Is Celibacy Eschatological?
The Suppression of
The ethic which has supported a celibate ministry in Western Christianity for sixteen centuries is breaking down. The chorus of voices demanding a change in this discipline is rising. Yet most of the sociological studies on this subject skirt the theological foundations of this discipline in Christian history. For this reason odd rags and tags of the old presuppositions survive to prevent a coherent critique from emerging. One hears, for example, from those priests who have broken psychologically with the relationship between ordination and celibacy, the statement that "they don't happen to have this particular gift." It is implied that this gift is indeed a "wonderful thing to have," for those privileged to receive it, but, for some reason, they are not among those so privileged, and, in any case, it is not at all normative for the Christian ministry. By a peculiar sleight of hand, the whole ethic of celibacy is thus made mysterious to any knowable values and hence irrelevant. Yet one saves face for those still committed to it by talking obscurely about a "gift" given to a "few," "for the sake of the Kingdom" that is indeed precious, although irrele