Thursday, February 20, 2020

Weigel's Apologia for Clerical Celibacy

Beyond Amazonia

"Celibacy, a total gift of self to God, only makes sense in a Kingdom context."

What does "total gift of self to God" really mean? Loving God above all others? All are called to do that. Giving up every good other than God, food, water, oxygen too? Loving God only? So we shouldn't love our parents or friends? Even monks still love others and the Church, even if they are free from any other concrete duties to others.

This theological language is very sloppy and doesn't help the Latin apologetic for clerical celibacy/continence. I thought it was sloppy in Karol Wojtyla's writing too, especially when compared to the scholastics.

If total gift of self requires the giving up of one good, why not the giving up of other goods as well? Hence my examples of food, water, oxygen. Now the response may be that it is giving up of all goods not necessary for life. Then why shouldn't "total gift of self" entail the giving up of all family ties and friendships, and a host of other goods not essential to survival, television, alcohol, golf and whatever else priests may indulge in? If the apologists for clerical celibacy talk about the "total gift of self to God" as just meaning celibacy, then yes, there is a problem with their use of words and logic. The current preferred Latin theological defense of clerical celibacy/continence (which was formulated and gained prominence only within the last 50 years or so) strikes me as just being a post hoc rationalization since it is so poorly thought-out.

Now it may be that someone can explain celibacy no longer as a "sacrifice" or the giving up of some good (wife and family), but I don't know of anyone who has done that yet.

The most reasonable claim would be a rather pragmatic one, that the celibate priest is free from the responsibilities of marriage (but not from responsibilities to family, friends, or even the political community necessarily), and in theory he would have more time to devote to ministering to his parish community. But let's not say that this is because the priest is making a "total gift of himself" -- that turns out to be a rhetorical exaggeration, at best.

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