Catholic clergy in Uganda accuse the West of a new colonialism through LGBTQ activism

— Most Ugandan Catholics oppose Pope Francis’ recent move to allow priests to administer blessings to same-sex couples.

A nun reflects during a solemn moment as Pope Francis leads a Holy Mass for the Martyrs of Uganda at the area of the Catholic Sanctuary in the Namugongo area of Kampala, Uganda, on Nov. 28, 2015.

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Gilbert Lubega sat in a white plastic chair at his home in Wakiso, a suburb of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, contemplating two photos of a young gay female couple kissing and another one of a male gay couple kissing at their wedding ceremony.

“These images make me think the world is coming to an end,” he said. “They are things you can’t imagine happening, and people blindly support them.”

The 55-year-old father of six, who owns a food kiosk in Wakiso, blamed the West for invading his culture and destroying its values. He believes foreign governments are sponsoring LGBTQ people and their activities in the country.

“The people who call themselves LGBTQ activists are now recruiting many people, including our children,” Lubega said. “They don’t know what they are doing, but they are destroying people’s lives by engaging them in unethical activities. The West want to make our country Sodom and Gomorrah, and we won’t accept it.”

Uganda, in red, located in eastern Africa. Image courtesy of Creative Commons
Uganda, in red, located in eastern Africa.

Last year in May, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a measure calling for life imprisonment for anyone convicted of same-sex activity. The law also calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which involves cases of same-sex relations involving people who are HIV positive, children and other vulnerable people.

Many LGBTQ Ugandans have since fled to neighboring countries to escape homophobia.

Lubega, who wants the government to ban LGBTQ rights groups, is a staunch Catholic, and like many of his co-religionists opposes Pope Francis’ recent move to allow priests to administer blessings to same-sex couples. The organization of Catholic bishops in Africa and Madagascar stated earlier this month that they will refuse to follow Francis’ declaration.

The bishop of Lira Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Sanctus Lino Wanok, has launched a campaign against all forms of LGBTQ identity or activism in northern Uganda, calling LGBTQ advocates to repent and seek God’s blessings.

“It’s shameful to see some people promoting sin and luring people to join in committing sin,” Wanok told RNS. “People must not accept homosexuality because it’s a mockery of God, our creator.”

They are among the religious leaders, government officials and some rights group activists who have blamed the West for promoting LGBTQ acceptance in the country, saying the activities have recently increased with pro-gay activists targeting school-going children.

A Catholic LGBTQ activist who asked for anonymity for his safety praised Francis’ declaration permitting priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples. However, he said the pope approval has only prompted the government and citizens to increase attacks on their members.

He said families have disowned LGBTQ members, churches have given strict instructions not to allow them in the church’s compounds, landlords have evicted them and some have lost jobs.

“We live in fear because we cannot identify as gay, lesbian or transgender,” said the activist. “Pope Francis should give clear instructions to bishops and priests to allow LGBTQ members to worship God and nourish their spirits.”

The Western world has for years called on African governments to give LGBTQ people equal rights by decriminalizing same-sex sexual acts and protecting their rights.

In June last year, the United States imposed visa restrictions on dozens of Uganda officials in response to the country’s anti-gay laws.

“As Africans, we should be very careful and not accept everything white people tell us,” warned catechist Charles Kiwuwa from the Archdiocese of Tororo in the eastern region of Uganda in an interview with RNS. “They have told us that polygamy is a sin because they know most Africans embrace it and that homosexuality is righteousness because we disagree.”

The Catholic leaders have begun a countrywide campaign to fight “agents of homosexuality” in the country who they believe are being supported by foreign governments to spread LGBTQ activism in schools and other institutions. The church leaders have expressed concern over increasing cases of same-sex attraction among the youth and school-going children, accusing these agents of luring school children with money and other luxurious gifts to recruit them.

“As a church, we have decided to fight homosexuality to save our children and the country from collapsing because the Bible teaches us that homosexuality is evil, as read in Genesis Chapters 18 and 19,” the Rev. Richard Nyombi told RNS.

Nyombi, the parish priest of Mapeera Nabulagala in Kampala, said religious leaders had fought same-sex attraction from time immemorial, both in the Bible and today, and they are unwilling to allow foreign culture to influence the country.

