March 27, 2020 – Life and Death

We're all going to die.

Not of the corona virus. Some will die, but as a society we will survive it. But all of us will die some time; we are powerless to prevent that. What is in our power, is to live well.

In the current crisis discussions are going on about how much we can demand or expect from people in order to save lives, or to limit illness and death? The controversy over the prohibition of smoking in restaurants in Austria, which was drawn out over many years, touched on a similar question: does the concern for the health of third parties justify limiting the rights of individuals (e.g., smokers or owners of restaurants)? Opinions are scattered over a wide spectrum: some believe that measures should have been taken earlier and been ever more strict; others believe that the current measures are already excessive.

The christian faith could possibly play a mediating role in this discussion. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loved us unto death, and who rose again from the dead. So we are convinced: death is not the worst thing that can happen and health is not the most important thing; the most important thing in life is love and death is, for the one who believes and loves, the door to eternal life. Thus christian faith "relativizes" fear in the face of a pandemic by giving us a deeper understanding of the meaning of life and of death.

But christian charity also moves us to be concerned and to take care for others as for ourselves. And so the christian faith also confirms the importance of taking the risk of the illness seriously, out of love for our brothers and sisters who could be hit by it.

The Gospels show Jesus consciously and willingly embracing his death, yet also experiencing fear of suffering and death, show his conviction of the victory of life over death, yet also weeping over the death of Lazarus.

It is a fruitful paradox of Christianity. Because we believe in the victory of God's love over death, we are empowered to more intensely value life and to champion it.

Considerations on Priestly Celibacy by Marianne Schlosser

Translated by Fr. Joseph Bolin from the German text published in "Die Tagespost" on October 14, 2019.

Considerations on priestly celibacy

“… How would it harm the New Covenant, if religious ministers, as in the Old Testament, would live in a respectable sacramental marriage? Is God now wiser or holier than in the Old Testament? Christ may have been virgin, may have been borne of a virgin, entrusted to a virginal man, may have been anticipated by the virginal prophets Jeremiah and Elijah, may have recommended virginity to some few, who were able to take it. From where, I ask, did the commandment come, so that it was no longer only a counsel? […] Vows are so often disregarded, what is holy stained, the laws of nature horribly perverted – crimes, evil deeds, sins, injustice, offenses, depravities that one is ashamed to name or to think about … the unworthy reality shouts louder than my complain – unless one makes himself deliberately deaf!”

These are only some of the objections to celibacy, with which Johannes Gerson in the 14th century had to deal with, in his answer to the anti-celibacy work of a French nobleman. We meet similar arguments in the so-called “Anti-celibacy storm”, that swept over some dioceses in Southwest Germany, where mostly academically educated lay persons, together with a considerable number of professors of the University of Freiburg, turned to the grand duke of Baden and the Baden Parliament, to obtain the repeal of celibacy for catholic priests. At that time anti-celibacy associations were established, which were unfortunately joined by not a few priests. The most important defender of celibacy at this time was Johann Adam Möhler.

Two basic lines of argument are conflated

In the argument against the long tradition of priestly celibacy, two basic thrusts are at times conflated – then as now – on the one hand, very fundamental anthropological objections are raised; such as: celibacy leads to the degeneration of human existence. These arguments, we must be clear, doubt or deny ultimately the meaning and fruitfulness of the evangelical counsel of perpetua continentia in general. On the other hand, specific arguments against priestly celibacy are presented, as it appears (mainly) associated with the Latin tradition: So was and is the rejection of the so-called “compulsory celibacy” justified on the grounds that it is the main obstacle to getting more well-qualified applicants for the priesthood.

Not uncommonly is it asserted that the charism of celibacy is well appreciated, but since it is not necessarily linked to the priesthood, one cannot require it as a condition for the priesthood.

Karl Rahner, already many years ago (The Celibacy of the Secular Priest Today: An Open Letter, 1968) answered that one cannot deny the church the right to demand this dowry from those who want to be her priests. Similarly, Joseph Ratzinger (Open Letter to the Munich moral theologian R. Egenter, 1977) pointed out that the aforesaid reasoning is based on a unreflected concept of charism: First, a charism is given to the person as a free subject; the recipient himself can and must have an attitude to this gift, i.e, one can develop and guard a gift, as well as ask it of God, similarly one can neglect, injure it, or let it die. The same pertains to those persons who have the responsibility of accompanying and discerning vocations.

A charism is never just a private spiritual gift

Secondly, a charism is never merely a private spiritual gift, but, on the contrary, a special aptitude for the benefit of the ecclesial community. – This seems, I would add, to be particularly applicable to the charisma of celibate chastity (especially if it is not linked to a vocation to an Order): It gives freedom for an extraordinary dedication. – If the church gave up its publicly expressed esteem for the celibate life of priests and left it to personal decision, the celibate life of a diocesan priest would become an expression of his personal, private piety, that would have but little to do with his ecclesial ministry. The consequence of leaving celibacy up to individual choice would, sooner or later – as Joseph Ratzinger is also convinced by historical developments – be the disappearance of the celibate life of priests.

In the following I will not go into the historical development; for to show the legitimacy of celibacy in the Latin Church there are several studies (Chr. Cocchini, R. Cholij, St. Heid), but I would rather like to try to manifest the inner closeness or “manifold correspondence” (“multimoda convenientia”: Presbyterorum ordinis n.16) between the evangelical counsel of the perpetually promised “celibate chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” and the priestly vocation. If one does not do that, the question naturally arises, what one would lose if one gave up this seemingly incomprehensible, unbeloved and supposedly so frequently broken “law”.

Celibate life is rooted in the order of redemption

Certainly, these are arguments of fitingness. For the celibate life is based on the order of redemption; as a result, its justification can not be presented by means of necessary and generally evident reasons, although there may be some plausible arguments from the outside, it rather derives its true “logic” from belief in the incarnation, and even more so the bodily resurrection of Christ (“After the resurrection they will no longer marry”: Mt 22:30, Lk 20:35). I quote Rahner again: “There are many reasons for today's celibacy crisis. […] But if we do not fool ourselves, we must see that the ultimate cause of this crisis lies in the plight of faith in general and as a whole. We live in a time when the reality of God and eternal life is difficult for man to realize. We live in a time characterized by keywords such as demythologization, desacralization [!] and the tendency to reduce all Christianity to mere interpersonal relationships.”

