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42 In virtue of the fundamental norm of the government of the Catholic Church, to which We alluded above, (82) while on the one hand, the law requiring a freely chosen and perpetual celibacy of those who are admitted to Holy Orders remains unchanged, on the other hand, a study may be allowed of the particular circumstances of married sacred ministers of Churches or other Christian communities separated from the Catholic communion, and of the possibility of admitting to priestly functions those who desire to adhere to the fullness of this communion and to continue to exercise the sacred ministry. The circumstances must be such, however, as not to prejudice the existing discipline regarding celibacy.
And that the authority of the Church does not hesitate to exercise her power in this matter can be seen from the recent Ecumenical Council, which foresaw the possibility of conferring the holy diaconate on men of mature age who are already married. (83)
82. See above, no. 15.
83. See Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 29: AAS 57 (1965), 36 [TPS X, 380].
43 All this, however, does not signify a relaxation of the existing law, and must not be interpreted as a prelude to its abolition. There are better things to do than to promote this hypothesis, which tears down that vigor and love in which celibacy finds security and happiness, and which obscures the true doctrine that justifies its existence and exalts its splendor. It would be much better to promote serious studies in defense of the spiritual meaning and moral value of virginity and celibacy. (84)
84. Ibid., 7 49 [TPS X, 387-88].
44 Holy virginity is a very special gift. Nevertheless, the whole present- day Church, solemnly and universally represented by the pastors responsible for her welfare (with due respect, as We have said, for the discipline of the Eastern Churches), manifested her absolute faith "in the Holy Spirit that the grace of leading a celibate life, so desirable in the priesthood of the New Testament, will be readily granted by God the Father if those who by ordination share the priesthood of Christ humbly and earnestly ask it together with the whole Church." (85)
85. Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16: AAS 58 (1966), 1015-16 [TPS XI, 462].
45 We wholeheartedly call on the entire People of God to do their duty in bringing about an increase in priestly vocations. (86) We ask them fervently to beg the Father of all, the divine Spouse of the Church, and the Holy Spirit, her principle of life, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of His Church, to pour out, especially at present, this divine gift, which the Father certainly does not wish to give stintingly. They should also fervently pray, in like manner, that souls may dispose themselves to receive this gift by a profound faith and a generous love. In this way, in our world which needs God's glory, (See Rm 3,23) priests, ever more perfectly conformed to the one and supreme Priest, will be a real glory to Christ, (See 2Co 8,23) and, through them, "the glory of the grace" of God will be magnified in the world of today. (See Ep 1,6)
86. See Decree on Training for the Priesthood, OT 2: AAS 58 (1966), 714-15 [TPS XI, 17-19]; Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 11: AAS 58 (1966), 1008-09 [TPS N, 455-56].
46 Yes, venerable and well-beloved brothers in the priesthood, whom We cherish "with the affection of Christ Jesus," (Ph 1,8) it is indeed this world in which we live, tormented by the pains of growth and change, justly proud of its human values and human conquests, which urgently needs the witness of lives consecrated to the highest and most sacred spiritual values. This witness is necessary in order that the rare and incomparable light radiating from the most sublime virtues of the spirit may not be wanting to our times.
47 Our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to confide the formidable task of evangelizing the then-known world to a handful of men to all appearances lacking in number and quality. He bade this little flock not to lose heart, (See Lc 12,32) for, thanks to His constant assistance, (See Mt 28,20) through Him and with Him, they would overcome the world. (See Jn 16,33) Jesus has also taught us that the kingdom of God has an intrinsic and unobservable dynamism which enables it to grow "without [man's] knowing it." (See Mc 4,26-29) The harvest of God's kingdom is great, but the laborers, as in the beginning, are few. Actually, they have never been as numerous as human standards would have judged sufficient. But the heavenly King demands that we pray "the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Mt 9,37-38) The counsels and prudence of man cannot supersede the hidden wisdom of Him who, in the history of salvation, has challenged man's wisdom and power by His own foolishness and weakness. (See 1Co 1,20-31)
48 Supported by the power of faith, We express the Church's conviction on this matter. Of this she is certain: if she is prompter and more persevering in her response to grace, if she relies more openly and more fully on its secret but invincible power, if, in short, she bears more exemplary witness to the mystery of Christ, then she will never fall short in the performance of her salvific mission to the world--no matter how much opposition she faces from human ways of thinking or misrepresentations. We must all realize that we can do all things in Him who alone gives strength to souls (See Ph 4,13) and increase to His Church. (See 1Co 3,67)
49 We are not easily led to believe that the abolition of ecclesiastical celibacy would considerably increase the number of priestly vocations: the contemporary experience of those Churches and ecclesial communities which allow their ministers to marry seems to prove the contrary. The causes of the decrease in vocations to the priesthood are to be found elsewhere--for example, in the fact that individuals and families have lost their sense of God and of all that is holy, their esteem for the Church as the institution of salvation through faith and the sacraments. The problem must be examined at its real source.