“We are preaching against homosexuality during Mass and other gatherings to help our brothers and sisters not fall prey to the vice and for those who have already been lured into the practice to repent and follow God’s way,” he said.

Many Ugandan LGBTQ refugees at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya are seeking safety after escaping homophobic attacks in Uganda. Refugees demonstrate at the UNHCR refugee camp in northwest Kenya on Nov. 23, 2022. (RNS photo/Tonny Onyulo)
Many Ugandan LGBTQ refugees at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya are seeking safety after escaping homophobic attacks in Uganda. Refugees demonstrate at the UNHCR refugee camp in northwest Kenya on Nov. 23, 2022.

Church leaders have been meeting with youth, parents, children, elders and government officers in an effort to curb the spread of “immoral” behavior among people, especially children. The leaders have also been advising parents during Masses and other gatherings to warn their children against same-sex attraction and to urge them to be content with what their parents have given them, so they are not tempted by money.

“We have started to sensitize children in schools and homes against the vice of homosexuality,” said the Rev. Fr. Francis Xavier Kikomeko, the parish priest of Kisubi in Kampala, who also said they offer weekly workshops.

“We want to make children and parents aware that homosexuality is a sin, and pro-gay activists should never influence them to join LGTBQ groups because it’s evil and not accepted in the Bible.”

Complete Article HERE!

To bless or not to bless?

— Rome’s move to allow LGBTQ couples to be blessed has been misunderstood by many, and misrepresented by others.

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.

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For Catholics who know about it, the church’s worldwide Synod on Synodality is bringing either hope or indigestion.

Now more than two years into its proposed process of gathering Catholics everywhere to pray and talk about the best means of spreading the Gospel, the synod’s topics and methods remain unknown to many Catholics, churchgoing or not.

Why? For starters, the project depends on the cooperation of bishops. But more and more bishops are turning away from Pope Francis’ non-judgmental, inclusive attitude.

In the United States, according to Papal Nuncio Cardinal Christophe Pierre, “Francis is now seen as the big sinner” by some U.S. bishops. There and elsewhere, many bishops are repudiating a recent Vatican document proposing that blessings may be given freely without an investigation of the recipient’s — or recipients’ — moral life.

The December 2023 document from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Fiducia Supplicans” — “Begging for confidence” — caused an immediate and ongoing uproar. The document’s purpose, to offer “a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings,” reviews the nature of blessings while reiterating the church’s ban on any liturgical recognition of gay marriages.

To be kind, the document is misunderstood by many and misrepresented by others. The controversy has been aided, too, by reports of a 1998 book, titled “Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality,” written by the dicastery’s new prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernández.

Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernandez, archbishop of La Plata, officiates Mass at the Cathedral in La Plata, Argentina, Sunday, July 9, 2023. Fernandez was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Holy See's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernández, archbishop of La Plata, officiates Mass at the Cathedral in La Plata, Argentina, Sunday, July 9, 2023. Fernandez was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

Fernández’s book, which he withdrew nearly immediately on publication, includes as its sixth chapter a 16-year-old girl’s imaginary encounter with Jesus as he is held by his mother in the style of the Pieta. Related in the style of the Bible’s poetic Song of Songs, she imagines Jesus resurrected. Those unfamiliar with Spanish mystical tradition and those who are quick to criticize anyone associated with Francis, can find the book, and especially this section, salacious.

The outer edges of Catholic media, seemingly fixated on sexual matters anyway, have been reduced to a bunch of sniggering teenaged boys by the fact that a Catholic cardinal dares to explain the analogies of mystical experience in sexual terms.

Which brings us back to the responses to blessing “same-sex couples,” or “a couple in an irregular situation,” as “Fiducia Supplicans” describes those who may ask to be blessed. It says “an exhaustive moral analysis” should not be a precondition; there is no requirement for “prior moral perfection.” (One thinks of the thousands of persons crowding Saint Peter’s Square each Sunday to receive Francis’ blessing following the Angelus. Imagine personal interviews by some sort of morality police!)

This is not to say there are not difficulties with the document. One problem is that the writer buried the lede. Church groups in Germany and elsewhere have pushed for church acknowledgement and ceremonial ratification of gay marriage and of remarried divorced men and women. But only near its end does the document affirm that liturgical blessings of gay marriages and any rites in conjunction with a civil ceremony are not permitted.

