What are the benefits of Priestly Celibacy?

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By practicing celibacy, the priest is more available for God’s service, yet the fundamental meaning of celibacy is that of spiritual self-giving.

United States – Phoenix (July 6, 2021 09:30 PM, Gaudium Press) “Celibacy is seen as a gift to the Church, rather than a burden,” Fr. Matt Lowry, chaplain of the Newman Center of the Holy Trinity in Phoenix, USA, noted on a recent interview to The Catholic Sun newsletter. “In this way [the priest] is free to give himself to his wife, the Church.” A special article on this discipline of the Church highlighted the benefits that celibacy represents for the priesthood.

By practicing celibacy, the priest is more available for God’s service

For Fr. Lowry, the celibacy of priests, often criticized by adversaries of the Church, is more necessary than ever. “Our world is very sexualized. It gets very confused in the face of celibacy,” he said. “The agenda of the world is to act on our sexuality without caring what it means, rather than examining our sexuality within the more open, mysterious plan of God,” he pointed out.

The priest also noted a practical feature in this ancient choice made by the Church. By practicing celibacy, he noted, the priest is more available for God’s service. Nevertheless, Fr Lowry insisted that the central meaning of celibacy is that of spiritual self-giving.

Celibacy: a gift, not an imposition

On his part, Fr Paul Sullivan, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Phoenix, pointed out that the priestly vocation includes this grace. It is not assumed as something demanded, but as a good and a glory coming from God. “It is part of the call; we offer ourselves as an inspiration to others,” he explained. “In a real way, we live the life that Christ lived.”

Fr Sullivan also highlighted the current confusion about celibacy, driven merely by a conception of the human body and of sexuality, “reduced to pleasure and not directed to the transcendent love of the Father. It is much more about what one receives from God in his power and his grace,” he said. “It is less about what we leave, and more about what we receive in this life.”

Sexual abstinence has no negative consequences

Regarding the alleged imposition of this discipline on priests, Fr Lowry said that the Church does not violate freedom with this mandate since the priesthood is a free choice. “I, in fact, chose to be celibate,” he commented. “What people are suggesting is that you must marry to be happy, and that is a fallacy. There are many unhappily married people in the world.”

The priest pointed out that sexual abstinence has no adverse consequences. What harms men is the lack of intimacy and love, realities that are very present in the spiritual life: “Our hearts were created for intimacy and communion.”

Fr Lowry concluded by expressing his gratitude for the spiritual fatherhood that enables his ministry. And for the value of the witness of the priesthood in the world. “We were made for a life beyond this world. We priests and women religious live the mystery of heaven, and we value those of us who are struggling (…). We can offer our sexuality as a gift to God.” (EPC)

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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