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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Purity of the Celibate

Just to answer that eternal question about states in life: 

Not all the states of life are equal. Some are more perfect than others. They can be classified according to their level of perfection. All are ordered, however, to some task of common usefulness;  all are to be justified by their mode of serving the general good of the Church. 

All things being equal, it is not the state of marriage that profits the Church the most. There is more perfection and happiness, as she herself declares it, in remaining keeping celibate than in living in the married state.  The Church is here the simple echo of the Gospel:  "The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.' But he said to them, 'Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given...There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it"  (Mt 19:10-12).  And St. Paul:  "Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the impending distress it is well for a person to remain as he is" (1 Cor 7:25-26). 

The purity of the celibate is the purity of the body drained, in a certain sense, by the spirit; it is the absorption of the exigencies of instinct by shoe of the spirit. Virginity makes the body similar to the soul and the soul similar to God. When the number of the elect is complete, the law of reproduction will cease and the law of the spirit will manifest all of its power in the flesh of men: "For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given i marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mk 12:25). The purity of married persons is the purity of the body ruled by the spirit, the regulation of the exigencies of instinct by those of the spirit. 

~  Charles Cardinal Journet, Theology of the Church, pp. 264-265


Hidden One said...

If anything, this post risks more unpopularity than the one above. But not on my account.

Mike T said...

The one portion of this posting that makes me wince slightly is the quote: "When the number of the elect is complete, the law of reproduction will cease..." It is just that I can imagine it getting into the wrong (Malthusian) hands at a time when the value of married life and raising children needs to be affirmed.

It is said that near the end of his life, it was a source of consolation for St. Dominic to be able to confide that he was a virgin. In our times, "celibacy" is used to refer to a possible male life style, but "virginity" is almost never used to refer to men.

St. Catherine of Siena frequently wrote to churchmen and urged them to be "manly men." I think we can be certain that she meant that they ought to be more like Dominic Guzman, not less so.

Have we reached the worst of possible worlds? "Don't be chaste, and don't have children." Prayer remains as our potent weapon and effective remedy.

Adoro said...

Mike T ~ A couple problems with your comment.

First, you're reading that quote from the wrong perspective. It's talking about Heaven, which should be clear given Journet's use of scripture to support what he's saying and frame the proper context. Read it again, and think of eternity, not earth.

Secondly, theologically, celibacy AND virginity are used in relation to both men and women.

When I have time I'm going to quote the next section of the book. Maybe tonight when I get home from class, or maybe tomorrow evening.

That addressed marriage more.

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Adoro said...

Catholic Teen ~ Thanks for your comment. Incidentally, I have come across your blog recently and simply have yet to add it to my sidebar (I'm terribly behind on adding links!) Keep up the great work! God bless!