The Discipline of Celibacy

In his letter to the editor titled “Consistent Priestly Chastity” (Oct. 1-7), Father Phillip De Vous writes that “celibacy is as intrinsic to holy orders as is conjugal intimacy to matrimony.”

While I certainly respect both of these elements of the respective life-vocations, I fear that Father may have overstated the case for celibacy in a way that fails to recognize the many thousands of married priests of the various Oriental Catholic and Orthodox Churches, who are validly ordained and who minister licitly and effectively.

Likewise, there are other thousands of married men who serve faithfully as deacons in both the Eastern and the Western Churches.

The Church has never claimed that celibacy is intrinsic to the sacrament of holy orders. Indeed, it cannot do so because celibacy is a discipline. It is important, ancient and widespread but not essential to holy orders.

If it were intrinsic to the nature of holy orders, nobody could be ordained without it.

Msgr. Thomas E. Crane

Tonawanda, New York

I am writing in reference to Father Phillip W. DeVous’s letter “Consistent Priestly Chastity” (Oct. 1-7). I wish to correct some theological and catechetical errors in Father Phillip’s letter. In particular, I wish to address his statement that “celibacy is intrinsic to holy orders.”

I myself am a Byzantine Catholic in full communion with Pope Benedict XVI. I personally know numerous married Catholic priests. The popes have consistently written very positively about preserving the full and legitimate traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and these Churches exist here in the United States as in many other nations. One of these traditions is that of a married priesthood, which is addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1580. This discipline has been in existence even from apostolic times, and is considered legitimate. 

We do, however, hold priestly celibacy in high honor, and have numerous celibate priests ministering in our churches, as well as those who are monks.

Another point is that the Catholic Church recognizes as fully valid the holy orders of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which have the discipline of having married diocesan priests and celibate monks.

The preceding demonstrates clearly that the attitude of the Catholic Church is that while celibacy of the priesthood is a highly esteemed tradition going back to apostolic times, it grew up virtually simultaneously with a married priesthood in a large portion of the Church, and is not intrinsic to the sacrament of holy orders, but rather part of the discipline of holy orders: a part of the discipline of holy orders from which dispensations have been repeatedly granted with reference to ministers who convert from some of the ecclesial communities to the Catholic Church.

Father Phillip’s zeal is evident and praiseworthy, but should be tempered with greater accuracy as well. Inaccurate statements about the sacraments do not do any favors to the faithful, and are things which, as a Catholic high-school teacher, I find myself having to combat as well.

Joseph L. Kasuboski
Denver, Colorado

Is Any War Just?

There is certainly warrant for a study of the apparently increasing vehemence of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI when speaking on behalf of peace. However, Angelo Matera hardly seems the man for the job (Commentary & Opinion: “Benedict, the Peace Pope,” Sept. 3-9; “God and War,” Sept. 24-30; and “Benedict Condemns Violence,” Oct. 1-7).

Matera can’t get far without: sloganeering about “pro-war Catholics” and their “pro-war rhetoric”; lying about “Israel’s pre-emptive attack on Lebanon” (presumably Matera means the July 12 Hezbollah cross-border attack on an Israeli Defense Forces outpost in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two captured); making sloppy implications about “the biblical town of Qana”; and referring to “the classic ‘just war’ tradition that began with St. Augustine.”

On this last citation, his sneering quotation marks apparently intend to cast doubt on the very possibility of a just war as explained in the Catechism Matera otherwise extols.

Such violence toward truth-speaking is inconsistent with a real irenic intention. 


John R. Traffas

Wichita, Kansas

Angelo Matera responds: A quick Internet search will confirm that border skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah had been occurring regularly for several years. The difference this past summer was Israel’s heightened concern over Hezbollah’s growing strength and its decision to respond with a large-scale war on Lebanon. In the Aug. 21 issue of The New Yorker, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh confirmed that “Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah — and shared it with Bush administration officials — well before the July 12 kidnappings.”

The border incident was the excuse Israel used to eliminate Hezbollah once and for all. It was clearly a preemptive act. The issue is whether it was justified, whether the threat was so imminent it warranted an attack grossly disproportionate to the provocation that triggered it. On that question, the Pope answered No — for the reasons cited in my series.

Seelos Sign

This spring my wife and I visited the shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (“A Hospitable High Point in the Big Easy,” Oct. 1-7). We were amazed to see a huge cross buried directly in front of his statue. Hurricane Katrina blew off the cross from the top of the church across the street and placed it in front of Father Seelos.

I think God wants Father Seelos proclaimed a saint!

Joel and Sheila Fago

Sierra Vista, Arizona

The Logic of Life

Relevant to “Life on the Ballot” (Oct. 1-7):

Unfortunately, the majority of newspaper journalists and television commentators and all too many of our legislators favor allowing embryonic research. They reason that, because these embryos have been either aborted, discarded or conceived in a dish and therefore are going to die, it is better to use them to help our medical scientists to find new cures for disease. It sounds very good. But is it?

Embryonic stem-cell research is a life-and-death issue. And the immortality of the human soul cannot be divorced from any discussion having to do with the morality of such research. At conception, when the ovum and sperm join to form an embryo, not only has a material life begun but also there is also present a person’s immortal soul. This immortal soul is not produced by the parents but is given by God and identifies this new life with its spiritual destiny.

The scientist can trace man’s genetic map and may clone an individual body but the scientist will never be able to clone a human soul. Even though you cannot see it or touch it, the human soul is as real as the embryo in the womb or frozen in the dish and to deny this reality is to deny one’s self.

Most of those who favor embryonic research admit they do not know when life begins. They either ignore the question or guess it is somewhere between conception and birth. Right reason, however dictates that, when you do not know when life begins, you should not destroy the embryo: You could be killing a human being.

Richard Mahony

Vero Beach, Florida