Sacerdotalis Caelibatus EN
5 It may be said that today ecclesiastical celibacy has been examined more penetratingly than ever before and in all its aspects. It has been examined from the doctrinal, historical, sociological, psychological and pastoral point of view. The intentions prompting this examination have frequently been basically correct although reports may sometimes have distorted them.
Let us look openly at the principal objections against the law that links ecclesiastical celibacy with the priesthood.
The first seems to come from the most authoritative source, the New Testament which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles. It does not openly demand celibacy of sacred ministers but proposes it rather as a free act of obedience to a special vocation or to a special spiritual gift. (See Mt 19,11-12) Jesus Himself did not make it a prerequisite in His choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles for those who presided over the first Christian communities. (See 1Tm 3,2-5 Tt 1,5-6)
6 The close relationship that the Fathers of the Church and ecclesiastical writers established over the centuries between the ministering priesthood and celibacy has its origin partly in a mentality and partly in historical circumstances far different from ours. In patristic texts we more frequently find exhortations to the clergy to abstain from marital relations rather than to observe celibacy; and the reasons justifying the perfect chastity of the Church's ministers seem often to be based on an overly pessimistic view of man's earthly condition or on a certain notion of the purity necessary for contact with sacred things. In addition, it is said that the old arguments no longer are in harmony with the different social and cultural milieus in which the Church today, through her priests, is called upon to work.
7 Many see a difficulty in the fact that in the present discipline concerning celibacy the gift of a vocation to the priesthood is identified with that of perfect chastity as a state of life for God's ministers. And so people ask whether it is right to exclude from the priesthood those who, it is claimed, have been called to the ministry without having been called to lead a celibate life.
8 It is asserted, moreover, that the maintaining of priestly celibacy in the Church does great harm in those regions where the shortage of the clergy--a fact recognized with sadness and deplored by the same Council (4) -- gives rise to critical situations: that it prevents the full realization of the divine plan of salvation and at times jeopardizes the very possibility of the initial proclamation of the Gospel. Thus the disquieting decline in the ranks of the clergy is attributed by some to the heavy burden of the obligation of celibacy.
4. See Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, CD 35: AAS 58 (1966), 690 [TPS XI, 195-96]; Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, AA 1: AAS 58 (1966), 837 [TPS XI, 119-20]; Decree on the Priestly, Ministry and Life, PO 10 ff.: AAS 58 (1966), 1007-08 [TPS XI, 455-56]; Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, Ag 19 Ag 38; AAS 58 (1966), 969, 984 [TPS XI, 426,437-38].
9 Then there are those who are convinced that a married priesthood would remove the occasions for infidelity, waywardness and distressing defections which hurt and sadden the whole Church. These also maintain that a married priesthood would enable Christ's ministers to witness more fully to Christian living by including the witness of married life, from which they are excluded by their state of life.
10 There are also some who strongly maintain that priests by reason of their celibacy find themselves in a situation that is not only against nature but also physically and psychologically detrimental to the development of a mature and well-balanced human personality. And so it happens, they say, that priests often become hard and lacking in human warmth; that, excluded from sharing fully the life and destiny of the rest of their brothers, they are obliged to live a life of solitude which leads to bitterness and discouragement.
So they ask: Don't all these things indicate that celibacy does unwarranted violence to nature and unjustifiably disparages human values which have their source in the divine work of creation and have been made whole through the work of the Redemption accomplished by Christ?
11 Again, in view of the way in which a candidate for the priesthood comes to accept an obligation as momentous as this, the objection is raised that in practice this acceptance results not from an authentically personal decision, but rather from an attitude of passivity, the fruit of a formation that neither is adequate nor makes sufficient allowance for human liberty. For the degree of knowledge and power of decision of a young person and his psychological and physical maturity fall far below--or at any rate are disproportionate to--the seriousness of the obligation he is assuming, its real difficulties and its permanence.
12 We well realize that there are other objections that can be made against priestly celibacy. This is a very complex question, which touches intimately upon the very meaning of being alive, yet is penetrated and resolved by the light of divine revelation. A never-ending series of difficulties will present themselves to those who cannot "receive this precept" (Mt 19,11) and who do not know or have forgotten it is a "gift of God," (Jn 4,10) and who moreover are unaware of the loftier reasoning, wonderful efficacy and abundant riches of this new insight into life.