Bishops in large swaths of Africa, all of Russia and the Balkan States have made it clear they will resist performing blessings. In the United States, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy and even Argentina, among other countries, the reaction is mixed. Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Malawi led the African dissent with a withering Christmas Eve homily. He flatly refused to accept the doctrine office’s teaching (it was apparent from some of his talk that he had missed its flat-out ban on gay marriage).

Another problem with the document is that it was released as the Vatican was already winding down for Christmas, and the Vatican’s attempt at damage control — a clarification by Fernández — only appeared Jan. 4.

There do not seem to have been any earlier attempts at spin control. That is, it appears that no friendly bishops received talking points in advance, and many — if not most — were caught off guard amid Christmas preparations and festivities when the document first appeared.

Even with a clarification, the Roman Catholic bishops of Africa and Madagascar voted to ignore “Fiducia Supplicans.”

All this involves the question of synodality. Individual blessings are freely given for animals, buildings, meals, rosary beads and all manner of things and people. The misunderstanding here, propelled by some media, is rooted in a rejection of both synodality and the beauty of the human person.

Synodality requires listening, and the objecting bishops are reading more into the statement than it intends. The beauty of the human person is the bedrock of Christian belief, and by refusing a blessing on anyone, the objecting bishops are denying that beauty.

Even so, no matter how bumpy the road to synodality may be, Francis is determined to keep trying to move the church forward.

Complete Article HERE!

Medieval women mystics offer a vision of Jesus beyond gender

— These women’s mystical writings invite us to look beyond cultural assumptions and deepen our relationship with Christ.

By Ellyn Sanna

“Who do you say I am?” asks Jesus in Luke’s gospel (9:20). His words imply he’s not interested in doctrine or theology. He wants a personal response, not a repetition of the party line.

Female mystics during the Middle Ages were one group who felt free to come up with their own replies. In Jesus, medieval women found someone who was “neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28).

And yet, isn’t maleness an aspect of Jesus’ identity that’s self-evident? How can there be any room for ambiguity? Somehow, though, the personhood of Jesus drew a new perspective even in the context of medieval patriarchy. Today, queer theology affirms that those medieval women were absolutely right: There’s a larger, more inclusive answer to the question of Jesus’ gender.

Before we react for or against that statement, let’s be sure we understand how queer theology defines itself. To be “queer,” according to definitions queer scholars use, doesn’t necessarily mean to be homosexual. Tyson Pugh, author of Queering Medieval Genres (Palgrave Macmillan), points out that queerness is not a term related to either hetero- or homosexual relationships but rather a concept that totally disrupts our ideas about sexuality. Queer theology, Pugh says, makes room for people and ideas that may not fit into the binary categories of “straight” and “gay.”

Women mystics during the Middle Ages would have had no problem with this. And they were quite comfortable with a gender-bending Jesus. These women answered Jesus’ question— “Who do you say I am?”—in ways that may seem to verge on blasphemy.

When we look back at the Middle Ages, though, historians remind us we shouldn’t use our 21st-century lens. Sexuality was not defined then the same as it is today. Amy Hollywood, in her book Queer Theology (Blackwell), writes that in the Middle Ages, “men and women tended to be perceived as the ends of the same continuum rather than as diametrically opposed to each other as they are today.” The words homosexuality and heterosexuality didn’t even exist until the late 19th century, and these binary concepts would not have matched up with medieval perspectives.

This is why no one had a problem with women mystics describing their experiences in the language of a modern-day bodice-ripper; piercing, penetrating, ravaging, burning, and ecstasy are all words lifted straight from their writings. St. Teresa of Ávila, the great 16th-century doctor of the church, writes that her mystic encounters with Jesus leave her “all on fire,” moaning from the “exceeding sweetness.”

In the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen equates Jesus with caritas (love, a feminine being). Sometimes Jesus is Hildegard’s male lover wooing her, but more often Hildegard takes the masculine role of a knight pursuing Jesus, her female lover. In the writings of medieval women such as Hildegard, says Hollywood, “gender becomes so radically fluid that it is not clear what kind of sexuality—within the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy readily available to modern readers—is being . . . employed to evoke the relationship between humans and the divine.”

Hadewijch, a 13th-century mystic, also names Jesus with the feminine word for love. “He who wishes to serve love,” she writes, referring to her own soul in relationship with Jesus, “must surrender himself into her power.” Then, later in the same poem, she refers to herself as a woman wooed by love, slain by “her touch.” In another poem, Hadewijch writes, “You who can conquer all with wonder! Conquer me, so I may conquer you.”

