The Mystery of Celibacy

Fr. Peter Timmins

I hold the opinion that, within the limited context of diocesan ministerial priesthood, the vocation to that priesthood may or may not include a vocation to celibacy. I remain therefore an advocate of optional celibacy for diocesan priests.

However, it is clear to me that, in the name of balance, and for the good of the Church, healthy celibacy, whether clerical or not, needs to be understood and presented in positive terms.

I recently came across a letter to the Editor of "THE TABLET" from Father Andrew Stringfellow of Manchester, England, wherein he writes in part: "It is unfair to dismiss celibacy as something with no theological justification... Sometimes celibacy really hurts. However, as I try my best to be a priest, I am acutely aware that as I hold people in love, in their grief, in their loneliness, and in their joy, there is something profoundly different about what I bring to those encounters and what they bring to me because of celibacy.

It is something that I don’t really understand, something mysterious that finds a home, as with so many other things, with Christ on the Cross.

Celibacy’s worth and value are not meant to be justifiable, measurable and obvious. Its theology is one with the mystery of the Cross; what has been called, 'the power of power unexercised.' We cannot see yet, we cannot feel yet, what the sacrifice of our bodies and our hearts is doing. Therein lies the heart of it, that celibacy is not of this world, but this world has profound need of it."

For these thoughts I, for one, am deeply grateful. PT

Your comments are welcome.

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