13 The sum of these objections would appear to drown out the solemn and age-old voice of the pastors of the Church and of the masters of the spiritual life, and to nullify the living testimony of the countless ranks of saints and faithful ministers of God, for whom celibacy has been the object of the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign. But no, this voice, still strong and untroubled, is the voice not just of the past but of the present too. Ever intent on the realities of today, we cannot close our eyes to this magnificent, wonderful reality: that there are still today in God's holy Church, in every part of the world where she exercises her beneficent influence, great numbers of her ministers--subdeacons, deacons, priests and bishops--who are living their life of voluntary and consecrated celibacy in the most exemplary way.
Nor can we overlook the immense ranks of men and women in religious life, of laity and of young people too, united in the faithful observance of perfect chastity. They live in chastity, not out of disdain for the gift of life, but because of a greater love for that new life which springs from the Paschal mystery. They live this life of courageous self-denial and spiritual joyfulness with exemplary fidelity and also with relative facility. This magnificent phenomenon bears testimony to an exceptional facet of the kingdom of God living in the midst of modern society, to which it renders humble and beneficial service as the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth." (See Mt 5,13-14) We cannot withhold the expression of our admiration; the spirit of Christ is certainly breathing here.
14 Hence We consider that the present law of celibacy should today continue to be linked to the ecclesiastical ministry. This law should support the minister in his exclusive, definitive and total choice of the unique and supreme love of Christ; it should uphold him in the entire dedication of himself to the public worship of God and to the service of the Church; it should distinguish his state of life both among the faithful and in the world at large.
15 The gift of the priestly vocation dedicated to the divine worship and to the religious and pastoral service of the People of God, is undoubtedly distinct from that which leads a person to choose celibacy as a state of consecrated life. (8) But the priestly vocation, although inspired by God, does not become definitive or operative without having been tested and accepted by those in the Church who hold power and bear responsibility for the ministry serving the ecclesial community. It is, therefore, the task of those who hold authority in the Church to determine, in accordance with the varying conditions of time and place, who in actual practice are to be considered suitable candidates for the religious and pastoral service of the Church, and what should be required of them.
8. See above, nos. 5 and 7 [pp. 292-93].
16 In a spirit of faith, therefore, We look on this occasion afforded Us by Divine Providence as a favorable opportunity for setting forth anew, and in a way more suited to the men of our time, the fundamental reasons for sacred celibacy. If difficulties against faith "can stimulate our minds to a more accurate and deeper understanding" of it, (9) the same is true of the ecclesiastical discipline which guides and directs the life of the faithful.
We are deeply moved by the joy this occasion gives Us of contemplating the richness in virtue and the beauty of the Church of Christ. These may not always be immediately apparent to the human eye, because they derive from the love of the divine Head of the Church and because they are revealed in the perfection of holiness (See Ep 5,25-27) which moves the human spirit to admiration, and which human resources cannot adequately explain.
9. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, GS 62: AAS 58 (1966), 1082 [TPS XI, 300].
17 Virginity undoubtedly, as the Second Vatican Council declared, "is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself. This is clear from the practice of the early Church and the traditions of the Eastern Churches." (11) But at the same time the Council did not hesitate to confirm solemnly the ancient, sacred and providential present law of priestly celibacy. In addition, it set forth the motives which justify this law for those who, in a spirit of faith and with generous fervor, know how to appreciate the gifts of God.
11. Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966), 1015 [TPS XI, 461].
18 Consideration of how celibacy is particularly suited" (12) to God's ministers is not something recent. Even if the explicit reasons have differed with different mentalities and different situations, they were always inspired by specifically Christian considerations; and from these considerations we can get an intuition of the more fundamental motives underlying them. (13) These can be brought into clearer light only under the influence of the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ to His followers for the knowledge of things to come (See Jn 16,13) and to enable the People of God to increase in the understanding of the mystery of Christ and of the Church. In this process the experience gained through the ages from a deeper penetration of spiritual things also has its part.
