Celibacy and the sexual abuse crisis

Over the past years, when a larger report of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests comes out, again and again opponents of priestly celibacy come out suggesting that the Church's discipline, in the Roman Rite, of requiring permanent and perpetual celibacy of its priests, contributes to the abuse crisis, or is even a major risk factor, or still more strongly, "will predictably produce this kind of result".

Others claim that "Clerical child sex abuse has nothing whatever to do with celibacy."

The truth, as is many cases, likely lies between these extremes, though it is cannot be neatly located on the scale from "causes the crisis" to "has nothing to do with it".

Leaving aside any empirical statistical evidence on the frequent of sexual abuse by celibate or non-celibate men, some aspects of celibacy would, taken on their own, suggest a connection between priestly celibacy and abuse, while others would suggest an inverse correlation (mandatory celibacy for priests countering the risk of someone abuser vulnerable persons).

Marriage as a remedy for concupiscence — suggestive of a connection between mandatory priestly celibacy and abuse
Marriage has long been described by Christian saints and writes as a remedy for concupiscence, by St. Augustine (see, for just one example, On Marriage and Concupiscence, Thomas Aquinas (see Summa theologiae, supplement, q. 42, article 3, Whether matrimony confers grace, and a multitude of others (see a selection of texts in the post Is marriage for the weak?). In this respect, it would not be surprising to find that those who are not in a position to legitimately satisfy sexual desire in marriage, are more likely to satisfy sexual desires in illegitimate ways, up to and including abusive ways. Celibacy does not make a man's sexual desires perverse or disordered; rather, his sexual desire is lacking order to begin with, being in the first place an instinctual drive, that must be governed by reason; the lack of the structured governance of that drive provided in marriage will, in the absence of contrary remedies, tend to lead to more disordered desires and acts.

Celibacy as freely chosen, involving abstinence even from legitimate sexual pleasure in marriage — suggestive of an inverse correlation between mandatory priestly celibacy and abuse
On the other hand, no one is forced to become a priest, and so, when we speak of priestly celibacy, we are not speaking of celibacy imposed randomly, independently of man's will, or even against man's will. Rather, it is a celibacy freely chosen (even if, in a particular instance, chosen principally as a condition or means to the desired end, the priesthood). If those who freely choose celibacy do so with adequate deliberation and a firm will to live it, if they belong to those "who can take it" (Matthew 19:12), we should, other things being equal, expect them to less frequently fall into sexual sin. For he is capable, or takes the means to render himself capable, of refraining from satisfying sexual desire in a legitimate manner in marriage, is much more capable of refraining from satisfying sexual desire in a sinful manner.

Celibacy as chosen by reason of being drawn to that way of life or not drawn to marriage — possibly suggestive of a connection between celibacy and abuse
No one is forced to become a priest. But also, in most cases, priests are, in the first instance, self-selected. Catholic communities and bishops could, in theory, come to men with the proposal, "we would like you to be a priest; are you willing to remain celibate for the rest of your life, study theology, to serve the Church in this diocese, etc.?" But, in many or most cases, the decisive initiative is taken by the men themselves who consider the priesthood. Given the association of the priesthood with celibacy, this has a unintended consequence: those who, for whatever reason, are not inclined to marriage — homosexuality, asexuality, sexual immaturity, sexual disorders — will be over-represented among applicants to the seminary. In the absence of an adequate mechanism to identify and exclude them, persons with certain sexual problems may also end up being over-represented in the presbyterate. And, very plausibly, some of those sexual problems will manifest themselves in distorted ways, including abusive ones.

Celibate priesthood as a special class — positive and negative aspects
A fourth point regarding celibacy is somewhat ambivalent: the discipline of celibacy tends to reinforce the image of the priesthood as a special class of Christians. This aspect of celibacy, might, in some times and places, contribute to a culture set firmly against all abuse, inasmuch as other priests who get wind of possible abuse are keen to uphold the reality of their class as a holy state, called in a special way to Christian virtue and holiness, and for whom, therefore, such sins are still more intolerable than they are in the case of lay persons. On the other hand, that the celibate priesthood makes up a special class may also have the opposite effect, lead to a culture permissive of abuse, because (1) one stands up for one's own, defends one's brother priests, assuming their innocence or downplaying their faults, because (2) one desires to uphold the image of the priestly state as a holy state, or because (3) the discrepancy in one's own life between the greater ideal of holiness to which one is called and one's actual life, causes one to misjudge the gravity of other sins; in the theological tradition, and expressly in the 1917 code of canon law, canon 132, clerics in major orders are so obliged to chastity that to sin against it is to be guilty of sacrilege (the notion behind this is that the priest's whole self, including his body, is dedicated to the Lord as something holy, so to sin against it is to violate what is holy); a priest guilty of habitual impurity, whether by fornication, adultery, masturbation, pornography, or impure thoughts, could possibly become thereby less inhibited from a crime such as abusing minors than a lay person guilty of the same habitual impurity would; similarly, a priest guilty of such impurity, whether occasional or habitual, may view such a crime by another priest less seriously than a lay person would.
Various problematic issues arising in connection with the priesthood as a special case are often treated under the notion of clericalism, by pope Francis (Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God), and others (e.g., Sexual abuse and the culture of clericalism).