In the following considerations, I suppose that continentia permanens = celibacy is not just an outward lifestyle – or even a more comfortable single life! – but a specific, bodily expression of chastity (castitas). This, in turn, signifies an attitude of piety, which shapes the affective relationship of the person to his fellow man, to himself, and indeed to God, and is a necessary quality of caritas, the virtue of love. It is rooted in grasping the “sanctity”, preciousness and unavailability of the other person.

Following of the Good Shepherd – not functional, but personal

There is only one priest in the New Testament: the Lord, Bridegroom and Head of His Church, which is His priestly body (1 Pet 2:5,9). He who receives the sacrament of priestly ordination is enabled to “represent” the Lord of the Church, to make Christ visible in her as the permanent counterpart to the Church – in word, sacrament, in the selfless service of salvation. The establishment of the sacramental priesthood states that Christ wants to be present not only as the gift of salvation in his Church (Eucharist as sacrament), but also as giver (in the celebration of the Eucharist, especially through the action of the priest “in persona Christi capitis”). The priesthood of the New Covenant exists only as a function of the one high priest Christ.

At the same time: He who is ordained a priest, according to the Catholic understanding, does not simply take on a service or a task, in the sense of a function necessary for the community, but is called to a special following of Christ. He is not simply a “means” or “tool” (even if the sacraments are operative ex opere operato, and do not depend on the faith or holiness of the priest) nor a “servant who does not know what his Lord is doing” but a “friend” (John 15:15), who is called into a “knit community” (as a cooperator) with Christ (1 Cor 3: 9). His task is to promote the supernatural life, to build the faithful into a sacred offering (PO 2). He has nothing to give but what Christ gives. But this passing on claims him as a person.

To become a priest not for oneself, but for Christ

How could conformity of one’s way of life to Jesus’ way of life, the evangelical counsels, not be fitting here? He whose first concern must be for the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33), will avoid getting caught up in “earthly occupations” (2 Tim 2:4) or making himself too much at home.

The readiness of a candidate for a celibate life can certainly be a criterion for whether he has understood that he does not become a priest for himself, but for Christ, who wants to exercise his pastoral care through him. And whether he accepts the unconditionality of this vocation. Karl Rahner (1968) bluntly stated: “We must ask today's priests and candidates for the priesthood where in their lives those decisions […] are made that so determine their lives by faith, that this life itself would be different if they did not believe in God and eternal life.”

It is not a matter of external imitation, but about the sharing of life, which effects a special proximity. “continentia” is not a garment worn externally, but an expression of inner belonging to Christ, the Good Shepherd, so total that the place of a spouse remains empty.

He who renounces it renounces a good – a good of the order of creation. This can only succeed if the renunciation is affirmed for the sake of a higher good, and not simply “accepted”. Precisely because marriage is not a peripheral matter of human life, but as a unique, exclusive community of a man with a woman profoundly shapes and claims the two persons in all dimensions, it can be understood as “fitting” that a person, who completely and personally is taken into the service of Christ’s commission, cannot belong to another human person as a husband does to his wife.

One may add that the lack of understanding of the meaning of celibacy is precisely the consequence of the trivialization of human sexuality and confusion in the sphere of marriage: “For as soon as marriage becomes a purely civil affair, and to a large extent a chaos, the thought of a free renunciation of sexual community for the sake of the highest tasks, and of a form of life that derives from it, loses its sociological setting. Thus it is not accidental that the denial of the sacramental character and thus the thesis of its dissolubility in the Reformation took place at the same time and derived from the same conceptions from which celibacy as a voluntary and sacred Christian form was rejected. They then continue in the outlook of the French Revolution, which made marriage a purely civil affair and fought religious orders with a hatred deriving not merely from abuses” (Romano Guardini, Ethics I).

Tria munera Christi

The priesthood of Holy Orders, PO explains at the outset, is established to build up the “holy priesthood” of the Body of Christ so that believers become an offering to God. This sanctifying ministry takes place in the proclamation (martyria – munus propheticum), the celebration of the sacraments (leiturgia – munus sacerdotale, sanctificandi) and the comprehensive care for the salvation of those entrusted to one (diakonia – munus regendi).


When the priest is spoken of as the “minister of the mystery” (minister mysterii), one will surely think of his office of celebrating the sacraments (“mysteria”). The sacraments, however, are rooted in the mystery par excellence, as above all the Pauline Epistles make clear: in the plan of God’s salvation revealed in Christ. Integral to this plan of salvation is the church. “Mystery” means “the whole Christ,” “Head and Body,” inasmuch as the union of men with the Redeemer is precisely the goal of God's plan of salvation.

The living Christ is the Head and Bridegroom of the Church: “He loved her and gave herself for her,” “that she might be pure and holy” (Eph 5: 25-27). This devotion is celebrated and made present above all in the Eucharist: through it the faithful are cleansed and sanctified more deeply in order to be with Christ a “holy gift for God the Father”. For this reason the Fathers of the Church see the Eucharistic celebration as the wedding supper of the Lamb, in which the promised communion of heaven is already celebrated in a “veiled” fashion.

Does it not stand to reason that the one who “represents” the bridegroom in this liturgy, who acts “in persona Christi capitis” and speaks the words: “This is my body for you”, should also himself have only the Church as his counterpart? As far as the priesthood of the “first degree”, i.e. the episcopate, is concerned, this fittingness is not disputed even in the Eastern churches. The bishop is, as it were, in spiritual marriage bound to that part of the church entrusted to his pastoral care.

Priest and sacrifice at the same time

A second aspect: the mark of Christ’s priesthood is that he is at once both priest and offering – “priest, altar (as the place of encounter between God and man) and sacrificial lamb.” To the priesthood in the following of Christ therefore also belongs the “expropriation” (Joseph Ratzinger) or “transference” of himself to God. That is the real meaning of „sacrifice” (Latin: “sacri-ficium”): One gives something to God – ultimately, oneself – so that it belongs to HIM (Augustine).

