What does celibacy have to do with the messages of our portal, which deal with family and media? I was asking myself this question as I finished reading the book by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah, From the Depths of our Heart, already published in France, where it is a best seller, and in the United States, and soon it will be in Italian. Hopefully, it will be printed in every language! Give it time.
I leave this question regarding the editorial authorship of the book to the polemists fond of the ephemeral. It is a question worthy a footnote regarding the scholarly history of the publishing industry, and which instead has been intensely covered by the, allegedly, most serious newspapers of the world. Merely reading the book gives more than enough answer to the pseudo-problem. Simply read the Introduction and the Conclusions…evidently written and/or shared by both authors. It seems obvious to me, after reading them, that every corresponding chapter has been read and approved by the other author as well. Both authors have proven to be straight and credible in their personal careers until now. So why doubt…now?In the Introduction, the authors say they have written the book “with a spirit of love for the unity of the Church. If the ideology divides, the truth unites hearts (…) with a spirit of charity (…) whoever would like can complete it or criticize it. The search for the truth cannot be completed without an open heart.”
Should I doubt this compelling declaration? I shall not, lest I make an illicit judgment of their intentions. I will not, to avoid introducing divisions between Pope Francis and the Emeritus Pope Benedict or among Catholics.
Getting back to the point, the book is relevant and interesting to this portal because the serene, rich and good argument in defense of priestly celibacy in the Catholic clergy makes the beauty of one’s human love for another forever shine, the beauty of the centuries old teaching of the Catholic Church regarding sexuality. A young mother, writer and friend, to whom I submitted this article for “merciless criticism” before publishing it, told me: “This reminded me of the premarital chastity testimony I give in conversations with young couples that think about or doubt premarital chastity before getting married: to many, it seems absurd to ‘deprive’ themselves for years (meaning abstaining from sexual relationships before marriage: NdT) for ‘we are in love’. Very few of these couples understand that this “privation” leads them to receive something more beautiful in marriage.”
If celibacy wasn’t the renunciation of something great for something even better for those who receive the call, what would be the point of being attached to a functional discipline? Functional…for what or for whom? No. Whoever renounces the beauty of conjugal love and the possibility of having children, does so to have spiritual children. A professor generates spiritual life in the minds of his students when his mind is full of life, not when he completes an administrative-teaching role, credits and merits recognized by the teaching administrations, whatever level they are. True, surely having to renounce winning money in complementary teaching activities, for example.
What is at stake in the defense of priestly celibacy is the entire architecture of human love as is revealed in the fullness of the Incarnation. Before that, it was impossible to see it in this way. Merely read Ratzinger’s commentary on the priesthood in the Old Testament in his chapter of Ratzinger-Sarah’s book to understand its importance. After the Incarnation, it is possible to look at human love, regardless of its expression, in fullness, as what it is: personal donation and not self-affirmation. And, above all, it is possible to live it with the help of the goods that the Incarnation has brought—what Catholics call grace—both in marriage and in celibacy.
Nor was it possible to see the superiority of monogamous marriage, that is, one with another forever, over polygamy. The Patriarchs of the Old Testament honestly lived polygamy. This is also the view of Chief Rabbi of London, who is very popular in the media. We have published his brilliant conference on our portal explaining the marvelous evolution, biologically first, and culturally after, from asexual “reproduction” to sexual reproduction 385 million years ago—approximately, of course—and from polygamy to monogamy: The Music of Man and Woman. Truly a must read.We have also written about the ecclesial battles around the family on our portal — issues in which, not surprisingly, the allegedly mainstream media are more interested. See, for example, this article of a courageous African bishop, among others. Why does it seem the brave, who are speaking out lately, are all Africans? A mere coincidence that Saint Augustine, who is profusely quoted in the book by Ratzinger-Sarah or Sarah-Ratzinger if my readers prefer, was African as well. Why should we not also discuss this new battle? I cannot make a better comment on the book than echoing the authors’ call to enter into a real dialogue—not virtual simulations—with the text: Read it, please. It will not leave you indifferent.