In view of these considerations, some of which, taken on their own, would suggest a link between celibacy and abuse, while others would suggest that celibate priests might be less likely to be sexually abusive, it is not too surprising, that, on some accounting, sexual abuse of minors (or at least behavior evoking a serious accusation of such abuse) is as common by married Anglican clergy as by celibate roman catholic clergy. (See, e.g. Does Celibacy Contribute to Clerical Sex Abuse? by Richard Cross, and the therein reference studies.)

At any rate, the issue is much more complex than "celibacy is unrelated to the issue of sexual abuse" or "celibacy is a principal cause of sexual abuse".

Priestly Motto

“The greatest of these is love!” (1 Cor 13:13)

Each Christian has his or her own gifts and vocation in the Church. But it is love alone that gives life to our vocation and makes it bear fruit. This verse, which I have chosen as a motto for my priestly min­istry, designates the priesthood as a service of love, a ministry springing from love and aiming at love. As a priest I am called to make visible the saving love of Christ in the Christian community, to accompany and assist all in living their vocation to love.

Priestly Ordination

On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 15, 2012, I was ordained to the priesthood by  Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, together with five other men, in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna.

6 new priests, with cardinal Schönborn and the rectors and religious superior.

More photos and downloads are available at www.priesterweihe.at.

Please say a prayer in thanksgiving for the grace of this vocation, and that the Lord make us holy and good instruments of his work!

Garrigou-Lagrange & Communicating Under Both Species

St. Alphonsus thinks it not improbable that more grace is given in Holy Communion under both species, and all theologians agree that if the ardour of charity is increased by receiving the second species, then greater grace is conferred accidentally by reason of the better disposition. Therefore a layman who wants to become a priest in order to communicate under both species so as to receive this greater grace is not to be dissuaded. (Garrigou-Lagrange, The Priest in Union with Christ, "The Priest's Communion", emphasis added)

I'm not sure exactly why Garrigou-Lagrange draws this rather strange conclusion (I highly doubt that St. Alphonsus would hold it), but it's perhaps a sign of some problematic approachs or views in many modern scholastics: an ultra-formal way of speaking about things; in regard to the moral life, an excessive concern with tidily categorizing all kinds of actions; in regard to the priesthood and other sacraments, a tendency to over-reify (admittedly, this last tendency was not limited to scholastics, nor were all subject to it).

Also striking is that he draws this conclusion despite remarking that in general nothing is lost by the fact that people only receive Christ's body under the species of bread, and not the Sacred Blood.

"Nothing is lost by this (that is, by the body being received by the people without the blood): because the priest both offers and receives the blood in the name of all, and the whole Christ is present under either species" (Summa Theologiae, III, q. 80, a. 12, ad 3). Under the species of bread there is also present, by concomitance, the precious blood. Thus the faithful are not deprived of any notable grace, and a fervent Communion under one species is far more fruitful than a tepid Communion received under both species.

Summer Discernment Program in Norcia, Italy

The Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy, are offering a discernment program this Summer, July 4-29. This is the same town where the Summer Theology Program mentioned earlier will be held from June 20 to July 1.

The purpose of the program is to offer young men a time to discern God's will for their life in a more concentrated way than normal worldly circumstances permit. Attendees will be invited to participate in the life of the monks as a way to guide their decision.

Vocation Flyer

Discern Your Vocation with the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, Italy Summer 2011 | July 4 – 29

Study, prayer, and discussion for vocational discernment, drawing from classic texts of Sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the Monastic Tradition
•    All the states of life (i.e., marriage, priesthood and religious life are considered
•    Spiritual direction with the monks
•    Weekly outings to important places in St. Benedict's life (Subiaco, Monte Cassino)
•    Weekly hikes in the mountains surrounding Norcia

REQUIREMENTS:
•    A letter of recommendation from a priest
•    A $300 donation
•    Open to men ages 18-30
TO APPLY: Please write to the Vocation Director at vocations@osbnorcia.org

Married Saints and Continence

In an earlier post, Married Saints – Why so few?, I addressed the question of why there are so few married saints canonized as married saints, that is, in view of the life they lived as married persons. In the comment thread to that post, I was asked why so many of the married persons who have been canonized lived in continence, that is, without having sexual intercourse with their spouse for a significant portion of their life as married persons.

