Celibacy Versus Chastity


#1

(This is cross-posted from the Moral Theology Forum, since it is a question of both morality and apologetics.)

A Church of Christ co-worker who knows that I am converting to Catholicism recently gave me a book entitled Traditions of Men Versus the Word of God, by Alvin Jennings, in which he purports to take the traditions of a number of religions and strains of Christianity and refute their beliefs from the Bible. The very first chapter deals with Catholicism; I won’t characterize what he wrote, except to say that if you spread it in your garden, it would grow some fine vegetables.

I am writing a refutation of all points in that chapter, and I’m not having much trouble, except for a couple of points. One of them deals with an apparent differentiation of celebacy and chastity.

On this subject Jennings quotes a book, which he does not further identify, entitled Explanation of Catholic Morals. I googled that title and found that it was written by John H. Stapleton and published by Benziger Brothers in 1913. It is cited frequently in web pages belonging to anti-Catholic writers, but in my brief search I was unable to determine if it is genuine or a forgery.

Here is the quote:

“All celibates are not chaste…one who takes the vow of celibacy does not break it by sinning against the sixth commandment; he is true to it till he weds.”

Does this accurately reflect Church teaching? Is it possible to be an unchaste celibate; i.e., fool around and still be considered as not having broken the vows of celibacy? It’s a little confusing, but if they are considered separate issues, it would make more sense how priests, who have a vow of celibacy, could receive forgiveness for individual acts of unchastity and still be considered celibate, still continue as priests. Previously I had thought that once a priest had been known to have engaged in a sex act of any kind, he had broken his vows and should automatically be turned out of the priesthood.

DaveBj


#2

Technically, the term “celibate” simply means unmarried. Catholics don’t make a vow of “chastity” because the faith calls everyone to lead chaste lives.

As a sidenote, priests don’t make vows of celibacy, only a promise of celibacy. This is why a laicized priest, dispensed from that promise, may marry.

“All celibates are not chaste…one who takes the vow of celibacy does not break it by sinning against the sixth commandment; he is true to it till he weds.”

Though technically true, it misrepresents the Catholic understanding of celibacy. The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

By co-operating in the rest of the ordination service, the candidate is understood to bind himself equivalently by a vow of chastity. He is henceforth unable to contract a valid marriage, and any serious transgression in the matter of this vow is not only a grievous sin in itself but incurs the additional guilt of sacrilege.

All sin can be forgiven, but transgressions against chastity on the part of a priest are terribly serious to the Church.


#3

No, it is not true. For the Catholic concept of chastity includes all levels of sexual behavior and we are ALL required to live chaste lives. Chastity is when you keep the sexual aspect of your life in conformity with the teachings of God. Celebacy is abstaining from ALL forms of sexual behavior. Therefore, what you are quoting is a gross mischaracterization of Catholic teaching.

The difference between celebacy and chastity is this. Because I am married, I am allowed to have sexual relations with my wife. This is compatible with chastity and I am required to live a chaste life. When someone is celebate, he is promising not to have any kind of sexual relations at all.


#4

[quote=DaveBj](This is cross-posted from the Moral Theology Forum, since it is a question of both morality and apologetics.)

A Church of Christ co-worker who knows that I am converting to Catholicism recently gave me a book entitled Traditions of Men Versus the Word of God, by Alvin Jennings, in which he purports to take the traditions of a number of religions and strains of Christianity and refute their beliefs from the Bible. The very first chapter deals with Catholicism; I won’t characterize what he wrote, except to say that if you spread it in your garden, it would grow some fine vegetables.

I am writing a refutation of all points in that chapter, and I’m not having much trouble, except for a couple of points. One of them deals with an apparent differentiation of celebacy and chastity.

On this subject Jennings quotes a book, which he does not further identify, entitled Explanation of Catholic Morals. I googled that title and found that it was written by John H. Stapleton and published by Benziger Brothers in 1913. It is cited frequently in web pages belonging to anti-Catholic writers, but in my brief search I was unable to determine if it is genuine or a forgery.

Here is the quote:

Does this accurately reflect Church teaching? Is it possible to be an unchaste celibate; i.e., fool around and still be considered as not having broken the vows of celibacy? It’s a little confusing, but if they are considered separate issues, it would make more sense how priests, who have a vow of celibacy, could receive forgiveness for individual acts of unchastity and still be considered celibate, still continue as priests. Previously I had thought that once a priest had been known to have engaged in a sex act of any kind, he had broken his vows and should automatically be turned out of the priesthood.

