So, if we are to understand the problem of the relevance of priestly celibacy, we must study it within its true dimension: that of the supernatural. To say that priestly celibacy per se is not a dogmatic datum must not be taken as meaning that it can be relegated to some ‘cultural context’ or other. For we have to bear in mind that neither the doctrine nor the life of the Church can be reduced to formally revealed truths and everything else be regarded as arbitrary. On the contrary, these things are to be regarded as the fruit of the guidance and assistance of the Holy Spirit, and part of the Church’s two-thousand-year-old tradition.
In the question of celibacy, as in many others concerning the practical life of the Church, we have therefore to avoid minimalism, on the basis of which the only truly legitimate institutions and doctrines would be those of proven apostolic origin or otherwise infallibly defined. Seen aright, it is clear that the Latin discipline of ecclesiastical celibacy is neither arbitrary nor in conflict with the natural right to marriage, even though it cannot be affirmed that it can be deduced from revelation by an irrefutable syllogism. It belongs — indeed, very much so — to the sphere of ‘congruity’, in the sense that the basis for it lies in the very nature of priesthood.Share