50 As We said above, (99: See above, no. 10 ) the Church is nor unaware that the choice of consecrated celibacy, since it involves a series of hard renunciations which affect the very depths of a man, presents also grave difficulties and problems to which the men of today are particularly sensitive. In fact, it might seem that celibacy conflicts with the solemn recognition of human values by the Church in the recent Council. And yet more careful consideration reveals that this sacrifice of the human love experienced by most men in family life and given up by the priest for the love of Christ, is really a singular tribute paid to that great love. For it is universally recognized that man has always offered to God that which is worthy of both the giver and the receiver.
51 Moreover, the Church cannot and should not fail to realize that the choice of celibacy--provided that it is made with human and Christian prudence and responsibility--is governed by grace which, far from destroying or doing violence to nature, elevates it and imparts to it supernatural powers and vigor. God, who has created and redeemed man, knows what He can ask of him and gives him everything necessary to be able to do what his Creator and Redeemer asks of him. St. Augustine, who had fully and painfully experienced in himself the nature of man, exclaimed: "Grant what You command, and command what You will." (100)
100. Conf. X, 29, 40: PL 32. 796.
52 A true knowledge of the real difficulties of celibacy is very useful, even necessary, for the priest, so that he may be fully aware of what his celibacy requires in order to be genuine and beneficial. But with equal fidelity to the truth, these difficulties must not be given greater value or weight than they actually have in the human or religious sphere, or be declared impossible of solution.
53 Considering what contemporary scholarly investigation has ascertained, it is not right to continue repeating (101: See above, no. 10 ) that celibacy is against nature because it runs counter to lawful physical, psychic and affective needs, or to claim that a completely mature human personality demands fulfillment of these needs. Man, created to God's image and likeness, (Gn 1,26-27) is not just flesh and blood; the sexual instinct is not all that he has; man has also, and preeminently, understanding, choice, freedom, and thanks to these powers he is, and must remain, the chief work of creation; they give him mastery over his physical, mental and emotional appetites.
54 The true, profound reason for dedicated celibacy is, as We have said, the choice of a closer and more complete relationship with the mystery of Christ and the Church for the good of all mankind: in this choice there is no doubt that those highest human values are able to find their fullest expression.
55 The choice of celibacy does not connote ignorance of or contempt for the sexual instinct and man's capacity for giving himself in love. That would certainly do damage to his physical and psychological balance. On the contrary, it demands clear understanding, careful self-control and a wise elevation of the mind to higher realities. In this way celibacy sets the whole man on a higher level and makes an effective contribution to his perfection.
56 We readily grant that the natural and lawful desire a man has to love a woman and to raise a family is renounced by the celibate in sacred orders; but it cannot be said that marriage and the family are the only way for fully developing the human person. In the priest's heart love is by no means extinct. His charity is drawn from the purest source, (See 1Jn 4,8-16) practiced in the imitation of God and Christ, and is no less demanding and real than any other genuine love. (Ibid., 1Jn 3,16-18) It gives the priest a limitless horizon, deepens and gives breadth to his sense of responsibility--a mark of mature personality--and inculcates in him, as a sign of a higher and greater fatherhood, a generosity and refinement of heart (See 1Th 2,11 1Co 4,15; 1Co 6,13; Ga 4,19 1Tm 5,1-2) which offer a superlative enrichment.