DaveBj
[/quote]

Dave,

We must remember that celibacy is not a static, or unchanging, condition or label applied to someone who takes such a vow. Celibacy is a state of being, or better yet, a goal. The priest vows *to be *celibate, just as he vows *to be *obedient. Now, obviously the priest can break his vow of celibacy by say, making love to a woman. At that point he is not celibate by his very action. He has broken his vow of celibacy. But he can always repent and confess his sin sacramentally and *recommit to *his vow of celibacy. Christ is merciful and knows that priests sin.

As to the difference between chastity and celibacy: every human being is called to chastity, to be chaste. This means that every person is called to use their sexuality as God calls them to. If someone is a husband, he ought to be a chaste husband, meaning he ought to engage in sexual relations only with his wife. A single person ought to be chaste, meaning he ought to wait until marriage (if he does marry) before he performs the sexual act. In like manner, the priest ought to be chaste. The priest’s chastity is a particular *kind *of chastity–celibacy. For a specific definition of celibacy I would look elsewhere :slight_smile:

Jamie


#5

Okay, Dr. Colossus posted while I was typing and caused me to re-read the original post. If, indeed, a promise of celebacy is really a promise not to get married (which I don’t think is its intent - at least that’s never how I’ve heard it presented) then the document is correct; the celebate would not break the vow of celebacy when he broke the sixth commandment. However, it would not mean that the celebate who breaks the sixth commandment has not sinned.


#6

[quote=theMutant]Okay, Dr. Colossus posted while I was typing and caused me to re-read the original post. If, indeed, a promise of celebacy is really a promise not to get married (which I don’t think is its intent - at least that’s never how I’ve heard it presented) then the document is correct; the celebate would not break the vow of celebacy when he broke the sixth commandment. However, it would not mean that the celebate who breaks the sixth commandment has not sinned.
[/quote]

I edited my original post to try and clarify this. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines celibacy specifically as follows:

Celibacy is the renunciation of marriage implicitly or explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders in any of the higher grades.

But as you can see from my post above, chastity is implicitly understood and transgressions against it become even more sinful after a vow or promise of celibacy is made. Thus breaking the sixth commandment would not directly break a celibate’s vow. However, because of that vow it would be made more sinful by compounding adultery with sacrilege.

I hope that makes a little more sense.


#7

[quote=nohself]Dave,

We must remember that celibacy is not a static, or unchanging, condition or label applied to someone who takes such a vow. Celibacy is a state of being, or better yet, a goal. The priest vows *to be *celibate, just as he vows *to be *obedient. Now, obviously the priest can break his vow of celibacy by say, making love to a woman.
[/quote]

You are confusing chastity with celibacy. He is still celibate, until he marries the woman, but he is unchaste when he makes love to her.

[quote=nohself]At that point he is not celibate by his very action. He has broken his vow of celibacy.
[/quote]

Nope. Not until he marries her. He was unchaste.


#8

[quote=Dr. Colossus]I Thus breaking the sixth commandment would not directly break a celibate’s vow. However, because of that vow it would be made more sinful by compounding adultery with sacrilege.

I hope that makes a little more sense.
[/quote]

Not necessarily; there is only adultery if she is married. If she is unmarried, it is compounding fornication with sacrilege.


#9

[quote=otm]Not necessarily; there is only adultery if she is married. If she is unmarried, it is compounding fornication with sacrilege.
[/quote]

I didn’t say adultery, I said the Sixth Commandment. The Catholic Church does not take so narrow a view of this commandment as to only include adultery, but all sexual impurity. This is why the Catechism states under Article 6, “The 6th Commandment”:

You shall not commit adultery.
You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery."
But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Christ does not say “everyone married”. He says “everyone”, period. The Catechism also statues under the same article:
*

Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.
*


#10

[quote=Dr. Colossus]I didn’t say adultery, I said the Sixth Commandment. The Catholic Church does not take so narrow a view of this commandment as to only include adultery, but all sexual impurity. This is why the Catechism states under Article 6, “The 6th Commandment”:

Christ does not say “everyone married”. He says “everyone”, period. The Catechism also statues under the same article:

[/quote]

excuse me. In post #6, your last statement is as follows:

[quote=Dd. Colossus]However, because of that vow it would be made more sinful by compounding adultery with sacrilege.
[/quote]

That is what I was responding to. I agree that he would be breaking the 6th Commandment. I was simply trying to clarify your last comment by pointing out that sexual activity by a celibate would be a sexual sin and a sacrilege, but not necessarily adultery.


#11

You’re right, otm. My mistake.


#12

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