In a similar way, Mechthild of Magdeburg, also in the 13th century, writes these confusing lines, referring to her relationship with Jesus: “He surrenders himself to her, and she surrenders himself to her.” The boundaries between male and female have become permeable, allowing all the variations of human sexuality to meld into a fluid unity.

In her book Power, Gender, and Christian Mysticism (Cambridge University Press), historian Grace Jantzen writes that women mystics describe “direct, highly charged, passionate encounters between Christ and the writer. The sexuality is explicit.” These medieval women claimed the eroticism of their own bodies as a form of spiritual power.

Not all medieval mystics thought of Jesus as a lover—but they still engaged in confusing gender bending, where roles shifted, blended, and merged. Margery of Kempe in 14th-century England identifies with Jesus as being like her in his womanhood, but she also says she gives birth to him as his mother. Her contemporary, the woman mystic Julian of Norwich, describes Jesus’ blood on the cross as resembling menstrual blood; Jesus is a woman like herself. She also insists he is the embodiment of all true motherhood, and she refers to him throughout her writing as “our Mother.”

During the Middle Ages, far more women than men were mystics. This may have been because women identified with the physicality of Jesus’ life, for they too suffered and bled, birthed and nourished, and often died in the process. Their bodies, the very part of them men said was corrupt, gave them entryway into spiritual intimacy with Christ. Intense mystical experiences also freed women from the rules and roles the patriarchy imposed. Their mysticism did not lift them into some higher noncorporeal plane but, instead, grounded the spiritual world in their own experiences as women. Mysticism gave women’s voices back to them. On the grounds of this spiritual authority, women could even write books.

Claiming this authority was tricky, though. According to Jean Gerson, a prominent 14th-century philosopher and scholar, “The female sex is forbidden on apostolic authority to teach in public, that is either by word of mouth or writing. . . . All women’s teaching is to be held suspect . . . because they are easily seduced and determined seducers.” But if women mystics spoke with Jesus’ voice, then men could accept their messages as coming straight from God. In that case, women would be like empty straws through which the divine could flow.

“I am a poor little woman,” writes Mechthild, “but I write this book out of God’s heart and mouth.” Hildegard—a polymath author, artist, musician, botanist, astronomer, and physician—refers to herself as “a weak and fragile rib.” Julian of Norwich, whose theology is as brilliant and relevant today as it was in the 14th century, claims she is “ignorant, weak, and frail.” Only by apologizing for themselves, by casting themselves as invisible and unworthy carriers of Christ’s message, could these women be taken seriously (and hopefully avoid the mortal danger of being condemned as heretics).

And yet, despite the need for subterfuge and apology, medieval women proclaimed the holiness of their own bodies. When they looked at Jesus, they saw someone outside the patriarchy, someone who understood them and affirmed them spiritually but also physically. Through Jesus, they claimed their sexuality in a space where no human male could enter. “You are me,” these women said to Jesus, “and I am you. We are one.”

Christ has been defined in many ways over the centuries and around the world—but the real question has always been: What is your relationship with Jesus? If we expand our answers to this question, looking beyond our cultural assumptions, we too, like medieval women, may find entryway into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Then, far more than those medieval women, we have the power to pull our understanding of the incarnation out beyond our own souls, into our society. Our answers to Jesus’ question can stretch beyond gender, beyond race, beyond creed. Relationship with a queer Jesus might even smash the barriers of hate and fear we’ve built between us.

So—who do you say Jesus is?

Complete Article HERE!

‘Holy havoc’ as churches are dragged into the 20th Century

— Advances in accepting same-sex unions within religious communities are causing both delight and despair.

Current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis

By Alan Austin

ANGLICANS WERE shocked and excited in mid-November – either that or shocked and appalled – when the Church of England’s governing body narrowly voted to approve church services to bless same-sex civil unions. The church will continue, however, to reserve the term “marriage” for unions between one man and one woman.

The global Anglican community comprises about 85 million adherents in 165 countries. So this is a significant breakthrough within Christendom.

This immediately followed the conservative Orthodox Jewish community in the USA appointing an openly gay man as a rabbi for the first time ever.