57 All the People of God must give testimony to the mystery of Christ and His kingdom, but this witnessing does not take the same form for all. The Church leaves to her married children the function of giving the necessary testimony of a genuinely and fully Christian married and family life. She entrusts to her priests the testimony of a life wholly dedicated to pondering and seeking the new and delightful realities of God's kingdom.
If this means that the priest is without a direct personal experience of married life, he nevertheless will be able through his training, his ministry and the grace of his office, to gain even deeper insights into every human yearning. This will allow him to meet problems of this kind at their source and give solid support by his advice and assistance to married persons and Christian families. (See 1Co 2,15) For the Christian family, the example of the priest who is living his life of celibacy to the full will underscore the spiritual dimension of every love worthy of the name, and his personal sacrifice will merit for the faithful united in the holy bond of matrimony the grace of a true union.
58 By reason of his celibacy the priest is a man alone: that is true, but his solitude is not meaningless emptiness because it is filled with God and the brimming riches of His kingdom. Moreover, he has prepared himself for this solitude -- which should be an internal and external plenitude of charity--if he has chosen it with full understanding, and not through any proud desire to be different from the rest of men, or to withdraw himself from common responsibilities, or to alienate himself from his brothers, or to show contempt for the world. Though set apart from the world, the priest is not separated from the People of God, because he has been "appointed to act on behalf of men," (He 5,1) since he is "consecrated" completely to charity (See 1Co 14,4 ff) and to the work for which the Lord has chosen him. (109)
109. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 3: AAS 58 (1966), 993-95 [TPS XI, 444-45].
59 At times loneliness will weigh heavily on the priest, but he will not for that reason regret having generously chosen it. Christ, too, in the most tragic hours of His life was alone--abandoned by the very ones whom He had chosen as witnesses to, and companions of, His life, and whom He had loved "to the end" (Jn 13,1) --but He stated, "I am not alone, for the Father is with me." (Ibid., Jn 16,32) He who has chosen to belong completely to Christ will find, above all, in intimacy with Him and in His grace, the power of spirit necessary to banish sadness and regret and to triumph over discouragement. He will not be lacking the protection of the Virgin Mother of Jesus nor the motherly solicitude of the Church, to whom he has given himself in service. He will not be without the kindly care of his father in Christ, his bishop; nor will the fraternal companionship of his fellow priests and the love of the entire People of God, most fruitful of consolations, be lacking to him. And if hostility, lack of confidence and the indifference of his fellow men make his solitude quite painful, he will thus be able to share, with dramatic clarity, the very experience of Christ, as an apostle who must not be "greater than he who sent him," (See ibid., Jn 13,16 Jn 15,18) as a friend admitted to the most painful and most glorious secret of his divine Friend who has chosen him to bring forth the mysterious fruit of life in his own life, which is only apparently one of death. (See ibid., Jn 15,15-16,20)
60 Our reflection on the beauty, importance and intimate fittingness of holy virginity for the ministers of Christ and His Church makes it incumbent on those who hold the office of teacher and pastor of that Church to take steps to assure and promote its positive observance, from the first moment of preparation to receive such a precious gift.
In fact, the difficulties and problems which make the observance of chastity very painful or quite impossible for some, spring, not infrequently, from a type of priestly formation which, given the great changes of these last years, is no longer completely adequate for the formation of a personality worthy of a "man of God." (See 1Tm 6,11)
61 The Second Vatican Council has already indicated wise criteria and guidelines to this end. They are in conformity with the progress of psychology and pedagogy, as well as with the changed conditions of mankind and of contemporary society. (115) It is Our wish that appropriate instructions be drawn up with the help of truly qualified men, treating with all necessary detail the theme of chastity. They should be sent out as soon as possible to provide competent and timely assistance to those who have the great responsibility within the Church of preparing future priests.
115. See Decree on Training for the Priesthood, OT 3-11: AAS 58 (1966), 715-21 [TPS XI, 19-24]; Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of the Religious Life, PC 12: AAS 58 (1966), 7 [TPS XI, 147].
