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In the wake of ongoing new reporting regarding sex scandals among many clerics, we have witnessed increased calls for the Catholic Church to loosen celibacy restrictions for the priesthood. Even many devout Catholics have begun to believe celibacy represents an unhealthy repression of sexual urges. To stem the tide of clerical abuse, the Church must dispense with celibacy. Fr. Carter Griffin is an outspoken opponent of this reasoning. His new book, Why Celibacy?: Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest, encapsulates his thinking on the topic, going far beyond the commonly-heard defenses of clerical celibacy. As the title suggests, Fr. Griffin’s defense of celibacy relies on a robust understanding of the priest as father.
As Scott Hahn observes in the foreword, the priesthood is not simply a job or a career. It is a vocation that demands total commitment, and “celibacy has safeguarded that commitment.” The connection between the priestly vocation and celibacy has a strong Biblical pedigree. Sexual continence was required for priests serving in the temple. Jesus, the preeminent priest who offered the greatest sacrifice for the salvation of the world, was celibate. St. Paul embraced celibacy as part of his Apostolic calling, and urged others to do the same (1 Cor. 7:7). As Fr. Griffin then explains, the practice of clerical celibacy is visible very early in the Church, confirmed or encouraged by the Councils of Elvira (305 A.D.) and Trullo (691 A.D.), and later by the Second Lateran Council (1139 A.D.).
Church - Key - Power - Priesthood - Celibacy
Yet the Church never understood celibacy in-and-of-itself as the key to unlocking the spiritual power of the priesthood. Rather, it was celibacy united to an understanding of the priest as a supernatural father. Biblical imagery for this relationship is seen in Christ’s role as the New Adam generating the Church through his sacrifice and becoming a father of...
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