Orders, are Clerics and are bound to live in continent celibacy.

It is worth nothing that a man or a woman can stay celibate without necessarily being continent.

While continence readily implies celibacy in principle, celibacy however does not automatically implies continence. Hence the special obligation of clerics to live in continent celibacy.

The Penalty:

“…a cleric living in concubinage… who continues in some other external sin against the 6th Commandment of the Decalogue… is to be punished with suspension…until he can be dismissed from the clerical state.”

Thus again provides the Universal Law of the Church in Canon 1395 par. 2, Code of Canon Law in the event that clerical continent celibacy were proven violated by a Cleric, again, a Deacon, a Priest or a Bishop.

The violation consist in two offenses: Living together with a woman (concubinage) which is specific in nature, or sinning against purity (6th Commandment), which is generic in scope. The penalty can be either simply prohibition from exercising the Priestly Ministry (‘suspension”), or nothing less that removal from the priestly way of life (dismissed from the clerical state).

The big predicament and signal implications behind the 2 penalties of either suspension or dismissal consists in the following: One, the man concerned remains an ordained priest his whole life though. Two, yet the same is divested of all priestly ministry. Three, the same wherefore is neither here or there, a priest without any function and who is therefore a living contradiction. –

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