Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The friend of the bridegroom

- Jesus and John, Hagia Sophia

There's a post at dotCommonweal - Irish Bishop Calls for Optional Celibacy - that has linkst in the comments section to both the German and the English versions of a 1970 document titled "Memorandum regarding the discussion of celibacy" and which is signed by Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger, among others. Here's a bit from the end of the document, which seems ironic in view of the pope's present stance on any questioning of church policy ....

[W]e have the right and the duty in this troublesome situation, on the basis of our office as theologians and our task as consultants, to say to the members of the German bishop's conference, in all respect for their high office and position of responsibility, that in the question of celibacy they must take new initiative and consider themselves dispensed neither through the former practice of the Church nor through the declarations of the pope alone.

One of the comments to the dotCommonweal post supported the idea of a celibate clergy, using a quote from the pope ... You [priests] are the living sign that points to Christ Jesus, the only Good Shepherd. Conform yourselves to him, to his style of life, with that total and exclusive service of which celibacy is an expression, and also with a quote from Archbishop Chaput ... The relationship of a bishop and his local Church is very close to a marriage. The ring I wear is a symbol of every bishop’s love for his Church. And a bishop’s marriage to the local Church reminds me, and all of us, that a bishop is called to love his Church with all his heart, just as Christ loved her and gave his life for her. .

But I liked better the responding comment from Fr. Komonchak ....

I believe that associating celibacy with the priest’s alleged spousal relationship with the Church is a very novel connection–that is, the idea that the priest stands “in persona Christi Sponsi.” Many of us priests by far prefer Augustine’s view that a bishop or priest stands in the relationship to Christ the Bridegroom that characterized St. John the Baptist and St. Paul, that is, they were “friends of the Bridegroom,” attendants upon him, facilitating the marriage between Christ and Church but not usurping the role of the Bridegroom. It was the Donatists, not the Catholics, Augustine said, who put themselves in the place of the one Bridegroom of the Church.


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