62 The priesthood is a ministry instituted by Christ for the service of His Mystical Body which is the Church. To her belongs the authority to admit to that priesthood those whom she judges qualified--that is, those to whom God has given, along with other signs of an ecclesiastical vocation, the gift of a consecrated celibacy. (116: See above, no. 15 ) In virtue of such a gift, confirmed by canon law, the individual is called to respond with free judgment and total dedication, adapting his own mind and outlook to the will of God who calls him. Concretely, this divine calling manifests itself in a given individual with his own definite personality structure which is not at all overpowered by grace. In candidates for the priesthood, therefore, the sense of receiving this divine gift should be cultivated; so too, a sense of responsibility in their meeting with God, with the highest importance given to supernatural means.
63 It is likewise necessary that exact account be taken of the physical and psychological state of the candidate in order to guide and orient him toward the priestly ideal; so a truly adequate formation should harmoniously coordinate grace and nature in the man in whom one clearly sees the proper conditions and qualifications. These conditions should be ascertained as soon as signs of his holy vocation are first indicated--not hastily or superficially, but carefully, with the assistance and aid of a doctor or a competent psychologist. A serious investigation of hereditary factors should not be omitted.
64 Those who are discovered to be unfit for physical, psychological or moral reasons should be quickly removed from the path to the priesthood. Let educators appreciate that this is one of their very grave duties. They must neither indulge in false hopes and dangerous illusions nor permit the candidate to nourish these hopes in any way, with resultant damage to himself or to the Church. The life of the celibate priest, which engages the whole man so totally and so delicately, excludes in fact those of insufficient physical, psychic and moral qualifications. Nor should anyone pretend that grace supplies for the defects of nature in such a man.
65 After the capability of a man has been ascertained and he has been admitted to the course of studies leading to the goal of the priesthood, care should be taken for the progressive development of a mature personality through physical, intellectual and moral education directed toward the control and personal dominion of his temperament, sentiments and passions.
66 This will be proved by the firmness of the spirit with which he accepts the personal and community type of discipline demanded by the priestly life. Such a regime, the lack or deficiency of which is to be deplored because it exposes the candidate to grave disorders, should not be borne only as an imposition from without. It should be inculcated and implanted as an indispensable component within the context of the spiritual life.
67 The educator should skillfully stimulate the young man to the evangelical virtue of sincerity (See Mt 5,37) and to spontaneity by approving every good personal initiative, so that the young man will come to know and properly evaluate himself, wisely assume his own responsibilities, and train himself to that self-control which is of such importance in priestly education.
68 The exercise of authority, the principle of which should be maintained firmly, will be animated by wise moderation and a pastoral attitude. It will be used in a climate of dialogue and will be implemented in a gradual way which will afford the educator an ever deepening understanding of the psychology of the young man, and will appeal to personal conviction.
69 The complete education of the candidate for the priesthood should be directed to help him acquire a tranquil, convinced and free choice of the grave responsibilities which he must assume in conscience before God and the Church. Ardor and generosity are marvelous qualities of youth; illuminated and supported, they merit, along with the blessing of the Lord, the admiration and confidence of the whole Church as well as of all men. None of the real personal and social difficulties which their choice will bring in its train should remain hidden to the young men, so that their enthusiasm will not be superficial and illusory. At the same time it will be right to highlight with at least equal truth and clarity the sublimity of their choice, which, though it may lead on the one hand to a certain physical and psychic void, nevertheless on the other brings with it an interior richness capable of elevating the person most profoundly.
70 Young candidates for the priesthood should be convinced that they cannot follow their difficult way without a special type of asceticism proper to themselves and more demanding than that which is required of the other faithful. It will be a demanding asceticism but not a suffocating one which consists in the deliberate and assiduous practice of those virtues which make a man a priest: self-denial in the highest degree--an essential condition if one would follow Christ; (See ibid., Mt 16,24; Jn 12,25) humility and obedience as expressions of internal truth and of an ordered liberty; prudence, justice, courage and temperance--virtues without which it is impossible for true and profound religious life to exist; a sense of responsibility, fidelity and loyalty in the acceptance of one's obligations; a balance between contemplation and action; detachment and a spirit of poverty, which will give tone and vigor to evangelical freedom; chastity, the result of a persevering struggle, harmonized with all the other natural and supernatural virtues; a serene and secure contact with the world to whose service the young man will dedicate himself for Christ and for His kingdom.