And in a development which might make even hardened atheists ponder whether some guiding hand was at work, the head of the vast Roman Catholic church, Pope Francis, announced in mid-December that Catholic priests can now bless same-sex couples also.

Pope Francis kicks open the church door to gay couples — at last

The wording of the Vatican decision – in a Declaration titled ‘Fiducia Supplicans On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings’ – was careful. The church is not consecrating, or even approving, the union itself. It is just a blessing to the two people involved.

The declaration does not oblige bishops to provide such blessings, but shows how to proceed if people request them.

This apparently satisfies the rigid text of the Catholic catechism, which still describes gay and bi orientations as “intrinsically disordered”, but offers LGBTQ couples a celebration in church, which straight couples have always received.

These developments bring the three conservative religious communities more into line with the majority of Protestant churches and progressive Jewish communities which have welcomed same-sex couples for some time.

The backlash

Inevitably, reactions have ranged from joy and jubilation to approving nods signalling “about time!” to outright condemnation as heresy and apostasy, which are very bad words inside churches and synagogues.

Conservative Anglican Andrea Williams said:

“This is capitulation by the church… It is making way for the celebration of ‘same-sex marriage’ in all but name… the Church of England is planning to completely disregard the bible’s teaching on marriage.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attempted reassurance:

“I am under no illusions that what we are proposing will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.”

The Catholic backlash has been ferocious, with bishops in Africa and beyond declaring they will simply ignore the new Vatican policy. Bishop Athanasius Schneider in Kazakhstan called the decision a “great deception” and warned of “the evil that resides in the very permission to bless couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples”. A bit harsh.

A long and complex journey

Opponents of the reform claim this defies all Judeo-Christian history. That is not true.

Kittredge Cherry is an author who writes about LGBTQ spirituality at Qspirit.net. She told IA that Pope Francis approving official blessings last month was the first time in centuries, but not the first time ever.

“The Roman Catholic church is coming full circle because before the 14th Century they used to bless same-sex unions,” Cherry said. “This is monumental progress, but the Roman Catholic church still has a long way to go before they honour same-sex marriages as a sacrament equal to heterosexual marriages. With violence rising against LGBTQ people, churches need to support loving same-sex relationships now!”

Why this matters

The violence Cherry references is one reason this development is important to the secular world as well as to church members. Religious beliefs are highly influential in most of the 66 countries where laws still punish LGBTQ activity, sometimes with death. This is down from 74 in 2018 and 71 in 2020, so progress is being made.

Victoria Police are failing to 'protect' the LGBTQ+ community

Impetus from scholarship and real-life

Recent background includes priests and bishops in Germany, Austria and France openly defying previous bans by celebrating LGBTQ unions in their churches. That led conservative bishops to demand the Pope shut this down. Instead, he has offered approval.

At the core of this reform is the understanding from the sciences that same-sex and bisexual orientations are not sinful choices. They are found in virtually all human, animal and bird societies, at around four per cent of the population, and are just as natural, normal, healthy and God-given as straight orientation.

Cherry believes multiple factors are in play:

The forces for change include participation of same-sex couples in church life and ministry, LGBTQ activism that led many countries to legalize same-sex marriage, and advances in understanding the positive role of queer people in the Bible and church history. 

Social attitudes have evolved toward greater acceptance of same-sex relationships, especially among younger generations, so attitudes are becoming more pro-LGBTQ over time.

Progressives like Cherry are pursuing further reform. They hope the “intrinsically disordered” terminology will soon disappear from the catechism. The next chance to advance this will be at the Synod – the global Catholic conference – at the Vatican in October.

“Holy havoc may erupt at the next Synod because progress is often followed by backlash,” Cherry said. “Conservative bishops have strongly rejected the Pope’s approval of same-sex blessings, and LGBTQ Catholics are already planning to push for more progress. The clash of opposing viewpoints will bring a powerful opportunity for change.”

This tussle will continue for some time yet. But there will be no going back.

Complete Article HERE!

Will the Catholic Church allow married priests?

— Should it?

A Catholic priest’s life can be lonely

By Richard Ostling

The new year began with the surprise revival of this perennial issue by a prominent Catholic insider who asserted that the mandate for priests to be unmarried and celibate “was optional for the first millennium of the Church’s existence and it should become optional again.”