12. Ibid PO 16.
13. See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, DV 8: AAS 58 (1966), 820 [TPS XI, 75-76.].
19 The Christian priesthood, being of a new order, can be understood only in the light of the newness of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff and eternal Priest, who instituted the priesthood of the ministry as a real participation in His own unique priesthood. (15) The minister of Christ and dispenser of the mysteries of God, (See 1Co 4,1) therefore, looks up to Him directly as his model and supreme ideal. (See 1Co 11,1) The Lord Jesus, the only Son of God, was sent by the Father into the world and He became man, in order that humanity which was subject to sin and death might be reborn, and through this new birth (See Jn 3,5; 1Tm 3,5) might enter the kingdom of heaven. Being entirely consecrated to the will of the Father, (See Jn 4,34 Jn 17,4) Jesus brought forth this new creation by means of His Paschal mystery; (See 2Co 5,17; Ga 6,15) thus, He introduced into time and into the world a new form of life which is sublime and divine and which radically transforms the human condition. (See Ga 3,28)
15. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 28: AAS 57 (1965), 33-36 [TPS X, 378-79]; Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 2: AAS 58 (1966),991-93 [TPS XI, 442-44].
20 Matrimony, according to the will of God, continues the work of the first creation; (See Gn 2,18) and considered within the total plan of salvation, it even acquired a new meaning and a new value. Jesus, in fact, has restored its original dignity, (See Mt 19,3-8) has honored it (See Jn 2,1-11) and has raised it to the dignity of a sacrament and of a mysterious symbol of His own union with the Church. (See Ep 5,32) Thus, Christian couples walk together toward their heavenly fatherland in the exercise of mutual love, in the fulfillment of their particular obligations, and in striving for the sanctity proper to them. But Christ, "Mediator of a superior covenant," (He 8,6) has also opened a new way, in which the human creature adheres wholly and directly to the Lord, and is concerned only with Him and with His affairs; (See 1Co 7,33-35) thus, he manifests in a clearer and more complete way the profoundly transforming reality of the New Testament.
21 Christ, the only Son of the Father, by the power of the Incarnation itself was made Mediator between heaven and earth, between the Father and the human race. Wholly in accord with this mission, Christ remained throughout His whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified His total dedication to the service of God and men. This deep concern between celibacy and the priesthood of Christ is reflected in those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and mission of the Mediator and eternal Priest; this sharing will be more perfect the freer the sacred minister is from the bonds of flesh and blood. (28)
28. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966), 1015-17 [TPS XI, 461-62].
22 Jesus, who selected the first ministers of salvation, wished them to be introduced to the understanding of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," (Mt 13,11.; see Mc 4,11 Lc 8,10) but He also wished them to be coworkers with God under a very special title, and His ambassadors. (See 2Co 5,20) He called them friends and brethren, (See Jn 15,15 Jn 20,17) for whom He consecrated Himself so that they might be consecrated in truth; (Ibid., Jn 7,19) He promised a more than abundant recompense to anyone who should leave home, family, wife and children for the sake of the kingdom of God. (See Lc 18,29-30) More than this, in words filled with mystery and hope, He also commended an even more perfect consecration (34) to the kingdom of heaven by means of celibacy, as a special gift. (See Mt 19,11) The motive of this response to the divine call is the kingdom of heaven; (Ibid., Mt 19,12) similarly, this very kingdom, (See Lc 18,29-30) the Gospel (Mc 10,29-30) and the name of Christ (Mt 19,29) motivate those called by Jesus to undertake the work of the apostolate, freely accepting its burdens, that they may participate the more closely in His lot.
34. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966), 1015-17 [TPS XI, 461-62].
23 To them this is the mystery of the newness of Christ, of all that He is and stands for; it is the sum of the highest ideals of the Gospel and of the kingdom; it is a particular manifestation of grace, which springs from the Paschal mystery of the Savior. This is what makes the choice of celibacy desirable and worthwhile to those called by our Lord Jesus. Thus they intend not only to participate in His priestly office, but also to share with Him His very condition of living.