Again, there are several possible answers, grouped according to the general manner they explain the connection between this continence and canonization.

There is a positive correlation from continence to charity (continence contributes to charity, or is thought to do so)

(1a) Such continence is in fact extremely helpful, indeed practically necessary in order to attain the heroic virtue to which canonization attests.

(1b) Such continence was thought to be necessary in order to attain the perfection of charity.

Amongst all relationships, conjugal affection engrosses men’s hearts more than another other, so that our first parent said: “A man leaves father and mother, and clings to his wife” (Gen. 2:24). Hence, they who are aiming at perfection, must, above all things, avoid the bond of marriage.
The second way to perfection, by which a man may be more free to devote himself to God, and to cling more perfectly to him, is the observance of perpetual chastity… The way of continence is most necessary for attaining perfection… Abraham had so great spiritual perfection in virtue, that his spirit did not fall short of perfect love for God on account either of temporal possessions or of married life. But if another man who does not have the same spiritual virtue, strives to attain perfection, while retaining riches and entering into marriage, his error in presuming to treat Our Lord's words as of small account will soon be demonstrated. (St. Thomas Aquinas, On The Perfection of the Spiritual Life; this quotation, from a saint and universal doctor of the Church, is intended as support for 1a and 1b.)

There is a positive correlation from continence to canonization

(2) The holiness of married saints who practiced such continence is more evident than the holiness of others.

One reason for this, as I mentioned in the previous post, is that holiness always involves following the spirit of the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience); and other things being equal, someone's following the spirit of the counsels is more evident when it is incarnated in the literal following of the counsels.

There is a positive correlation from holiness to continence

(3) Those who are well advanced in charity and the other virtues are disposed and desirous of practicing such continence. (This may follow to some extent of itself, and to so extent due to 1b.)

Fulton Sheen, in his work Three to Get Married, suggests something along these lines:

All love is a flight towards immortality. There is a suggestion of Divine Love in every form of erotic love, as the lake reflects the moon…. Sex is only the self-starter on the motor of the family…. The begetting of children enlarges the field of service and loving sacrifice for the sake of the family. In a well-regulated moral heart, as time goes on, the erotic love diminishes and the religious love increases. In marriages that are truly Christian, the love of God increases through the years, not in the sense that husband and wife love one another less, but that they love God more. Love passes from an affection for outer appearances to those inner depths of personality which embody the Divine spirit. There are few things more beautiful in life than to see that deep passion of man for woman, which begot children, transfigured into that deeper passion for the Spirit of God. It sometimes happens in a Christian marriage that when one of the partners dies, there is no taking of another spouse, lest there be the descent to lower realms from that higher love, from the Agape to the Eros.

As before, so here I suggest the answer is, in varying degrees: all of the above. Continence in its various forms (the periodic continence practiced in NFP, continence during times of more intensive prayer (e.g., Lent) mentioned by St. Paul, or continence after the children-bearing time) is a valuable means to growth in the gift of oneself implied in charity; it was considered to be a valuable, practically necessary means; it manifests virtue; and it often flows naturally from charity.

A few points to be made pertinent to the remarks of the commentator in the previous post

(a) A spiritual director might rightly refrain from taking any initiative in advising a particular couple to such continence for a long period, and might caution them if they are desirous of practicing it for a long period. That does not mean, however, that he would or should strongly disallow or strongly advise against it.

(b) There have definitely been various developments in the Church's understanding of virginity and marriage. It seems quite true to say that in praising virginity and continence, marital relationships were not infrequently excessively devalued. There are various reasons for this, one of which is that in general there was a greater concern to safeguard the special value of virginity than of marriage. Hence, if it was difficult to avoid either failing to properly appreciate virginity or failing to properly appreciate marriage, as it was and is difficult for people to properly appreciate both, they preferred to fail to properly appreciate marriage rather than to fail to appreciate virginity, with the natural consequence that in many cases they did fail to properly appreciate marriage.

(c) To affirm a greater possibility of love in giving sex up for the sake of a greater good, as in the case of celibacy or continence, does not imply that sex is bad or even hinders any particular degree of holiness, anymore than the affirmation that "there is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" means that life is bad, or that living is an obstacle to becoming holy.