Celibacy is a very concrete form of transference to God, which can also be felt in the dimension of renunciation: He is given the desire to live fruitfully and not meaninglessly, and the longing to be personally loved. It is given “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” in the certainty of faith that one never gives to God without HIM giving back more, in the confident hope that this will increase that love (caritas) that contributes to the salvation of others, love of the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his own.

In every human life there are “sacrifices” that are demanded of one, imposed on one. But the celibate life is an act of generous faith. This means that not only the de facto abstemious, chaste life, but the promise has a special dignity. For here the dimension of “voluntary gift” is expressed. The promise contains a commitment of oneself that we can, with Thomas Aquinas, describe as an act of worship: the commitment made publicly is a testimony of trust in God and his grace. A priest I know put it this way: “Yes, celibacy is a charism, a gift from God. But it is also my gift to God.”

Martyria – testimony

Priests sometimes used to call their breviary: “my bride”. This was meant to say that they took the book of hours everywhere – like the cell phone today. Of course: It is not about the book as an object, but about the familiarity with the Word of God, which is not only to be read, but to be prayed through, indeed, as by the prophets, to be “eaten”. The service of proclamation presupposes a personal relationship to the Word of God, as Pope Francis urgently recommends in Evangelii gaudium.

Of course, celibacy is not necessary for that. Still, we recall that realists like Thomas Aquinas (or even the “therapists” whom Philo describes, and also Moses Maimonides, even if for a different purpose) considered a certain freedom of mind to be an excellent disposition to contemplation, namely, that “undividedness of the heart”, which Paul sees as connected with chaste celibacy (1 Cor 7:32-34). It is inwardly oriented towards the unhindered contemplation of the truth of God, of the revealed word of God. Above all, this applies to the contemplation that is not just a theoretical meditation, but a “looking with the look of love”. Conversely, the spiritual tradition also holds unanimously that this loving “willing listening” to the Word of God strengthens the virtue of chastity.

He who proclaims the Good News, speaks of the goods of the world to come, is a witness of hope. The goods of eternal life are real goods, but not so easily visible: “We do not stare at the visible, but fix our gaze (contemplantes) on what is not before our eyes. For the visible is transient, the invisible eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). A life of voluntary celibacy is a strong testimony to the reality of the goods we speak of, a testimony that we are immensely loved – even now, in this world of twilight and shadow.

Of course, there is another tone in the word “martyria” which should only be hinted at here: martyria is also a “confession” (confessio) against resistance and contradiction – from the outside or from within oneself. To confess then means to stand up for what is not immediately obvious, not to deny the “folly of the cross”. It is no coincidence that the “white martyrdom” of virginity follows immediately after the “red”, the witness of blood (see LG n. 42). Both are crosses (John Chrysostom). But both are not primarily about the “torture”, but the unity of the witness with Christ.

Diakonia – Seel-Sorge, the service of the Good Shepherd

Diakonia should be understood here in a comprehensive sense: serving the supernatural purpose of fellow human beings, with a mission (and therefore a responsibility!) that goes beyond the duty of each brother or sister. It is about serving as Christ has served (see Phil 2, John 13, etc.), serving with the same purpose. The paradigm for this is foot washing – with its ethical and sacramental implications. For Christ still wants to wash the feet of his faithful through the ministry of the apostles.

What does celibacy here contribute? More in any case than external temporal-spatial availability or easier mobility. It is more about a certain quality of relationship. The look of a “caretaker of souls” (Seel-Sorger) should recognize what is “of God” in the other person, the image of God, in reverence for the work of God.

Since the earliest times, people have considered especially capable of this view of others those who “live alone for God”. Those who face their own loneliness with God every day will also understand more deeply what is necessary for every human being. For this reason is spiritual fatherhood attributed to those who do not know any natural paternity – monks (and nuns) and priests. Just as the calling to a special discipleship does not simply stem from education in a Christian family, but requires a special calling (cf. the words of Jesus’s calling, which demand a distancing from the natural family), so do human relationships of a person so called take on a special coloring.

“A priest is the father of all believers, men and women alike. So, if someone who takes this position among the faithful marries, he is like someone who marries his own daughter,” wrote a Syrian author of the 8th century. That sounds shocking. But let us ask the other way around: could the wife of a priest confess to her husband? How can one endure that people express their deepest metaphysical distress and guilt before God to the spouse whom one knows better than anyone else? It was Friedrich Nietzsche who claimed that aurical confession disappeared in the communities of the Reformation when there were no more celibate clergy.

And so we may also ask if the ease with which one can imagine married priests is perhaps linked to the de facto marginalized meaning of the sacrament of penance.


Considering the aspects briefly outlined here, I venture to say that the separation of celibacy from priestly ministry would change the conception of the priesthood not only peripherally but profoundly. In any case, the consequence would be an increasingly functional understanding, probably even the complete gentrification. On the other hand, it should be remembered that the great reforming movements of church history, which in the long run developed fertility, promoted the vita evangelica for the clergy.

Between cross and Easter

“He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it.” One can only understand the celibate life when one begins to understand this saying.

The life of the Christian is marked by the cross and resurrection of Christ (CCC 2015) – beginning with baptism, which takes place in a symbol of death (immersion) to receive New Life. The sacraments show this mystery, the Beatitudes express it, and especially the evangelical counsels. Voluntary Poverty – which also frees internally; celibate chastity – which does not correspond to a lack of relationships, but to friendship with Christ; concrete renunciation of one's own plans – to do more good than what one could have thought of. All evangelical counsels have this double form: New Life comes through dying.

The “counsels” invite to a renunciation, a renunciation of real goods that one is not obliged to renounce. “Pain” is therefore not a sign that one is not called – but if the joy does not surpass the pain, there is hardly a vocation. Conversely, having received the vocation to celibate life does not mean being relieved of all challenges or temptations. The dimension of asceticism remains important, and the spiritual tradition is very realistic on this point. One is advised to strive for supporting virtues, including the other two “counsels”. For not only a “raging stomach”, but also vanity and the interest in rumors hollow out the chaste life. He who does not fight his anger, impatience, spiritual indifference or indulgence, or even neglects reckless dangers, risks collapse.

