Vatican City, Jun 17, 2010 / 06:58 am
Vatican analyst Sandro Magister published an article in which he detailed Pope Benedict’s teaching on priestly celibacy, a concept with which many have expressed discontent in face of the clerical sexual abuse scandals. However, the Pope’s June 10 explanation, which presents celibacy in a new light, was both hinted at and foreshadowed by two prior talks, Magister claims.
During a prayer vigil with 15,000 priests from around the world, Pope Benedict answered the questions of five priests from five different continents. His response to one priest in particular was the focus of Magister's column. Responding to a question by a priest from Eastern Europe, Pope Benedict explained the meaning of priestly celibacy. “And he did so in an original way, departing from the current historical, theological, and spiritual literature,” wrote Magister.
“It is clear from this that one of the cornerstones of this pontificate is not a distancing from clerical celibacy, but its reinforcement,” he added. Quoting from the Pope’s open letter to world bishops from March of 2009, Magister noted that one of Pope Benedict’s priorities is “to make God present in the world and to show men and women the way to God.”
Magister also recalled a speech addressed to the Roman curia on December 22, 2006, in which Pope Benedict said, “The great theme of my journey to Germany was God.” And while the Church “must speak of many things,” her true theme is God, and from the ordering of all things toward God comes the importance of all other church teachings. “Moreover, the great problem of the West is forgetfulness of God,” said the Pope. “This forgetfulness is spreading.”
In that address, Pope Benedict declared that “the true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself.” Making reference to the sixteenth psalm, which was once a part of the rite of ordination, he also explained how the priest’s property or possession is not of this world. As David said, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot,” so does the priest acknowledge that he, like the tribe of Levi, does not live off the land, but rather off the Lord.
Thus, “The priest must truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: this is the prime service that contemporary humanity needs.” When God is no longer central to a priest’s life, he loses his zeal, explained the Pope. Chastity, he continued, “can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women, too.”
This speech, declared Magister, is a reminder of the Pope Benedict’s dedication to the clergy. And it is because of this understanding of the role of the priest that the Pope declared the Year for Priests and to propose “exemplary figures like the Holy Curé of Ars.”
The Pope’s remarks last Thursday only confirm this dedication and this understanding of celibacy, Magister wrote. And they reinforce “an extremely coherent picture” of the role of the Church, which is “to lead men to God.”