“Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy. Celibacy is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbor.” (Canon 227 par.1 CIC)
Once more – as periodically expected – the matter of priestly celibacy has again come to fore. This seems to be now occasioned by the election of a new Pope who some think might change the long standing Church Law about mandatory celibacy for priests – making it but “optional”. It is wherefore both necessary and practical to forward the following main explanatory observations for the better understanding and appreciation of the above cited specific Church Law which has been in force long since – for clerics in the Latin Rite or Discipline:
That continence is the premise of clerical celibacy which would be a downright futility without a continent living. In other words, the intrinsic merit of celibacy finds its fundamental basis on clerical continence.
That continent celibacy is a mandatory observance and practice for priests in the Church of the Latin Rite or Discipline – but not for those in the Oriental Rite or Discipline. The Church in this country is covered by the Latin Rite.
That priestly celibacy is life lived in the spirit of Christ – Who was continent and celibate. Furthermore, continence in celibacy observed by priests is for their more liberated and better service to God and to people.
That mandatory continence in celibacy is amply explained to and deliberately opted by those who become priests. Both reason and ethics simply demand that they observe what they commit themselves to.
That while there are violations of continent celibacy among priests, it does not mean that once married, priests will necessarily live with personal integrity, marital fidelity and paternal responsibility.
That in the event that there these or those priests who eventually come to the knowledge and conviction that clerical celibacy is not for them for whatever reason, the Church has provision for their dispensation from the law.
Conclusion: Clerical celibacy is not a dogma while it has its scriptural foundation, its ministerial advantage and practical import. And there is the strong moral certainty that not even the new Pope would make priestly celibacy but “optional”.