24 The response to the divine call is an answer of love to the love which Christ has shown us so sublimely. (See Jn 3,16 Jn 15,13) This response is included in the mystery of that special love for souls who have accepted His most urgent appeals. (See Mc 10,21) With a divine force, grace increases the longings of love. And love, when it is genuine, is all-embracing, stable and lasting, an irresistible spur to all forms of heroism. And so the free choice of sacred celibacy has always been considered by the Church "as a symbol of, and stimulus to, charity": (42) it signifies a love without reservations; it stimulates to a charity which is open to all. In a life so completely dedicated and motivated, who can see the sign of spiritual narrowness or self-seeking, and not see rather that celibacy is and ought to be a rare and very meaningful example of a life motivated by love, by which man expresses his own unique greatness? Who can doubt the moral and spiritual richness of such a life, consecrated not to any human ideal, no matter how noble, but to Christ and to His work to bring about a new form of humanity in all places and for all generations?
42. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 42: AAS 57 (1965), 48 [TPS X, 388].
25 This biblical and theological view associates our ministerial priesthood with the priesthood of Christ; the total and exclusive dedication of Christ to His mission of salvation provides reason and example for our assimilation to the form of charity and sacrifice proper to Christ our Savior. This vision seems to Us so profound and rich in truth, both speculative and practical, that We invite you, venerable brothers, and you, eager students of Christian doctrine and masters of the spiritual life, and all you priests who have gained a supernatural insight into your vocation, to persevere in the study of this vision, and to go deeply into the inner recesses and wealth of its reality. In this way, the bond between the priesthood and celibacy will more and more be seen as closely knit--as the mark of a heroic soul and the imperative call to unique and total love for Christ and His Church.
26 "Laid hold of by Christ" (Ph 3,12) unto the complete abandonment of one's entire self to Him, the priest takes on a closer likeness to Christ, even in the love with which the eternal Priest has loved the Church His Body and offered Himself entirely for her sake, in order to make her a glorious, holy and immaculate Spouse. (See Ep 5,25-27) The consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers actually manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church, and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage, by which the children of God are born, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh." (Jn 1,13) (46)
46. See Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 42: AAS 57 (1965), 48 [TPS X, 388]; Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966),1015-17 [TPS XI, 461-62].
27 The priest dedicates himself to the service of the Lord Jesus and of His Mystical Body with complete liberty, which is made easier by his total offering, and thus he depicts more fully the unity and harmony of the priestly life. (47) His ability for listening to the word of God and for prayer increases. Indeed, the word of God, as preserved by the Church, stirs up vibrant and profound echoes in the priest who daily meditates on it, lives it and preaches it to the faithful.
47. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 14: AAS 58 (1966), 1013 [TPS XI, 459-60].
28 Like Christ Himself, His minister is wholly and solely intent on the things of God and the Church, (See Lc 2,49 1Co 7,32-33) and he imitates the great High priest who lives ever in the presence of God in order to intercede in our favor. (See He 9,24 He 7,25) So he receives joy and encouragement unceasingly from the attentive and devout recitation of the Divine Office, by which he dedicates his voice to the Church who prays together with her Spouse, (50) and he recognizes the necessity of continuing his diligence at prayer, which is the profoundly priestly occupation. (See Ac 6,4)
50. Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 13: AAS 58 (1966), 1012 [TPS XI, 458-59].
29 The rest of a priest's life also acquires a greater richness of meaning and sanctifying power. In fact, his individual efforts at his own sanctification find new incentives in the ministry of grace and in the ministry of the Eucharist, in which "the whole spiritual good of the Church is contained"; (52) acting in the person of Christ, the priest unites himself most intimately with the offering, and places on the altar his entire life, which bears the marks of the holocaust.
52. Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 5: AAS 58(1966), 997 [TPS XI, 447].
30 What other considerations can We offer to describe the increase of the priest's power, his service, his love and sacrifice for the entire people of God? Christ spoke of Himself when He said: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (Jn 12,24-25) And the Apostle Paul did not hesitate to expose himself to a daily death in order to obtain among his faithful glory in Christ Jesus. (See 1Co 15,31) In a similar way, by a daily dying to himself and by giving up the legitimate love of a family of his own for the love of Christ and of His kingdom, the priest will find the glory of an exceedingly rich and fruitful life in Christ, because like Him and in Him, he loves and dedicates himself to all the children of God.
31 In the community of the faithful committed to his charge, the priest represents Christ. Thus, it is most fitting that in all things he should reproduce the image of Christ and in particular follow His example, both in his personal and in his apostolic life. To his children in Christ, the priest is a sign and a pledge of that sublime and new reality which is the kingdom of God; he dispenses it and he possesses it to a more perfect degree. Thus he nourishes the faith and hope of all Christians, who, as such, are bound to observe chastity according to their proper state of life.