The life of the evangelical counsels is at the same time a “foretaste” of the new life, not illusion, but the fresh breeze from the new aeon that has been blowing in since Easter into a world marked by its own transience – and the deadly fear of it. The celibate life is a “scion” of hope (as a theological virtue), which is not without “earnest money” (see Spe salvi 7,9). The vocation to celibate life bears the vocation to a deeper friendship with Christ, which in turn wants to expand out to the brothers and sisters of Christ – in a generous and ready-to-serve love.

Dr. Marianne Schlosser on the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood

Dr. Marianne Schlosser, professor of theology at the university of Vienna and member of the International Theological Commission, has seen it necessary to distance herself from the preparatory group responsible for the topic of women in the Church for the “synodal way” of the German Church, which focused too much on the issue of ordination. One of the prominent advocates for women’s ordination in the working group was Sr. Katharina Ganz, Superior General of the Oberzeller Franciscan sisters. Marianne Schlosser recently (the exact date of the letter is not indicated in the text published online yesterday, September 23, 2019) wrote the following open letter to Sr. Katharina Ganz, defending and explaining the Church’s teaching on this point. Translated by Fr. Joseph Bolin from the German original, put online by Die Tagespost (removing the headings, which appear to have been added by the press):

Dear Madam Superior General, esteemed colleague!

You recently sent me a link to your interview in the FAZ 13.09.2019.

As the topics you discuss are on concern to many people, I would like to comment on a few points and have decided to do so in the form of an open letter, because a letter to the editor would not provide the space for a differentiated opinion. I write with the awareness that I am not alone in my view, but to give a voice to many others who do not usually make themselves noticed by their vocality.

Already the headline, "Women must pose the question of power", rather unsettled me. You associate the "question of power" mainly with the sacrament of Holy Orders and see in the fact that the Roman Catholic – as also the Eastern Churches – does not entrust women with the apostolic ministry, a violation of the equal rights of men and women.

Honestly: I do not want to have anyone above me in the Church, man, woman, or collective who or which holds such a notion of "power" or of the sacrament of Holy Orders. "Christ freed us to freedom" (Gal. 5: 1). There is to be no power in the Church other than the authority of Jesus Christ – and we know what it is supposed to look like ("You know that the powerful … but with you it should not be like this …" Mark 10 , 43, Luke 22:26).

I certainly will not deny that there is a de facto abuse of office and the rank associated with it. And it is painful to me that, even to the present, religious nuns are sometimes as a matter of course treated by clerics and others as servants and do not receive the esteem due them. You do not even have to look to Africa or South America for that.

Maybe it would be "just" that not only men should be allowed to be able to abuse power. It would not, however, make the situation better.. You admit yourself that this expectation would be quite unworldly. Not to mention that de facto "power" is not exercised only by persons who hold an office … I fear that Augustine was right when he considered the hunger for power, i. e. the temptation to rule over others, to be inherent to the human being – not the male sex! As long as he / she does not convert, i.e. take on the mind of Christ (Phil. 2).

Especially in the context of the recent abuse scandal by clerics, the old question has once again come into the limelight: Does the Church (who is that?) need women as priests? Meanwhile, it sounds rather the other way around: women need access to the ordained ministry; they have a right to it.

I do not want to insinuate anything of anyone. But if someone needs an office for themselves, then the abuse of the associated position is inevitable. Anyone – man or woman – who thinks they have a right to it is, mistaken. That's why it is, in my judgment, a mistake to use the language of equal rights in this context. Gregory the Great, a truly experienced shepherd, was of the opinion that it was better not to ordain people who press for ordination. For he who is so convinced of him- or herself that he/she has never been driven to terror by fear or at least a shadow of self-doubt in the face of what lies ahead in such an office, one man doubt his / her special vocation to follow the Good Shepherd. This necessarily means, after all, a kind of "expropriation" of one's own plans and interests – which as a rule also involves resistance within oneself.

That is it which one would need to increase awareness of, so that the church grows together into a "fraternal" community. The fact that your patron saint and model, Francis, not only had a very high esteem for priests, "because of their ordination" (as he writes in his "Testament"), but could also himself be downright authoritarian, cannot, incidentally, be totally overlooked.

A position of responsibility brings with it a special danger, as the whole spiritual tradition knows. To not confuse responsibility with patronizing, patience with with indifference, modesty with submissiveness, affability with conformity, etc., requires a great spiritual maturity.

Unfortunately, the behavior of public officials is at times an anti-testimony.

But where would the suggestion you made at the end of your interview lead, to separate "the sacrament of Holy Orders" and "power"? Who should then exercise "power" with which qualification, with what right? The time of the prince-bishops, who were laymen according to canon law, is over.

The Church binds the delegation of authority and special responsibility to criteria, including a lengthy education and an examination of the character and religious qualifications of a candidate in order to minimize risks. And the rite of consecration expresses confidence in believers’ prayer that the Holy Spirit will not remain idle.

Is this just a spiritual castle in the air, far from reality, an all too power-filled reality?

As long as the office of leadership ("munus regiminis") – even if that were just a distant ideal! – is dialectically connected with the "diakonia Christi" (Jn 13: 13-16; Lk 22,27), that is to say, with the alienation of oneself, if need be unto the giving up of one’s life, there is at least hope that some, many, if possible all of them – hope that one will not lose sight of the summit, even if one were to relapse. If, on the other hand, you declare the summit non-existent, you will remain in the fog of the valleys.

As for the possibility of women's access to Sacred Orders, especially to the priesthood, you assume that John Paul II's "Ordinatio sacerdotalis" does not the degree of ultimate binding force expressly claimed by the document itself (n.4), that it lacks the formal explanation pronouncement as dogma.

However, it has now been repeatedly explained (most recently by Cardinal Ladaria on May 29, 2018) that, and why!, this letter is binding as an expression of the ordinary Magisterium.

(1) Response ad propositum dubium concerning the Teaching Contained in “Ordinatio sacerdotalis”, 28 October, 1995; (2) Concerning the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Teaching Contained in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 28 October 1995,; (3) In response to certain doubts regarding the definitive character of the doctrine of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, 29 May 2018., Luis F. Ladaria, S.I., Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,

By no means everything that is "de fide", that is to say to be accepted in faith, is formally dogmatized. But if some circles insist on it, they might achieve just that …

That would at any rate be easier than the opposite way. For that would not only rescind a document of the papal Magisterium (which could scarcely be formulated more emphatically!), but abdicate a tradition of the whole church, which was not merely practice, but a practice that had undergone reflection.

