Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Witness of the Celibate Life

I'm a married man with five kids. But I think celibacy or “virginity” is beautiful for those called to it. The fact that there have been terrible abuses by some people who have violated their commitment to celibate life does not indicate that there is something wrong with the life itself (indeed, greater levels of such abuse are found in general among the married population). The problem of clerical abuse suggests various reforms, but the elimination of the celibate life is not one of them.

Celibacy is an ancient and venerated and specially blessed way of living the Christian life. Many different forms of living the Gospel are developing or being rediscovered in our time, which is a great grace. But this special consecration to God is as old as St. Paul and Jesus Himself. It is no imposition, but freely chosen by those whom God calls. It is a special and higher calling; I have no problem with that. I thank God that such people are part of my life. I thank God for their witness. Indeed, this special consecration to God is flowering in new ways today, in the midst of the secular world, in the ecclesial movements, even as it continues to be beautiful and fruitful in its classic forms.

It is certainly true that today the Church has placed great emphasis on the need for married people to seek God while living amid the cares and diverse circumstances of providing for a family and engaging in a secular career. We have many more positive images for “ordinary” Christian life in the world today, but it remains difficult for those of us who live in the ordinary way to remember the ultimate purpose of all the things we do and the concerns that press upon us. Being "in the world but not of the world" can become cliche if we forget the mystery of "self-transcendence" and transformation in Christ that are at the heart of every vocation, by virtue of baptism; St. Paul says, "remember you have died; your life is hidden with Christ in God." The exclusive dedication to God of those who embrace the consecrated, celibate life is a concrete witness that this is a fact for all of us, that it shapes the mystery of God's plan in the circumstances of our lives.