Traditional Principles Regarding Salvation

In the last post I cited several texts affirming that the Church has always held the possibility of salvation for those who are not without qualification members of the Church, and who do not know Christ explicitly. This is true in a certain sense; the Church has, with some exceptions, always held this implicitly, even if not often explicitly. In fact, several distinct principles have been more or less consistently held by most of the Fathers, as well as the scholastics, and affirmed by the Church's magisterium:

1. Baptism or an act of supernatural faith is necessary for justification.
2. Faith in Christ is necessary for justification and/or salvation.
3. God wills the salvation of all, and thus makes it possible for all in the manner appropriate to their condition.
3b. Consequently, adults, who are capable of moving toward God by their free will, are either saved through God's grace and inherit eternal life, or are punished in hell for their personal mortal sins.

St. Augustine in his late writings and some followers of him constitute the principal exception to the universal holding of the third principle. Their interpretation of God's universal salvific will falls substantially short of the view of the early Fathers, the Eastern Fathers, the scholastics, and the magisterium of the Church. St. Gregory Nazianzen also suggest in one text that an adult who lives a moral life, but dies without baptism, is neither punished by God, nor enters into glory.

But though there are these few exceptions, it still seems basically fair to say that the third principle has been always held by the Church.

What are some of the ways that these principles are reconciled by the Fathers and by the scholastics?

(1) Some suggest or affirm that an explicit knowledge of Christ is not necessary in order to come into saving contact with him through faith, but that a more implicit knowledge can suffice. Thus St. Justin, basing himself upon the fact that all truth proceeds from and is oriented towards Him who is the Truth says that "those who lived according to reason are Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists… those who lived before Christ but did not live according to reason were wicked men, and enemies of Christ… whereas those who lived then or who live now according to reason are Christians" (First Apology, 46).

(2) The common method of reconciliation among the scholastics is that if someone in the christian era lives rightly, but has not heard the Gospel, God will send them a preacher or will enlighten them interiorly, so that they can come to have the faith that is necessary for salvation, at least before their death. They generally presume that if someone has heard the Gospel and not become a Christian, he is guilty of grave sin in this failure to accept the Gospel. Presumably, however, if they granted the possibility of invincible ignorance, they would maintain the same method of reconciliation: God would in his providence provide means by which such an upright person could come to explicit acceptance of the faith before death.

This method of reconciliation is also present in the Fathers, though less explicitly. St. Augustine himself in his commentary on the psalm Super Flumina, speaks of persons in the "earthly city called Babylon", who do not seek God as their end, but devote themselves to building up the political common good, this earthly city "has in it people who, prompted by love for it, work to guarantee it peace – temporal peace – nourishing in their hearts no other hope, indeed, by placing in this one all their joy, without any other intention. And we see them making every effort to be useful to earthly society." He goes on to say that if these persons live according to their conscience, God will not fail to lead them into the City of God: "Now, if they strive to do these tasks with a pure conscience, God, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, will not let them perish within Babylon:  this is on condition, however, that while living in Babylon, they do not thirst for ambition, short-lived magnificence or vexing arrogance…. He sees their enslavement and will show them that other city for which they must truly long and towards which they must direct their every effort."

This second proposal for reconciliation is also suggested by some of the eastern fathers. St. John Chrysostom says that God will not fail to bring all those who live virtuously to knowledge of himself:

This also Paul declaring, says, For there is no respect of persons with God. What then? Is the man yonder in Persia acceptable to Him? If he be worthy, in this regard he is acceptable, that it should be granted him to be brought unto faith. The Eunuch from Ethiopia He overlooked not. What shall one say then of the religious men who have been overlooked? It is not the case, that any (such) ever was overlooked. But what he says is to this effect, that God rejects no man" (St. John Chrystostom, Homily 23 on the Acts of the Apostles)

"He who loves, inasmuch as he fulfils the commandment which is most absolute of all, even though he have some defects, will quickly be blest with knowledge because of his love; as Cornelius and many others" (Homily 20 on First Corinthians).

These texts seem to imply that explicit faith in Christ is not necessary in order to be justified and to be pleasing to God, but that, in God's plan, he also brings such persons, if they do not turn away and persist in grave sin, to explicit knowledge of Christ before their death. It is also, possible, though less likely, that St. John Chrysostom is merely speaking of a "natural righteousness" without supernatural grace. Evidence for this is his Homily 25 on the Gospel of St. John (On John 3:5), where he seems to imply that everyone who dies without baptism (even if he has faith in Christ) goes to hell:

The Catechumen is a stranger to the Faithful. He hath not the same Head, he hath not the same Father… One has Christ for his King; the other, sin and the devil… Let us then give diligence that we may become citizens of the city which is above. How long do we tarry over the border, when we ought to reclaim our ancient country? We risk no common danger; for if it should come to pass (which God forbid!) that through the sudden arrival of death we depart hence unbaptized, though we have ten thousand virtues, our portion will be no other than hell, and the venomous worm, and fire unquenchable, and bonds indissoluble.