In such a case one would have to in my opinion even ask the question, whether a church that had for 2000 years discriminated half of the faithful – and the more fervent half at that! – can be really the church of Jesus Christ, led by the Holy Spirit. Of course, the question is relevant only if one maintains – and I believe we both do – that the Church together with its basic structure is built on the will of Christ – otherwise it would not matter anyway; in that case nobody needs something like a sacramental ministry.

You then declare frankly that certain theological arguments do not convince you.

I do not deny that in the course of reflection on the sacrament of Holy Orders and its recipients, less judicious or viable arguments were brought into play. For good theologians (like Thomas Aquinas) they were however never the main reason.

But fundamentally: what degree of persuasiveness can theological arguments achieve in so far as they rest on the historical revelation of God? If there really is revelation, if the eternal truth of God has become man in Jesus Christ, then this is given to us as an event. In other words, that and how God acts in the history of salvation cannot be demonstrated with "conclusive reasons," because this action is rooted in the freedom of God. The theological arguments can only show the inner coherence, the connection with the whole of revelation. There will always be leeway for assent to the argument. This also applies to the question under discussion here.

You ask why the representation of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, that is to say, of his actions, especially during the celebration of the Eucharist, cannot assumed by a woman, since men are also present in the pews. Literally, challenged by your interviewer's provocative question, you said, "Why should sexual masculinity be a necessary condition to represent the man Christ when, conversely, the church is to be the bride of the Bridegroom of (sic) Christ? Then the church should consist only of women. "

Yes, if that were the church's argumentation, I would also not find it convincing! For one thing, the sacramental representation of Christ does not simply depend on nature, "the Y chromosome." Otherwise every man, qua man, could represent Christ.

Secondly, there seems to me to be a misunderstanding of the notion of representation, a probably widespread misunderstanding.

In the "symbolic" language of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, the people of God as such, composed of men and women, is "feminine" (in the sense of "receiving") in relation to God, and all together form the "body", none of the members is the head. Moreover, every creature is receptive in relation to God, every soul – as the mystics of both sexes say – is the "bride of the word of God," which must first be received so that mortal man may "bear fruit that remains."

This also applies to those members of the Church who are ordained to the priesthood. Even a priest is and remains "receiving" in relation to God, remains a member of the body of Christ. One can also say with Pope Francis that he must not forget the "Marian" dimension of Christianity, which is the first and fundamental vocation of the Church, the "Prae" before the "Petrine" vocation. Therefore, only a baptized person can be ordained, and ordination cannot replace baptism.

That a priest can "represent" the "vis-à-vis" of the church, that is, Christ as head and bridegroom, is only possible because of the sacrament of ordination. This enables him to "re-present" something he can never become. The persons in the pew, on the other hand, do not "represent" the church – at best in the sense that the whole may be present in one part – they are it by reason of their membership in the body of Christ through baptism (cf Can. 204 – § 1).

But why cannot this sacrament of representation be conferred on a woman?

A sacrament always includes institution by Christ, i.e. the linking of a visible object or operation with a new meaning and an effect guaranteed by Christ Himself. In principle, he could have ordered it differently, he could have completely foregone the sending of the apostles, or he could have left everything (and not just a lot) to later development in the believing community. But if something is to be a "sign", then it must point to the designated content in the best possible way (significance). Oil or wine have a different significance than water. At a "wedding dinner" we think of something other than a birthday party, however lavishly it might be celebrated. This aspect is not playing around with pictures, but relevant, because the sacraments are by definition "perceptible signs" for an invisible reality.

And it seems to me very reasonable that a woman is not a significant sign for the bridegroom of the church. Likewise, a man is not a significant sign of the Church as bride. So religious women often receive a ring on the day of profession, whereas that is unusual for monks – although they both live the bridal love for Christ, they are a visible sign of it in different ways.

The reasonableness of the argument is based not only on a natural preconception – just as the sacraments are not merely religious variants of natural rites – but on the connection between the reality of creation and the historical revelation of God; One could also say that the reality of creation and its symbolism is used for the communication of salvation. Christ "interprets" creation when he establishes the sacraments. The symbols used in the Scriptures as the deposit of the self-communication of God are therefore not simply "pictures" that could be replaced as desired. Rather, they are the way the unfathomable divine mystery of Christ's love is made accessible to us. That the relationship between Yahweh and his beloved people be described as a marriage bond, that the Gospels designate Jesus as the "Bridegroom," that Paul speaks of the Bride Church (2 Cor 11: 2; Eph 5), who owes her life to the Bridegroom, or that the eschatological fulfillment, the joy without end, whose sacramental anticipation is the Eucharistic celebration, resembles a wedding feast (eg Rev 22), is not arbitrary imagery, but expresses that humanity, indeed the individual, will be wooed by God's love. Not the other way around.

That this reasoning seem strange to not a few people, because premises of thought have changed, says nothing about the truth. It could also be the premises that need testing and metanoia. The content of faith is not simply what one just finds obvious. Karl Rahner once wrote in an "open letter" (in the context of the priestly way of life): "Christianity is still a highly unfashionable thing; also in that area about which I have so long tried to write. Thank God it is. "

Greetings in Christ,

Marianne Schlosser

Cardinal Schönborn on Women's Ordination, April 14 2019

On April 14, 2019, Cardinal Schönborn of the Archdiocese of Vienna gave a televised interview with the ORF (in German) with Gaby Konrad and Gerold Riedmann. Here the translation of the part where he was asked about the ordination of women. Surprisingly, but perhaps because he was asked more insistently, he seems to more explicitly advocate the ordination of women as deaconesses than he does the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Latin Church in the same interview, though he certainly suggest support for the latter as well.

