Clerical Celibacy - Meanings of "celibacy"

Meanings of "celibacy"

The word "celibacy" can mean either the state of being unmarried or abstinence, especially because of religious vows, from sexual intercourse. In the canon law of the Latin Church, the word "celibacy" is used specifically in the sense of being unmarried. However, for its clergy this state of being unmarried is considered to be a consequence of the obligation to be completely and perpetually continent:

Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.

Permanent deacons, namely those deacons who are not intended to become priests, are, in general, exempted from this rule. But married permanent deacons are not allowed to remarry after the death of their spouse.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord", they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.

On the granting of permission, by exception, for the priestly ordination of married men in the Latin Church, see Rules, below.

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