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CNN.com: A Case for Celibacy

Saturday, May 16, 2009 7:37 AM Comments (0)

“There is a very bad argument for celibacy, which has appeared throughout the tradition and which is, even today, defended by some,” so wrote Father Robert Barron (of the above “The Catholicism Project”) at CNN.com yesterday.

That argument is “not just stupid, but dangerous.”

He presents a better one ... a shrewdly “lefty” one.

Let’s start with the stupid, dangerous one: “It goes something like this: Married life is spiritually suspect; priests, as religious leaders, should be spiritual athletes above reproach; therefore, priests shouldn’t be married.”

He points out that the Bible and Tradition contradict that, from Genesis to Pope John Paul II. Or, more accurately, from Isaiah to Anthony de Mello.

The piece is helpful in that it essentially lays out what we can call a “lefty Catholic” case for celibacy.

Don’t get me wrong. Father Barron is the on fire-for-evangelization force behind “The Catholicism Project.” We wrote about him here.

Writes Father Barron:

“Isaiah the prophet put it thus: ‘As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my thoughts above your thoughts and my ways above your ways, says the Lord.’ And it is at the heart of the First Commandment: ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods besides me.’ The Bible thus holds off all the attempts of human beings to divinize or render ultimate some worldly reality. The doctrine of creation, in a word, involves both a great ‘Yes’ and a great ‘No’ to the universe.

“Now there is a behavioral concomitant to the anti-idolatry principle, and it is called detachment. Detachment is the refusal to make anything less than God the organizing principle or center of one’s life.

“Anthony de Mello looked at it from the other side and said ‘an attachment is anything in this world — including your own life — that you are convinced you cannot live without.’ Even as we reverence everything that God has made, we must let go of everything that God has made, precisely for the sake of God.”

Besides, he says (and cites Father Andrew Greeley to do so), “The priest is fascinating and that a large part of the fascination comes from celibacy. The compelling quality of the priest is not a matter of superficial celebrity or charm. It is something much stranger, deeper, more mystical. It is the fascination for another world.”

Filed under weekend commentary

About Guest Blogger/Tom Hoopes

Tom  Hoopes
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Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.