Gaby Konrad: In your estimation, from a closer perspective, has he (the pope) gotten mired down with his reforms?
Schönborn: That depends on what one expected of him. In my estimation, there is a group in the Church and in Society, for whom the pope has already gone to far. These are the in some respects very severe critics from the traditionalist camp, who suspect nothing good. There are those who anticipated enormous reforms, which the pope cannot deliver.
Gerold Riedmann: Because the system resists too strongly?
Schönborn: No, because here one has problems with doctrine. These are the well-known topics, are they not? There are still no women bishops, still no women priests.
Gerold Riedmann: Why?
Schönborn: Exactly. This question was inevitable. That’s why I posed it myself.
Why? Because we have a two thousand year old tradition, which not even the pope can set aside at breakfast with a stroke of the pen; that requires developments, and developments, in a institution as large as the Catholic Church, require a long time. We dare not forgot, the protestants have had women pastors for less than a hundred years, among the protestants for less than a hundred years, the Orthodox by no means. The usage has now developed among the Anglicans, and always with enormous controversy. So someone who expected that Pope Francis would clarify this question now, is of course disappointed.
But if one looks at what this pope has already achieved, well just look at it. The climate Summit of Paris, we are allowed to say it, the climate Summit of Paris would finally not have came about, if the pope had not massively fought for it. Those are, for me, the immense reforms that this pope is driving. The Amazon Synod, that is now coming in October.
Gaby Konrad: We intended to come to that topic. But perhaps before that to the issue of women. You yourself said, for you, in your opinion the issue of women is decisive for the Church’s future. If we now make a thought experiment, and the pope would ask you for your personal opinion, at a Council, and would ask you, what do you personally believe? Can women become priests? What would you answer?
Schönborn: I would say, that at any rate women need a greater place in the Church. That is, in many respects that have more place, since in most cases there are more women in the Church than men. Aside from those who are at the altar.
Gaby Konrad: In the pews?
Schönborn: Sorry, what's that?
Gaby Konrad: In the pews there are more women than men.
Schönborn: There are more women than men sitting in the pews. That's a fact. In our parish councils are 52% women. But women are less represented in positions of leadership. That is, incidentally, a problem in all religions. There was recently a meeting of representatives of the religions in Austria with the President of Austria, and the representatives sat in the first row, and those they had brought with them in the second and third row, and in my speech of thanks I said to the president: “if I look at the first row, I get the impression that the second half, or the other half of humanity is missing.” Among the Muslims, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Christians, everywhere there only men sitting in the first row. I think we have world-wide a problem or topic: women in the religions.
Doris Wagner, in the movie “female pleasure”, of which I only saw the trailer and read about it… it concerned the fate of five women, five religions, five cultures. This is a world-wide topic, the Catholic Church in many respect is not coming in last in this movement.
Gaby Konrad und Riedmann simultaneously: But?
Schönborn: But,
Gerold Riedmann: I only wanted to take up her question. Can women become priests? That is one question. You answered somewhat evasively. Asked again: should women become priests?
Schönborn: I have said very clearly. I wish that they could become deaconesses. That is the degree of ordination that they also historically have had. Let us try and see [Schönborn spoke this sentence in English]. Ok? Let’s see.
Gerold Riedmann: That means?
Gaby Konrad: Women have to first prove themselves?
Schönborn: Sorry?
Gaby Konrad: Women have to first prove themselves as deaconesses, and then we’ll see how it further goes.
Schönborn: No. Institutions don’t work at the touch of a button. That’s a fact. And before we get our nose bloody running into the limits that exist, let’s see what is possible. I ask myself again and again, why women have until now had now place in Vatican diplomacy. There is no reason, why women cannot be in all possible positions of leadership – in our diocese, women are as a matter of course in all possible positions of leadership. Let's start there.

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

„Bear one another’s burdens, and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2) When something is heavy for one person to carry, two persons can carry it together more easily: not only physical burdens, but everything that weighs us down, makes us sad. By carrying such burdens with and for another person, we show that we wish well for the person we help, we love them.

“Bear one another’s burdens” can also mean taking a burden that someone else has upon ourselves, even without doing anything that anyone can see, silently, inwardly bearing with them, being patient with other persons’ faults.

Or that we pray for someone suffering under the burden of sickness or an unpleasant situation they have gotten themselves into.

“So you shall fulfill the law of Christ”. Love, or charity, is the love of Christ, because Christ gives us the fullness of the holy Spirit, which is the spirit of charity, because Christ taught this love, saying “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35), and because he himself loved us, and showed that love by bearing our sins on the cross.

“Bear one another’s burdens” is a precept and counsel that extends to all, but in an ordered manner. Paul writes, further, “So let us do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10). With the parable of the good Samaritan Christ teaches that our love is not to be restricted to a particular group of men, but that we are to love all men as our neighbors, as they are also made in the image of God and loved by God. And again, “ Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. If we love only those who love you, what good does that do you etc.?” (Mat 5:44,46) However, we learn to love all men, who God created, by loving those whom he placed close to us: ourselves, our family, and the family of God, the Church. And when we love enemies, we love them so as to, in principle, desire to be joined in friendship with them. We can’t do that unless we love friends.

This is not selfish, because we don’t love them or do good for them only because they love us or do good things for us, but because they are united with us in God, in the shared faith and with a common goal, eternal life in Christ. And so that same love extends, in principle, though not with the same intensity, to all those for whom we wish that they might know Jesus Christ and attain eternal life.

Let us pray for that love, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the mark of Christ’s disciples, a sign of the divine origin of the Church, and the root of eternal life in us.

Cardinal Schönborn on the discipline of celibacy and married priests, April 14 2019

On April 14, 2019, Cardinal Schönborn of the Archdiocese of Vienna gave a televised interview with the ORF (in German) with Gaby Konrad and Gerold Riedmann, where, among other topics, he was asked about and spoke about priestly celibacy. Taken together with various other statements he's made, his position seems to be, in effect, that it would probably be, all things considered, good to under certain circumstances ordain older married men to the priesthood in the Latin Church, but that the decision to do so should be a decision of the whole Church. Here is, in translation, that part of the interview.

Konrad: As you already mentioned, this Amazon Synod will take place in the fall, and then a second hot topic will be handled. The discipline of celibacy could possibly be relaxed. What is your take on the matter? Is the discipline of celibacy good, or is it bad?

Schönborn: The discipline of celibacy is what it is. I have experience of both, because I am also responsible for Eastern Catholic Churches in Austria, and I have around 30 priests who are married. I experience both sides: very good families, priests with families. And I experience very good priests who live celibately. And I experience crises on both sides: unmarried priests who do not maintain celibacy, and married priests whose marriages fail.

