Fr. Gerald E. Murray: What Priestly Celibacy Means

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The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City.


Fr. Gerald E. MurrayThe publication of From the Depths of Our Hearts – Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Robert Cardinal Sarah, caused great unease among promoters of the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Amazon region (and, surprise, everywhere else). Now that the controversy over the joint authorship has receded, it’s worth looking at what the two distinguished churchmen actually said on the subject.

Because they present an eloquent defense of the fundamental evangelical and pastoral value of priestly celibacy. Their essays remind us that the celibate priesthood in the Latin Church is not a merely contingent choice made in a less enlightened period, nor a convenient managerial strategy for avoiding inheritance disputes and reducing clergy costs.

Celibacy is a radical call to those who would represent Christ to his people in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the head of His Mystical Body, to embrace wholly Christ’s entire way of life. To discard this requirement would be to deprive God’s people of shepherds after the heart of Christ, the chief shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep not simply at the crucifixion but at every moment. Celibate priests bring Christ to the world in a way that powerfully proclaims that He is worth the total gift of one’s life. …

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