32 The consecration to Christ under an additional and lofty title like celibacy evidently gives to the priest, even in the practical field, the maximum efficiency and the best disposition of mind, mentally and emotionally, for the continuous exercise of a perfect charity. (55) This charity will permit him to spend himself wholly for the welfare of all, in a fuller and more concrete way. (See 2Co 12,15) It also obviously guarantees him a greater freedom and flexibility in the pastoral ministry, (57) in his active and living presence in the world, to which Christ has sent him (See Jn 17,18) so that he may pay fully to all the children of God the debt due to them. (See Rm 1,14)
55. See Second Vatican Council, Decree on Training for the Priesthood, OT 10: AAS 58 (1966), 719-20 [TPS XI, 23-24].
57. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966), 1015-17 [TPS XI, 461-62].
33 The kingdom of God, which "is not of this world," (Jn 18,36) is present here on earth in mystery, and will reach its perfection only with the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus. (61) The Church here below constitutes the seed and the beginning of this kingdom. And as she continues to grow slowly but surely, she longs for the perfect kingdom and ardently desires with all her energy to unite herself with her King in glory. (62) The pilgrim People of God are on a journey through the vicissitudes of this life toward their heavenly homeland, (See Ph 3,20) where the divine sonship of the redeemed (See 1Jn 3,2) will be fully revealed and where the transformed loveliness of the Spouse of the Lamb of God will shine completely. (65)
61. See Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, GS 39: AAS 58 (1966), 1056-57 [TPS XI, 282-83].
62. See Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 5: AAS 57(1965), 7-8 [TPS X, 361].
65. See Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 48: AAS 57 (1965), 53-54 [TPS X, 391-92].
34 Our Lord and Master has said that "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Mt 22,30) In the world of man, so deeply involved in earthly concerns and too often enslaved by the desires of the flesh, (See 1Jn 2,16) the precious and almost divine gift of perfect continence for the kingdom of heaven stands out precisely as "a special token of the rewards of heaven"; (68) it proclaims the presence on earth of the final stages of salvation (See 1Co 7,29-31) with the arrival of a new world, and in a way it anticipates the fulfillment of the kingdom as it sets forth its supreme values which will one day shine forth in all the children of God. This continence, therefore, stands as a testimony to the ever continuing progress of the People of God toward the final goal of their earthly pilgrimage, and as a stimulus for all to raise their eyes to the things above, "where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" and where Ťour life is hid with Christ in God" until it appears "with him in glory." (Col 3,1-4)
68. Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of the Religious Life, PC 12: AAS 58 (1966), 107 [TPS XI, 147].
35 Although it would be highly instructive to go through the writings of past centuries on ecclesiastical celibacy, this would take so long that We will let a brief account suffice. In Christian antiquity the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers testify to the spread through the East and the West of the voluntary practice of celibacy by sacred ministers (71) because of its profound suitability for their total dedication to the service of Christ and His Church.
71. See Tertullian, De exhort. castitatis, 13: PL 2. 930; St. Epiphanius, Adv. Haer. II, 48.9 and 59.4: PG 41.869, 1025; St. Efrem, Carmina nisibena, XVIII, XIX: ed. G. Bickell, Leipzig (1866), p. 122; Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstr. evan., 1.9: PG 22.81; St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechesis, 12.25: PG 33.757; St. Ambrose, De officiis ministr., 1.50: PL 16.97 ff.; St. Augustine, De moribus Eccl. cath., 1.32: PL 32.1339; St. Jerome, Adversus Vigilantium, 2: PL 23.34041; Bishop Synesius of Ptolemais, Epist. 105: PG 66.1485.