Therefore I would say, very soberly, life is not simple. But, if one lives the state of being unmarried so, as it was lived by Jesus as a model – the celibacy of priests is related to Jesus’s having lived unmarried – that can go very well. It can also, unfortunately, as we see, go very wrong.

I am very convinced that one form is possible, and it will surely be discussed at the Amazon-Synod: the so-called “proven, married men.”

In the Archdiocese of Vienna we have 180 deacons, most of them married, with a job, with a family. And I can well imagine that in the future there will not only be married deacons, but also married priests, who have proven themselves in their profession, in their family, and who are active in their communities, that such men can also receive the laying on of hands for priestly ordination.

Riedmann: That is to say, a testing similar to what you spoke of in connection with women in the Church. The deacons have… without the deacons life in the local church would probably no longer be possible in the same way.

Schönborn: exactly.

Riedmann: To ordain these men as priests, is something you are in favor of.

Schönborn: Among the current deacons, married, with a job, so those who serve as deacons without a salary, there are certainly a great many, of whom one could say, they could perform priestly ministry very well. That is something that is being very earnestly discussed. It would of course create a two-class clerical system. The volunteer priests and the full-time priests. But why not?

Celibate and married priests – some accepted facts and disputed questions

There has been a fair amount of talk about the Amazon Synod and the possibility of ordaining married men, despite the contrary tradition and prevailing discipline of celibacy in the Latin Church, and in spite of all the arguments and motives that can be adduced for priestly celibacy. Occasioned by today's reading for Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, I want to here lay out a few of the facts, less clear and disputed matters regarding celibacy in the Latin and in the Eastern Churches.

In 1. Timothy, chapter 3, St. Paul writes:

The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible… not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?
… Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain… Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well;

There have been married clerics since the beginning of the Church. At the some time, we find esteem for celibacy by clergy from the beginning.

Some fairly certain points (for those accepting the Church's teaching and tradition)

  1. Some apostles were married; and in the first centuries, there were married bishops, priests, and deacons, as implied in the quoted task from 1 Timothy, and in the following first centuries of the Church. E.g., In the fourth century, the Father of St. Gregory Nazianzen's father, Gregory the Elder was a bishop; he was married and his wife was still living at the time of St. Gregory Nazianzen's ordination to the priesthood.
  2. Christ elevated marriage, and also proposed celibacy ("to make oneself an eunuch" spiritually) for the kingdom of heaven.
  3. The virginal or celibate way of life was esteemed from the very beginning in the Church. And specifically by at least some clerics (beginning with St. Paul the Apostle)
  4. Developed practice and law regarding continence and priestly celebration of the Eucharist differed in West and East. In the West complete continence was obligatory for all major clerics, while in the East some measure of continence was necessary in relation to celebration of the Eucharist.
  5. The discipline of the Latin Church and of the Eastern Catholic Churches is legitimate.

Matters where the historical data is less clear or is mixed

6. Whether the married bishops in the Church had children after elevation to the episcopate, and, if they had children, if they did so without violating a promise or (ecclesial or moral) expectation of continence after episcopal consecration
7. The reason for a connection between continence and the Eucharist, not just for clergy, but also for laity
a. Some Fathers deny that sexual intercourse makes one unclean, such that one needs to be purified before prayer (The Didascalia Apostolorum explicitly rejects the position that sexual intercourse would make one unfit to receive the Eucharist)
b. Some early Church writers (Tertullian, Origen), claim that intercourse requires purification before prayer; some Fathers suggest this or put it forward as the better thing to do, while finally leaving the matter to the conscience of married couples (St. Dionysus, St. Athanasius of Alexandria); later texts put it forth as morally obligatory (Timothy of Alexandria, St. Gregory the Great)
c. but in the course of time, the general consensus was that abstinence should be practice before reception of the Eucharist (and before celebration by a priest).
8. At least occasional continence, to devote whenself to prayer (see 1 Cor 7:5), in Lent, or when children were not possible, was an ideal of married christians (most well known is St. Augustine, but the position is also held by others such as Origen, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nazianzen)

(Possible) points of dispute

9. Why continence (and celibacy) for the clergy was so esteemed since the early Church
10. Whether continence was, as a rule, expected of married clergy from the very beginning. And if it was, whether it should be expected (at least as an ideal) of married clergy now (in the West and in the East).
11. Whether the Church has the moral right to change the law regarding priestly celibacy in the Latin Church — or whether it is so strongly rooted in Christ and the Apostles, or deserves such respect as an extremely ancient and valuable tradition in the Latin Church, that the Church has no right to change it.
12. Whether changing the law regarding priestly celibacy in the Latin Church would do more good or more harm.
13. Whether changing the law regarding priestly celibacy in the Eastern Churches (making it more like the west) would do more good or more harm — there isn't much dispute about this because it has scarcely been proposed to change the discipline of the Eastern Churches to require celibacy as a condition for priestly ordination.
14. Whether, if both traditions and disciplines should be maintained more or less as they are, whether the differing disciplines are justified principally (1) because each is the tradition of the respective Church, (2) because the respective discipline is the most fitting discipline for that Church with a view to the its whole spiritual, ascetical and liturgical life, (3) because the Church as a whole is thereby more perfect in its variety and fullness, (4) because, practically, changing the discipline is difficult without causing a whole host of other problems, or (5) for some other reason?

My impression is that most articles in the media, blog articles or commentaries concern themselves with point 12, whether changing the discipline of celibacy would really bring the claimed benefits such as mitigating the shortage of priests or diminishing the incidence of sexual abuse by priests, or whether changing would not in any case bring many and greater problems with it than it would solve.

Even if no one proposes changing the discipline of the Eastern Churches, it might be good to consider point 13, whether it would do more good or harm to introduce the law of priestly celibacy into those Churches. Precisely because there hasn't been a lot of polemics about it, it may be easier to soberly take stock of what that sort of change might or would do to the Church.

I believe it would be good for those discussing the matter of priestly celibacy on all one levels in the Church to consider the question raised in point 14. The answer one gives could be helpful in deciding various edge cases (e.g., should married Anglican clergy, having converted to the Catholic Church, be ordained priests, should those who, having been baptized into the Latin Church, have become members of an Eastern Catholic Church, be ordained priests, and the like). It could also be helpful in considering very long time goals, particularly if one's answer was based mostly on the practical difficulties of changing the discipline.

