Celibacy As Charism

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1993


British Jesuits


Numerous factors in contemporary church culture and society have combined to obscure the once seemingly selfevident value and witness of consecrated celibacy. 1 First, the imposition of lifelong singleness on all Latin-rite Catholic clergy, many of whom are not called to or gifted for consecrated celibacy, has created a situation of nearly hopeless confusion and counter-witness not only among the laity and clergy themselves but even among some religious. 2 Second, modern social preoccupations such as fear of pregnancy, disease, intimacy and commitment as well as the hesitation of many women to enter into a state of life still largely defined in patriarchal terms have led many people to choose a celibate life-style. Consequently, the mere fact that someone has chosen not to marry does not necessarily express anything of religious significance. Third, an incoherent but fairly prevalent (and acted upon) conviction among homosexual religious, especially men, that a commitment to celibacy by a homosexual does not imply or demand sexual abstinence has combined with the public scandal of heterosexual infidelity and child sexual abuse by religious and clerics to undermine seriously the credibility and witness value of genuine consecrated celibacy. Finally, the development of healthy and faithful intimate friendships between men and women celibates is confusing to many because our culture strongly suggests that any close relationship, especially between eligible (i.e. non-married) people is probably genital.