The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, explained March 23 that priestly celibacy “cries out” to the secular world that God is always present.
“Celibacy is a gift of the Lord that the priest is called to freely embrace and live in fullness,” the cardinal said in an article for L’Osservatore Romano.
He added that only “an incorrect hermeneutic of the documents of Vatican II” would lead one to see celibacy as something “from which we must liberate ourselves.”
“Such a position,” the cardinal said, “is not only historically, theologically and doctrinally erroneous, but it is also harmful to spiritual, pastoral, missionary and vocational aspects.”
Cardinal Piacenza underscored the need for proper doctrinal formation for those who will live priestly celibacy because “one cannot live what one does not understand through reason.”
“Celibacy is a matter of evangelical radicalism” he added.
“Poverty, chastity and obedience are not counsels reserved exclusively to the religious. They are virtues that should be lived with intense missionary zeal. We cannot dumb down the level of formation and the demands of the faith,” the cardinal stated.
“In a secularized world it is always difficult to understand the reasons for celibacy. However,” he pointed out, “we must have the courage as the Church to ask ourselves whether we want to resign ourselves to this situation and accept the progressive secularization of societies and cultures as inevitable, or whether we are ready for the task of profound and real new evangelization, at the service of the Gospel, and therefore, of the truth about man.”
“In this sense I think that enthusiastic support for celibacy and appropriate appreciation for it in the Church and the world can represent some of the most efficacious ways of overcoming secularization,” the cardinal said.
“We must not allow ourselves to become conditioned or intimidated by those who do not understand celibacy and want to change Church discipline. Rather, we must recover an enthusiastic awareness that celibacy challenges the mentality of the world and puts its secularism and agnosticism into crisis and cries out throughout the centuries that God is present.”