Priestly celibacy is not what is at stake; neither is Doctrine, Tradition or the Magisterium. Well, that is to say, they are at stake and very seriously, because the conception of the Church is at stake and, with it, the Church herself.
The main error of a Protestant is not that he doesn’t “believe in the Virgin,” that he doesn’t “believe in the Pope,” that he doesn’t “believe in the Saints.” We are so obsessed by self-preservation and the struggle, that we are incapable of seeing the contexts. The Protestant’s main error (not of those that don’t suffer it, of course) is absolutism, the inability to analyze, to discern, and to see the broad picture. They focus on verses they select, to make them their dogma, discarding those they don’t agree with and <deaf> to the voice of God in their soul and in time.
The Protestant Syndrome Is the Same as Ours
Is there a similarity with Catholic currents? The syndrome is absolutely the same. Is it that we don’t realize something that is so simple? In the face of the panic of losing identity, and with just intentions that the Church not lose heart by being insecure, we absolutize and close ourselves. We make the whole from a concrete and essential point. And we are only capable of seeing the reality from this point that, as we said, can be absolutely essential, but which doesn’t cease to be part of something much greater, which is also essential.
For 20 centuries of Christianity, we have made it our business to divinize and absolutize the papal figure. The good Catholic was the one who obeyed the Pope and complied with the norms — strictly. However, today we realize that, in reality, it wasn’t about the papal figure itself. The Pope was an excellent support and excuse for a people that didn’t need to ask any questions. The Church provided everything in her rules and dogmas, and whoever didn’t fit in the scheme was left to his fate
We Were Never Papists
Yes, today we realize that, in reality, it wasn’t about the Pope, because the very ones that divinized the Pope today reject him. They are exactly the same ones. And they find that they don’t fit in a Church that goes out, with the Pope, to the peripheries, that, as Jesus did, opens his arms to the immigrant, the prisoner, the needy, which isn’t new. What is “bad” is that he tells us it isn’t optional, but essential of a Christian. They feel they don’t fit in a Church that embraces an Indian, and not only doesn’t condemn him but invites him to his home and makes him feel himself a brother. In a Church that evangelizes by listening, loving, which doesn’t mean that she is silent. In a Church that rejects proselytism, with a Pope who wants to be evangelized by others, because he believes that God also speaks through concrete events, currents of life, the soul itself of the people.
It Was So Easy to Be a Catholic
We were so well <then>. Everything was written. God had already spoken for 20 centuries and in that time He was not giving the complete tablets of the law. How dare to think that one must discern. How dare to believe that the Holy Spirit has something new to say. How dare to think that we must give answers in keeping with the needs of the time if we always understood it the other way around: the needs of the time had to adjust themselves to the structure of the Church.
It was so easy to be a Catholic. We complied with all the laws, norms and papal and episcopal dispositions. With so much effort, Heaven was assured to us. And now they come to tell us that Jesus wants to take us out of our comfort zone and that He wants all to be saved. That what is essential is conversion of heart, not blind compliance with the norms. Now they try to convince us that it isn’t an ideology that we must defend at any price, tooth, and nail, not caring how, but that Jesus wants us to be fighters, but in humility and love; that, above all, He wants a noble and filial heart. They want to say to us that it’s not worth anything to impose the law and lose the essence.
The problem is that we have not been able to detect the causes of the issue. Obsessed by norms and the past, there are those that believe young people are leaving the Church in masses because the forms are being transformed: the Mass isn’t in Latin; women can serve at the altar; the priests are close to the people, and they no longer wear their soutane; the Church is concerned with the social topic and the ecology, etc.
How is it possible that it’s not understood that young people use drugs, drink alcohol and commit suicide because they have lost the meaning of life and that it’s because we don’t understand them because we don’t want to listen to them or give an answer to their existential dramas because we are geniuses of instruction and apologetics and the imposition of values. We think that to catechize is to transmit or inject truths. We haven’t realized that, more than anything, it’s about listening, sharing, understanding, dancing with a youth, not sitting him on a chair to indoctrinate him. Only when we reach their heart will they be thirsty to be inundated by Jesus’ marvels. Naked apologetics doesn’t fill a heart with God.