This came in a media interview with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, 63, named by Pope Francis in 2015 to lead the church in the nation of Malta. As he indicated, celibacy for all priests, not just those under vows in religious orders, was not made an absolute rule till the Second Lateran Council in A.D. 1139. Back then, one reason was to stop corrupt bishops from handing sons their lucrative posts.

Catholicism is the only branch of Christianity that imposes this requirement.

Sciclina is an especially influential figure due to his 2018 appointment by Francis to a second post as Adjunct Secretary of the Vatican’s all-important agency on doctrine. Over the years, the Vatican has also entrusted the archbishop, who holds doctorates in both secular and canon law, to prosecute delicate cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Married priests already exist

As Scicluna pointed out, the Catholic Church has long welcomed priests who marry prior to ordination in its Oriental Rite jurisdictions, centered in Ukraine, India, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Mideast. Such is also the tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy. (Catholicism occasionally ordains married Protestant ministers who convert.)

The archbishop demanded, “Why should we lose a young man who would have made a fine priest just because he wanted to get married? And we did lose good priests just because they chose marriage.” He said “experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously think about.” For one thing, some priests cope with the rule “by secretly engaging in sentimental relationships” and “we know there are priests around the world who also have children.” Therefore “if it were up to me I would revise the requirement.”

Was Scicluna nudging delegates who next October will attend the second and final session of Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops at the Vatican? After all, the delegates’ guidebook said local and national discussions leading to the Synod had raised this: “Could a reflection be opened concerning the discipline on access to the priesthood for married men, at least in some areas?” Any such historic proposal voted by the Synod would be merely advisory. The Pope has full power to implement Synod conclusions, or not.

What would Francis do?

How might Francis lean? Last March, he reminded an Argentine news outlet that celibacy “is a temporary prescription” in the western Latin Rite, not a dogma that is unchanging. He added the ambiguous remark that “I do not know if it is settled in one way or another.” In 2019, Francis told journalists “I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no,” though he also said he saw leeway to consider exceptions for “pastoral necessity,” as with remote regions that lack priests.

The following year, a book co-authored by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI championed the traditional celibacy discipline. The modern case for celibacy was officially formulated by Pope Paul VI just after the Second Vatican Council in his 1967 encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (“Priestly Celibacy”).

The encyclical candidly addressed objections raised against the celibacy discipline starting, appropriately enough, with New Testament. Jesus commended workers who “have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it ” (Matthew 19:12). St. Paul wrote concerning unmarried believers that “it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do” (1 Corinthians 7:8). However, neither mandated singleness for the 12 apostles or subsequent Christian ministers.

In the earliest Christian communities, 1 Timothy 3 teaches that a bishop should be “married only once” while “keeping his children under control,” and Titus 1:5-6 says presbyters  must be “married only once, with believing children.” The Pope’s encyclical admitted all that. The clear inference is that most or all would be married as a matter of course. But over later centuries, the practice of clergy celibacy became widespread and, in some areas, a requirement.

Notably, the Pope’s encyclical cited a dozen passages in 1 Corinthians but skipped 9:5, where St. Paul asks “do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (another name for St. Peter). In other words, the man who in Catholic belief was the church’s first pope was married and traveled with his wife as a Christian evangelist.

A Bible verse ignored

The Catholic Answers Web site likewise ignores the 9:5 verse, thereby demonstrating devotion to celibacy in its treatment of St. Peter. This site admits Peter had been married at one time because we know Jesus cured his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-154, Luke 4:38-39). But it echoes a tradition (not any official Catholic view) that he was a widower whose wife “died prior to the ministry of Jesus.”

On other objections, the Pope granted that “some” think celibacy underlies the obvious shortage of priests, and sets up temptations for sexual “waywardness” that damage the church’s witness. Then there’s the contention that the rule prevents development of “a mature and well-balanced human personality,” “disparages human values,” and imposes “loneliness.”

But the Pope insisted that with proper spiritual formation the priest can control his “temperament, sentiments and passions.” And he questioned whether the end of celibacy would “considerably increase the number of priestly vocations.”

Most of the text was a heartfelt argument that the church always makes celibacy voluntary as priests’ “tranquil, convinced and free choice.” It was portrayed as “the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign,” that allows full devotion to “pastoral service of the People of God,” with “maximum efficiency and the best disposition of mind, mentally and emotionally.”

Complete Article HERE!