36 From the beginning of the 4th century, the Church of the West strengthened, spread and confirmed this practice by means of various provincial councils and through the supreme pontiffs. (72) More than anyone else, the supreme pastors and teachers of the Church of God, the guardians and interpreters of the patrimony of the faith and of holy Christian practices, promoted, defended, and restored ecclesiastical celibacy in successive eras of history, even when they met opposition from the clergy itself and when the practices of a decadent society did not favor the heroic demands of virtue. The obligation of celibacy was then solemnly sanctioned by the Sacred Ecumenical Council of Trent (73) and finally included in the Code of Canon Law. (74)
72. First done at the Council of Elvira, c. 300, can. 33: Mansi II, 11.
73. Sess. XXIV, can. 9-10.
74. CIS 132,1.
37 The most recent sovereign pontiffs who preceded Us, making use of their doctrinal knowledge and spurred on by ardent zeal, strove to enlighten the clergy on this matter and to urge them to its observance. (75) We do not wish to fail to pay homage to them, especially to Our well-loved immediate predecessor, whose memory is still fresh in the hearts of men all over the world. During the Roman Synod, with the sincere approval of all the clergy of the city, he spoke as follows: "It deeply hurts Us that ... anyone can dream that the Church will deliberately or even suitably renounce what from time immemorial has been, and still remains, one of the purest and noblest glories of her priesthood. The law of ecclesiastical celibacy and the efforts necessary to preserve it always recall to mind the struggles of the heroic times when the Church of Christ had to fight for and succeeded in obtaining her threefold glory, always an emblem of victory, that is, the Church of Christ, free, chaste and catholic." (76)
75. See St. Pius X, apost. exhortation Haerent animo: AAS 41 (1908), 555-57; Benedict XV, letter to Francis Kordac, Archbishop of Prague: AAS 12 (1920), 57-58; consistorial address, Dec. 16, 1920: AAS 12 (1920), 585-88; Pius XI, encyc. letter Ad Catholici Sacerdotii : AAS 28 (1936), 24-30; Pius XII, apost. exhortation Menti Nostrae: AAS 42 (1950), 657-702; encyc. letter Sacra virginitas: AAS 46 (1954), 161-91 [TPS I, 101-23]; John XXIII, encyc. letter Sacerdotii Nostri primordia: AAS 51 (1959), 554-56 [TPS VI, 14-16].
76. Second address, Jan. 26, 1960: AAS 52 (1960), 226.
38 If the legislation of the Eastern Church is different in the matter of discipline with regard to clerical celibacy, as was finally established by the Council of Trullo held in the year 692, (77) and which has been clearly recognized by the Second Vatican Council, (78) this is due to the different historical background of that most noble part of the Church, a situation which the Holy Spirit has providentially and supernaturally influenced.
We Ourselves take this opportunity to express Our esteem and Our respect for all the clergy of the Eastern Churches, and to recognize in them examples of fidelity and zeal which make them worthy of sincere veneration.
77. Can. 6, 12, 13, 48: Mansi XI, 944-48, 965.
78. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966), 1015-16 [TPS XI, 461-62].
39 We find further comforting reasons for continuing to adhere to the observance of the discipline of clerical celibacy in the exaltation of virginity by the Eastern Fathers. We hear within Us, for example, the voice of St. Gregory of Nyssa, reminding us that "the life of virginity is the image of the blessedness that awaits us in the life to come." (79) We are no less assured by St. John Chrysostom's treatise on the priesthood, which is still a fruitful subject for reflection. Intent on throwing light on the harmony which must exist between the private life of him who ministers at the altar and the dignity of the order to which his sacred duties belong, he affirmed: "... it is becoming that he who accepts the priesthood be as pure as if he were in heaven." (80)
79. De Virginitate, 13: PG 381-82.
80. De Sacerdotio, 1, III: PG 48. 642.
40 Further, it is by no means futile to observe that in the East only celibate priests are ordained bishops, and priests themselves cannot contract marriage after their ordination to the priesthood. This indicates that these venerable Churches also possess to a certain extent the principle of a celibate priesthood and even of the appropriateness of celibacy for the Christian priesthood, of which the bishops possess the summit and fullness. (81)
81. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 21 LG 28 LG 64: AAS 57, (1965), 24-25; 33-36; 64 [TPS X, 372-73, 378-79, 398].
41 In any case, the Church of the West cannot weaken her faithful observance of her own tradition. Nor can she be regarded as having followed for centuries a path which instead of favoring the spiritual richness of individual souls and of the People of God, has in some way compromised it, or of having stifled, with arbitrary juridical prescriptions, the free expansion of the most profound realities of nature and of grace.
Sacerdotalis Caelibatus EN