In such a way the aspirant to the priesthood will acquire, with the help of a divine grace, a strong, mature and balanced personality, a combination of inherited and acquired qualities, harmony of all his powers in the light of the faith and in intimate union with Christ, whom he has chosen for himself and for the ministry of salvation to the world.
71 However, to judge with more certainty the young man's fitness for the priesthood and to have successive proofs of his attained maturity on both the human and supernatural levels--for "it is more difficult to conduct oneself correctly in the service of souls because of dangers coming from outside" (119) --it will be advisable to have a preliminary trial period before the observance of holy celibacy becomes something definitive and permanent through ordination to the priesthood. (120)
119. St. Thomas Aquinas, II-II 184,8 c.
120. See Decree on Training for the Priesthood, OT 12: AAS 58 (1966), 721 [TPS XI, 24-25].
72 Once moral certainty has been obtained that the maturity of the candidate is sufficiently guaranteed, he will be in a position to take on himself the heavy and sweet burden of priestly chastity as a total gift of himself to the Lord and to His Church.
In this way, the obligation of celibacy, which the Church makes a condition of Holy Orders, is accepted by the candidate through the influence of divine grace and with full reflection and liberty, and, as is evident, not without the wise and prudent advice of competent spiritual directors who are concerned not to impose the choice, but rather to dispose the candidate to make it more consciously. Hence, in that solemn moment when the candidate will decide once and for his whole life, he will not feel the weight of an imposition from outside, but rather the interior joy that accompanies a choice made for the love of Christ.
73 The priest must not think that ordination makes everything easy for him and screens him once and for all from every temptation or danger. Chastity is not acquired all at once but results from a laborious conquest and daily affirmation. Our world today stresses the positive values of love between the sexes but has also multiplied the difficulties and risks in this sphere. In order to safeguard his chastity with all care and affirm its sublime meaning, the priest must consider clearly and calmly his position as a man exposed to spiritual warfare against seductions of the flesh in himself and in the world, continually renewing his resolution to give an ever increasing and ever better perfection to the irrevocable offering of himself which obliges him to a fidelity that is complete, loyal and real.
74 Christ's priest will daily receive new strength and joy as he deepens in meditation and prayer the motives for his gift and the conviction that he has chosen the better part. He will ask humbly and perseveringly for the grace of fidelity, never denied to those who ask it sincerely. At the same time he will use the natural and supernatural means at his disposal. In particular he will not disregard those ascetical norms which have been substantiated by the Church's experience and are no less necessary in modern circumstances than in former times. (121)
121. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 16 PO 18: AAS 58 (1966), 1015-16, 1019 [TPS XI, 461-62, 463-641.
75 The priest should apply himself above all else to developing, with all the love grace inspires in him, his close relationship with Christ, and exploring this inexhaustible and enriching mystery; he should also acquire an ever deeper sense of the mystery of the Church. There would be the risk of his state of life seeming unreasonable and unfounded if it is viewed apart from this mystery.
Priestly piety, nourished at the table of God's word and the Holy Eucharist, lived within the cycle of the liturgical year, inspired by a warm and enlightened devotion to the Virgin Mother of the supreme and eternal High Priest and Queen of the Apostles, (122) will bring him to the source of a true spiritual life which alone provides a solid foundation for the observance of celibacy.
122. Ibid., PO 18.
76 In this way the priest, with grace and peace in his heart, will face with generosity the manifold tasks of his life and ministry. If he performs these with faith and zeal he will find in them new occasions to show that he belongs entirely to Christ and His Mystical Body, for his own sanctification and the sanctification of others. The charity of Christ which urges him on, (See 2Co 5,14) will help him not to renounce his higher feelings but to elevate and deepen them in a spirit of consecration in imitation of Christ the High Priest, who shared intimately in the life of men, loved and suffered for them, (See He 4,15) and of Paul the Apostle who shared in the cares of all (See 1Co 9,22; 2Co 11,29) in order to bring the light and power of the Gospel of God's grace to shine in the world. (See Ac 20,24)
77 Rightly jealous of his full self-giving to the Lord, the priest should know how to guard against emotional tendencies which give rise to desires not sufficiently enlightened or guided by the Spirit. He should beware of seeing spiritual or apostolic pretexts for what are in fact dangerous inclinations of the heart.