Sacramental Confession and Turning Oneself In to Civil Authorities

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, among the recommendations of its final report

recommended that

Recommendation 16.26

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should consult with the Holy See, and make public any advice received, in order to clarify whether:

b. if a person confesses during the sacrament of reconciliation to perpetrating child sexual abuse, absolution can and should be withheld until they report themselves to civil authorities.

The same idea has been put out for consideration by others. The Apostolic Penitentiary's Recent Note on the Seal of Confession, addresses this idea, and appears to reject it categorically.

In the presence of sins that involve criminal offenses, it is never permissible, as a condition for absolution, to place on the penitent the obligation to turn himself in to civil justice, by virtue of the natural principle, incorporated in every system, according to which “nemo tenetur se detegere”.

The note recognizes, however, that sincere repentance, together with the firm intention to reform and not repeat the evil committed, is necessary for the validity of sacramental absolution.

At the same time, however, belonging to the very “structure” of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as a condition for its validity, is sincere repentance, together with the firm intention to reform and not repeat the evil committed.

In a very technical sense, the note may be correct, that a confessor by his own authority may not "place", in the sense of externally "impose", as a kind of penalty or satisfaction, the obligation on the penitent to turn himself in to civil justice. However, in a practical sense, the claim is over-stated. Cases are certainly possible, and are virtually certain to sometimes occur, where the only way a sinner and criminal can show true repentance and a firm intention not to repeat the evil, is for him to turn himself in. If, for example, he has continued to commit such crimes for a long time, despite knowing their gravity and perhaps even having confessed them repeatedly, a firm intention not to repeat the evil committed has to include means that give him a reasonable hope of avoiding it, e.g., the external help he could get from medical or civil authorities.

The claim is probably also over-stated in the sense that the Church could impose a discipline that would exclude purely private penance in this particular case. In view of the Church's ancient practice of public penance and in light of its general and universal authority in the external forum, it is surely in the Church's and the pope's authority to reserve the crime of sexual abuse of children to the Holy See, and to make public penance (whether imposed by the Church or as a punishment imposed by the state and accepted by the sinner) a condition for giving absolution for such crimes.

Sexual Abuse of Minors Revealed in Confession – When May A Priest Speak?

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, among the recommendations of its final report

recommended that

Recommendation 16.26

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should consult with the Holy See, and make public any advice received, in order to clarify whether:

a. information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession

I am not aware of any explicit communication on this subject, and this recommendation is also not directly addressed by the Apostolic Penitentiary's Recent Note on the Seal of Confession, but the Note does touch upon the issue. It says "Should there be a penitent who has been a victim of the evil of others, it will be the concern of the confessor to instruct him regarding his rights as well as about the practical juridical instruments to refer to in order to report the fact in a civil and/or ecclesiastical forum to invoke justice."

In fact, the situation is somewhat complicated. For reasons of natural shame, and because perpetrators often actively try to make the victim feel guilty for the crimes committed against him or her, so that he or she will be ashamed to speak, child victims of sexual abuse often have feelings of guilt, and might well confess the abuse as though it were a sin. In this case, the sacramental seal would seem to apply directly. Moreover, even if the child does not mention it as a sin, and it would not fall under the seal as such, various consequences undesirable for the child might arise were the priest to reveal that information, and so the priest would be forbidden from doing so. (According to a decree of the Holy Office of 1682, knowledge from confession cannot be used if the use is harmful to the penitent, even if greater harm for the penitent follows from failing to use that knowledge)

The Church's tradition has recognized the possibility of a penitent's releasing a priest from the seal of confession (St. Thomas Aquinas, e.g., affirms the possibility, and canon law of 1917 refers to it), and this note itself makes reference to it in the limited case of a penitent's giving a priest permission to talk about what was said in confession outside of confession. The simplest and best solution to aim for, in many cases, might be for the priest to get permission from the child to tell others about the matter. For some reason, however, the apostolic penitentiary seems not to want to mention this possibility.

The Seal of Confession

The Note of the Apostolic penitentiary on the importance of the internal forum and the inviolability of the sacramental seal, quoting an address of Pope Francis, suggests two reasons for the existence and inviolability of the sacramental seal: the sanctity of the sacrament, and the freedom of the conscience of the penitent, who must be sure that what he reveals to God through the mediation of the priest will remain between him and God.
The "sanctity of the sacrament" is found in the seal, in that priests in the sacrament act “in persona Christi capitis”, that is, in the very person of Christ the Head. In confessing his or her sins to the priest, who represents for him or her Christ, with whom he or she comes into contact in the sacrament, the penitent bears witness to the saving mystery of Christ and the supernatural character of the Church and ministerial priesthood. Conversely, the seal binding the priest is a form of testimony to that same saving mystery of Christ present in his Church.

On this account, what directly and properly falls under the sacramental seal of confession is that which is submitted, through the priest, to the saving power of Christ: the penitent's sins (real or supposed). Other things mentioned during confession fall under the seal indirectly, if and to the extent that through them the sins could be inferred or suspected. This is also St. Thomas Aquinas's account, and seems to be indicated by canon law. A penitent's mentioning, e.g., that he went to McDonald's the other day could fall under the seal to the extent that a sin of gluttony, disobedience, imprudence or the like might be inferred. In principle penitents (especially persons inclined to rambling) may mention things in confession that are entirely accidental to the confession and bear not the slightest suggestion of a sin. These would not fall under the seal as such, but in practice priests will often treat these as falling indirectly under the seal in order to be on the safe side of upholding the seal of confession — if they were to exercise liberty to remember and to mention such things, they might easily make a mistake in judging something to be wholly accidental to confession.

Moreover, canon law forbids uses knowledge acquired from confession when it might harm the penitent, even if all danger of revelation is excluded, and thus not contrary to the seal of confession. This canonical prohibition helps to ensure penitents' confidence in going to confession, in that they can be confident not only that the confession will not be revealed, but also that no indirect disadvantage will come to them from anything they say in confession. Here, too, a priest could easily make a mistake about what might harm the penitent, and so it is safer to make no use at all of knowledge acquired from confession.