No, it wasn’t about the fact that we were papists. We weren’t papists. We were insecure, pathetically insecure. And we wanted iron norms, which wouldn’t make us think. Today, with a Pope who discerns, who learns from the people, who serves, who has the scent of sheep, who eats with the poor, who before greeting the Authorities, greets the sick and the beggars, who raises the humble and pulls down the powerful from their throne, we feel that the ground is moving on which we felt so safe.
Why hold a Synod on the Family if everything is <already> written, asked an Archbishop, fearful that the Church would begin to listen to the voices of the Holy Spirit in the souls of the Bishops and of the People of God. Why listen to the People of God if the truth comes from Rome? — we might also ask, with the same logic. However, ironically, it comes from Rome only if it coincides with our scheme, of course.
I ask . . . if Jesus was Pope for a day, how would we imagine Him? With pomp and luxury, clinging to the structures and forms? Or, without ceasing to transmit powerfully the truth, with the scent of sheep, compassionate, close and guiding the people to holiness out of love?
Inability to See the Contexts
No, it’s not about celibacy or the priesthood, or the Magisterium or Tradition and Doctrine. It’s about having a humble soul and an open mind. It was not bad to love the Pope. On the contrary, it was good. It wasn’t bad to follow his norms. On the contrary, it was good. It wasn’t bad to follow doctrine. On the contrary, it was good. What was not good was not knowing how to put each in its context, and to integrate them with God’s signs in a soul and in the time.
The problem is that the Pope was understood as a divine authority, whose task it was to define truths and immutable rules, and not as a prophet of God, who although weak in as much as Successor of a humble fisherman of Galilee, invested at the same time with very special wisdom and responsibility, in as much as anointed by the Holy Spirit to lead the People of God.
Yes. The same ones that divinized the Pope are the ones that reject him now. They are exactly the same ones because they never understood the depth. For them, it was never about the Pope, but a static Church, firm in the law. And when the Pope wants to show us that he is the Successor of a humble fisherman, but at the same time anointed by God, rejection surfaces of both characteristics, and they say to him: Francis, it was never about the Pope. We only wanted attachment to the structure, nothing else.
Cardinal Sarah’s Book
We won’t analyze here the subject of priestly celibacy as such, which is, undoubtedly, a precious treasure of the Lord’s Church. It’s important to always go to the bottom to understand the reality. The analyst must go high, to observe the complete picture and thus understand each one of the parts, in the appropriate context.
Let us go, then, to the bottom. Let’s see how Sarah addresses the topic and what his attitude is.
- On Priestly Celibacy
- In his book, Sarah affirms From the Depth of Our Hearts, that there “is an ontological-sacramental link between the priesthood and celibacy. Any weakening of this link would call into question the teaching of the Council and of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.”
As ”Vatican News” recalls in this regard, “priestly celibacy isn’t and never has been dogma. It’s an ecclesiastical discipline of the Latin Church that represents a precious gift, described so by all the last Popes. The Catholic Church of the Eastern rite provides for the possibility of ordaining married men as priests. Exceptions have also been admitted in the Latin Church, precisely by Benedict XVI in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
Although his thoughts and opinions are respectable, Cardinal Sarah neither presents a broad vision of the subject nor is he objective and correct in his appreciations.
- Christian attitude in Face of Authority
In his book, Sarah implores “Pope Francis to protect us definitively from such an eventuality vetoing any weakening of the law of priestly celibacy, although limited to one or another region.”
