Cardinal Stands Up for Priestly Celibacy

Lima Prelate Says Notre Dame Is "Confused"

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ROME, MAY 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Scandals that arise when priests fail to live celibacy are not just about priestly discipline, but rather about a failed understanding of human love, says the cardinal archbishop of Lima, Peru.



ZENIT spoke with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani about two recent scandals regarding priestly celibacy that have attracted the attention of the American continent -- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo who admitted he fathered a child while still a bishop, and Miami Father Alberto Cutié who converted to the Episcopalian church this week after photos of him with a woman were circulated.

"I think that we shouldn't speak just of these two cases, of celibacy, but of human love in general," Cardinal Cipriani suggested, affirming that "Deus Caritas Est" explains it well. "The Pope explains to us with great detail how this love, which begins in this movement of 'eros' becomes 'agape.'"

Noting how God defines love clearly, not just with words, but also with the sacrifice of his Son, the cardinal added that today, "in not wanting to accept suffering, the sacrifice that life brings, love is killed and what remains? Sexual possession. The capacity of suffering has been amputated because of fear, cowardice, mediocrity, because only success and pleasure are sought.

"We have killed the plant that arises from suffering, which is love, and therefore in many human relationships, family relationships, a totally material relationship arises, in which practically, the integrity of the person is not involved. When this materialism takes over human relationships, then the man and the woman become objects of a sexual experience […], this experience loses its stability, comes and goes, doesn't produce that joy of surrender because it does not come from suffering or sacrifice, and when a sickness comes or an economic problem or a fight … marriages break in the same way as these cases, like Lugo or Father Cutié, who in the moment of feeling a sacrifice greater than their strengths, break the promise they've made."

The cardinal affirmed that priests, as well as married people, are asked to live chastity.

"There is a conjugal chastity and there is chastity in celibacy," he said. "One who knows how to love and who has the experience of a healthy and stable matrimonial love knows what I'm talking about. It is the same that the Church offers to those of us who give up everything for the love of God. It is not more or less difficult, but this product of this love today is hard to find, and therefore, in a materialistic and slightly hedonistic world, it is difficult to explain celibacy, which is a treasure of the Church."

Obama's doctorate

ZENIT also asked Cardinal Cipriani what he thought of this month's turmoil over the decision by Notre Dame University to bestow an honorary doctorate on the U.S. president, despite Barack Obama's staunch support of abortion rights and other anti-life issues.

The cardinal answered that Catholic identity is not a decision of a particular university or a rector or education official, but rather is something given by the Church itself.

He explained: "What cannot be done and what is not done in any institution is to say 'this automobile is a Toyota,' if the Toyota manufacturer does not put his brand on it.

"I think there is a need for a little more clarity and authority. Clarity from those who are responsible for being able to say: 'If you don't want to be Catholic, then don't be.' But what we can't do is sell a ruined product. To think that parents and their kids go to a university that has the title of 'Catholic' and then it turns out that it teaches what is contrary to the faith. This is a confusion or an abuse. I think the Church has the duty to call things by their name."

Cardinal Cipriani said it seems a "provocation to give Catholic homage to a president who in the first 100 days has boosted abortion, gay marriage, investigations with embryonic cells, and an entire anti-life agenda. It does not seem to me that he is the most adequate person to receive recognition from the University of Notre Dame, which, by the way, has been greatly confused for some years now."

The prelate suggested that this type of controversy has been around since the beginning of the Church, with the difference that before, "those who dissented left the Church; today they stay within, and this seems to me that it requires of us, for love of the Church, a bit more firmness."

He offered the Holy Father as an example: "We see with what clarity and love for the truth Benedict XVI has returned from the Holy Land. With what joy, with what clarity he has taken up the themes that seemed difficult, from the political point of view, but he has handled them from the point of view of what a pilgrimage of peace wants, a vicar of Christ. They love him more and more. He is more and more a leader who illuminates more this world that is in darkness."