This text may, however, very well involve rhetorical exaggeration, being aimed at those who are guilty of despising the grace of baptism, putting it off without good reason, and thus are not living righteously.

(3) Another method of reconciliation is to see the faith in Christ that is necessary for salvation as able to be acquired through an encounter of the departed soul with Christ. Logically, this position is closely related to the position that a man may be justified without explicit faith in Christ, but God's plan involves bringing all such persons to explicit faith in Christ before their death, but is, perhaps, more in accordance with the (in principle empirical) fact that miraculous and conscious enlightenments about Christ are very rare.

In most cases this idea was explicitly applied only to those who had died before Christ without knowledge of him. Descending into Hades, he made himself known to those who hadn't had the occasion to know him before. However, the Pastor of Hermas, in a text also cited and followed by St. Clement of Alexandria, says that the Apostles, after they had fallen asleep "in the power and faith of the Son of God," preached his name to those who were asleep, and baptized them, suggesting that Christ is similarly made known to those who died after the coming of Christ yet still didn't have a chance to know him. St. Clement says "If, then, he [Christ] preached the gospel to those in the flesh in order that they might not be condemned unjustly, how is it conceivable that he did not for the same reason preach the gospel to those who had departed this life before his coming?" The reasoning in fact applies equally to those who died after his coming, but before hearing about him, if there are such persons. And in general, this doctrine of Christ's descent is closely connected with the christian conviction that Christ came for all, and makes his salvation available to all. St. Augustine explicitly supposes that if Christ's descent brought salvation to those who hadn't known him before they died, this salvation would also be available to those who died after Christ's coming without hearing of him, though he turns the argument around, to argue on this basis that Christ's descent to Hades didn't bring salvation to those who hadn't known him before they died, but only to those who had already believed in him.

This universal relevance of Christ's descent is suggested by the catechism, which says that the significance of the descent to hell is "the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places" (CCC 634).

In recent years, Gavin D'Costa has taken up this line of thought, arguing that Christ's descent to hell provides the best conceptual means to explain how the salvation of non-Christians can happen.

Given that these various qualifications have almost always been made regarding the necessity of faith, yet an explicit affirmation of the general possibility of the salvation of non-Christians (in the sense of those who have not heard or accepted the christian preaching) is rare from the 4th to the 16th century, it seems it would be most accurate to say that the Church has "always held" the possibility of salvation for those who are not without qualification members of the Church and who do not know Christ explicitly, only "in radice" and implicitly.

Ad Gentes on the Salvation of non-Christians

The early schema of Vatican II on missionary activity said: "The Church is the universal means of salvation instituted by Christ… therefore, although the Church has always held that men who, not due to their own fault, do not know Christ, can be saved if they obey the dictates of their conscience, it is the will of God for them to be justified and saved through the Faith and the Sacraments, and so evangelization also today retains supreme importance" (Emphasis added).

This draft was revised to mention God's grace and the necessity of Faith even for those men, but continued to refer to this as traditional doctrine of the Church: "The Church has indeed always held and does hold that men who, by the help of God's grace, obey the dictates of their conscience, can, though with more difficulty, arrive at the Faith without which it is impossible to please God, even if they have not heard the Gospel; at the same time, however, it held and holds that it is the will of God for all to be justified and saved through the Faith that arises from the Church's preaching and through the Church's Sacraments…"

The final decree removes the reference to obeying one's conscience, and says that "God, by ways known to him," can lead men to the faith (no longer capitalized) without which it is impossible to please him. It also drops the claim that the Church has always held this.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger some years later affirmed something very similar to what was stated in the first drafts of Vatican II's decree on missionary activity: "It is an ancient, traditional teaching of the Church that every men is called to salvation and can in fact be saved by sincerely obeying the dictates of his own conscience, even if he is not a visible member of the Catholic Church. This teaching that (I repeat) was already peacefully accepted, was however excessively emphasized in the years following the Councils, supported by theories like that of "anonymous christianity" (Rapporto sulla fede, my translation).

Is it true that the Church has always held that all men, even those who have not heard the Gospel, can be saved through God's grace and call made known to them through their conscience? Or was this dropped from the text of Ad Gentes because this is really a radically new teaching, beginning only with Pope Pius IX?