78 The priestly life certainly requires an authentic spiritual intensity in order to live by the Spirit; (See Ga 5,25) it requires a truly virile asceticism -- both interior and exterior--in one who, belonging in a special way to Christ, has in Him and through Him "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires," (Ga 5,24) not hesitating to face arduous and lengthy trials in order to do so. (See 1Co 9,26-27) In this way Christ's minister will be the better able to show to the world the fruits of the Spirit, which are "charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty. continency, chastity." (Ga 5,22-23)
79 Moreover, priestly chastity is increased, guarded and defended by a way of life, surroundings and activity suited to a minister of God. For this reason the "close sacramental brotherhood (131) which all priests enjoy in virtue of their ordination must be fostered to the utmost. Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught the urgency of the new commandment of charity. He gave a wonderful example of it when He instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist and the Catholic priesthood, (See Jn 13,15 Jn 13,34-35) and prayed to His Heavenly Father that the love the Father bore for Him from all eternity should be in His ministers and that He too should be in them. (Ibid., Jn 17,26)
131. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 8: AAS 58 (1966), 1003 [TPS XI, 452].
80 So the unity of spirit among priests should be active in their prayers, friendship and help of all kinds for one another. One cannot sufficiently recommend to priests a life lived in common and directed entirely toward their sacred ministry; the practice of having frequent meetings with a fraternal exchange of ideas, counsel and experience with their brother priests; the movement to form associations which encourage priestly holiness.
81 Priests should reflect on the advice of the Council, (134) which reminds them of their common sharing in the priesthood so that they may feel a lively responsibility for fellow priests troubled by difficulties which gravely endanger the divine gift they have. They should have a burning charity for those who have greater need of love, understanding and prayer, who have need of prudent but effective help, and who have a claim on their unbounded charity as those who are, and should be, their truest friends.
134. See Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, PO 8: AAS 58 (1966), 1003-05 [TPS XI, 452-53].
82 Venerable brothers in the episcopacy, priest and ministers of the altar, by way of completing and leaving a remembrance of this written conversation with you, we should like to suggest this resolution to you: that on the anniversary of his ordination, or on Holy Thursday when all are united in spirit commemorating the mystery of the institution of the priesthood, each one should renew his total gift of himself to Christ our Lord; reviving in this way the awareness that He has chosen you for His divine service, and repeating at the same time, humbly and courageously, the promise of our unswerving faithfulness to His love alone in your offering of perfect chastity. (See Rm 12,1)
83 Now, with fatherly love and affection, Our heart turns anxiously and with deep sorrow to those unfortunate priests who always remain Our dearly beloved brothers and whose absence We keenly regret. We speak of those who, retaining the sacred character conferred by their priestly ordination, have nonetheless been sadly unfaithful to the obligations they accepted when ordained.
Their sad state and its consequences to priests and to others move some to wonder if celibacy is not in some way responsible for such dramatic occurrences and for the scandals they inflict on God's People. In fact, the responsibility falls not on consecrated celibacy in itself but on a judgment of the fitness of the candidate of the priesthood which was not always adequate or prudent at the proper time, or else it falls on the way in which sacred ministers live their life of total consecration.
84 The Church is very conscious of the sad state of these sons of hers and judges it necessary to make every effort to avert or to remedy the wounds she suffers by their defection. Following the example of Our immediate predecessors, We also have, in cases concerning ordination to the priesthood, been prepared to allow inquiry to extend beyond the provisions of the present canon law (136) to other very grave reasons which give ground for really solid doubts regarding the full freedom and responsibility of the candidate for the priesthood and his fitness for the priestly state. This has been done to free those who, on careful judicial consideration of their case, are seen to be really unsuited.
136. See Code of Canon Law, CIS 214.
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