We know that the Pope is God’s anointed for the Church. Before taking decisions, he consults. And if the decisions are important, he convokes the People of God, in their Pastor-Bishops and leaders in general. That’s why he called a Synod on Amazonia, in which specialists in Theology, Indian pastoral ministry, catechesis, etc. took part, to listen to the Will of God in the Church’s commitment to the inhabitants and territory of Amazonia. Moreover, all the People of God can address the Pope and express their opinion. That is also Cardinal Sarah’s right.
Christian obedience to authority, more than calling to comply with its mandates (which is implicit) refers to a filial spirit and profound respect for those that exercise it. This implies authenticity, to express what one feels and believes but, at the same time, support and protect authority in robust filialness and love, because the community sees and feels in his person a representative of God, beyond all his humanity. How much more so if it’s about one anointed by the Holy Spirit.
When an aspect of the whole is absolutized and the Christian sense of authority is lost; when the ways of the Holy Spirit aren’t respected, which are also expressed through a Synod and the Magisterium of the Church; when one can’t convince the authority of one’s agenda, there is the way of publicity, which has no other end than to attempt to manipulate one who must take a decision in conscience, before God Himself.
- Involvement of the Pope Emeritus
The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI swore, at least implicitly, not only filial and absolute obedience to the Pope but also not to interfere in subjects relating to Francis’ pontificate. Up to a few days ago, he has done so with fidelity. What can be thought of one who, tearing him from a life of retirement, exposes him publicly and on a topic that is, without a doubt, highly conflictive? Neither would it be a noble attitude if Benedict asked Sarah to publish his writings, and make him break his pact of honor with Francis, with the Church, and with Jesus? However, it was not only that, but Sarah included Benedict as co-author of the book and printed the photos of both of them on the cover. Benedict requested Sarah to remove both his name as co-author, as well as his photo. And there is more to it. The book’s title involves Benedict to the depth of his heart: “From the Depths of Our Hearts.” By including some thoughts of Benedict, he exposes him as a passionate participant in the complete work.
We won’t evaluate here the attitude of Benedict, whom we all love and respect profoundly. We don’t know how aware he was of the transcendence his writings would have, handed to Sarah to publish them. Moreover, we know that his strength has diminished crucially. In one of the messages that Sarah publishes to the effect of proving that Benedict had sent him the writings in question, the Pope Emeritus affirmed that while “I wrote I felt increasingly that my strength no longer enabled me to write a theological text.”
We Are Facing a Change of Time
Through clear signs, the Lord is showing us today that, like it or not, we are in a change of time. What is being defined is if we will continue the inertia of the mechanistic mentality that is able to see only one part, absolutizing it, believing that the whole is represented, or a Church open to the signs of the times, able to come out of her comfort zone, seeking ways that make it possible to understand the human drama, both mental as well as affective and existential, and give appropriate answer for the time, not based on texts and laws rightly in force, but in the pressing reality of concrete lives, illumined by the light, grace, and power of Jesus.
Sometimes the Church’s prophets have anticipated the world’s currents, getting r their diagnostics and solutions right. However, lamentably, they have often collided with a Church incapable of understanding the human processes of the world. So many times we arrive 100 or 200 and even 500 years late. Let us remember that the fathers of those that erect monuments to the prophets are the ones that rejected and killed them.
Pope Francis “shocks “ us all. In general, the shake is for the good, to react, to act positively. However, sometimes his attitudes, his words, some persons he relates to or certain ideas he proclaims, are not to our liking <and> stir rejection in us. In reality, this makes him more human, closer, and in no way takes away his authority or investiture. It’s part of his personal style and responds to his philosophy, charism, and mission: “I prefer a thousand times an upset Church for having gone out to the peripheries than a sick Church closed in her self-preservation.
The golden rule we have always repeated about the Pope is also true for Francis. With each Pope God gives us what He wills to offer for that time to the Church and the world. One who ignores in deeds the value of this sacred rule, one who believes himself superior to the Pope, who erects himself implicitly as the Anointed, one who simply or truculently doesn’t respect his investiture, is playing with fire and challenges God Himself.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester
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