Is the consecrated life "superior" to marriage?

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog



The Catholic Church’s answer to this question might surprise you.

I’ve never forgotten a strange conversation I had about 15 years ago with a Catholic seminarian in Baltimore. He had been tasked with retrieving me from the airport and driving me to the venue where I would be speaking that weekend. Along the way, as we were discussing his course of seminary formation, he said something to the effect that the consecrated life was no better than the married life.

I thought maybe I had misunderstood him and that he was just trying to be thoughtful in not giving me, a married man, the impression that he looked down on marriage. So I asked him to explain more clearly what he meant, and that led to the strangeness.

Turns out he was adamant that the consecrated life was not a higher state, and when I told him that that’s not what the Church teaches, his adamancy became pique. He strongly disagreed with that view and I found it strange that he was so vehement in his position. Was this what he had been taught in the seminary? Most probably (remember, this was the mid-90s), although perhaps there was some other reason for his sensitivity to this subject.

In any case, I flashed back to that seminarian and that odd conversation, last Thursday, when, on my “Open Line” radio show, I took a call from a non-Catholic (most likely a Protestant) who wanted to express his reasons for disagreeing with something Pope John Paul II said about the consecrated life being “superior” to the married life. Click the picture or click here to hear the call.

(Also, here are some helpful references for consideration)

St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:

“It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman. Indeed, I wish that everyone were like I am. I should like you to be free from anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord; how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world; how he may please his wife, and he is divided. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that” (c.f., Mark 12:18-27; Matt. 19:10-12; 2 Timothy 2:3).

Pope John Paul II , Vita Consecrata, 32:

“As a way of showing forth the Church’s holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ’s own way of life, has an objective superiority. Precisely for this reason, it is an especially rich manifestation of gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church’s purpose, which is the sanctification of humanity. The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery, will be achieved and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, but will be like the angels of God (c.f., Matt. 22:30).”

Pope Pius XII, Sacra Virginitas, 32:

“This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, as we have already said, revealed by our divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy Council of Trent, and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and doctors of the Church.”

Council of Trent:

“If anyone saith that the marriage state is to be preferred before the state of virginity, let him be anathema.” [...] “writing to the Corinthians, [Paul] says: I would that all men were even as myself; that is, that all embrace the virtue of continence…A life of continence is to be desired by all.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 916

“The state of the consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.”


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38 Responses to “Is the consecrated life "superior" to marriage?”
  1. Eric says:

    I guess I'm late to the conversation, but I'll offer something anyway: What makes me feel uncomfortable is what a decision to join the consecrated life is cast in terms of "giving one's life to God", as if all Christians aren't called to totally and completely dedicate their lives to God. I think this encourages thinking that religious and priests are those who serve God wholeheartedly, as opposed to us layfolk who are free to live for ourselves. Am I off base on this? I'm OK with saying they "consecrate" their lives to God (since it is the consecrated life), or that they "give themselves to God in a special way" or that they "answer the call to the priesthood/religious life", but to me, every Christian, lay, religious, or priest, is called to give themselves totally to God and any language that undermines this should be eschewed.

  2. Jeffrey Pinyan says:

    Earlier in the Year for Priests, I wrote a blog post summarizing references in the recent Magisterium of the Church on clerical celibacy. As this is related to the consecrated life, I thought I'd share it here.

    The Church and Priestly Celibacy

    I quote from (or refer to) the Catechism, Vatican II, Bl. John XXIII in Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, Ven. Pius XII in Sacra Virginitas, Paul VI in Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, Ven. John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis, and Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis .

  3. Anonymous says:

    Patrick, the problem with your original quote is that you left out the second part of the canon. The first part can be interpreted as David said. The second part, however, cannot be.

    We must be careful with translation here, because I have seen a second translation floating about the net which states the second part in such a way that would render David's interpretation plausible. Unfortunately, I do not have the original from Trent on hand – but I know that the translation you reprinted here is from an old 19th century book that declared the documents were "literally translated into English".

    I think David illustrates the point I was making before: namely, the attempt to minimize or qualify the "superiority" of religious life to such a degree that it is reduced to a veritable equality.

    It is as though they truly do believe (or want to believe) they are equal, but hampered by the Church's dogma that runs contrary to this, they must take all the "sting" out of the latter so as to make it support as much as possible the former. You have probably run into this many times, Patrick, in your apologetic work (though usually with Scripture and not Church dogma).

    Wade St. Onge

  4. Patrick Madrid says:

    My reading of Trent leads me to a somewhat different conclusion than yours, David. I don't think it is the case that Trent does not condemn the possibility of the two states being objectively equal.

    Canon 10 of session 24 says, "If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony, let him be anathema.

    This canon was one of monuments of this tradition that I had in mind when discussing this issue with that seminarian.

  5. David Williamson says:

    I certainly hold a life consecrated in celibacy to Christ as superior to Marriage. HOwever, there are a few more theological subtleties that we should be aware of.
    Firstly what is does consecrated to God mean. The sort of consecration envisioned in Church documents is an irreversible dedication. This is not the case of many modern forms of so called consecrated life. The consecrated celibates in Regnum Christi for example can be relieved of their vows if they were to sick to be useful to the organization. (Hopefully that will be one thing that changes with the current refoundation.) Similarly Numeraries of Opus Dei have no vow and can leave and marry validly without dispensation.

    Aquinas discussed what stability was required for celibacy to be considered a "state" of life, and its superiority to married life. There are forms of consecration that make marriage impossible without at least episcopal, and in some cases even papal approval. Generally, when theologians even bothered to think about this stuff, it was agreed that only those forms of consecrated celibate life with vows that made attempts at marriage invalid were considered to have sufficient perfection to be greater than marriage. That doesn't mean that the generosity of those in lesser forms of consecrated life is not valuable, only that these forms do not have the same stability as other more binding forms of consecration.

    Some argue that Trent solves the debate. Actually Trent only condemns the opinion that marriage is greater. It does not condemn the obvious possibility that the two are equal in dignity.

    Even given that the state of consecrated celibacy is greater (which I accept in the cases where the commitment is binding enough to invalidate attempts at marriage), there is the question of in what way it is superior. Many theologians argue that it is superior in symbolic value and not in merit (which seems obvious, St Paul himself says that married life is full of more difficulties.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Patty! Who'd have thunk we would have run into each other here?!

    I totally agree. This has broader ramifications than the one I mentioned. To paraphrase our blogger, "I'm just another guy. No big whoop".

    The greater the responsibility and the duty, the more seriously that person takes it, because he has to.

    Wade St. Onge

  7. Patty Bonds says:

    Hi Wade!

    You know, I think that the down grading of the vocation of consecration has played a role in the Priest scandal as well. When a young man considers what God is calling him to, he needs to know this is a high calling that requires more of him than any other. He needs to know that soiling the hands that touch the Sacred Host is not just sin, it's sacrilege! It's unthinkable! But this "I'm just another guy" attitude makes sin seem more reasonable.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I would have to disagree with Marcel and Howard, who say "the greatest call for me personally is marriage, because that is what God called me to". In a sense that is true to some degree, but I would not second that statement.

    The Church teaches that the evangelical counsels are "recommended" to ALL. In other words, we all have the "choice" to be religious. St. Teresa never felt the call to be a Sister – but because she believed it was the surest way to save her soul (which it was), she joined a convent. I know a priest who did the same – he has been a priest for almost 50 years now (and he's a good one).

    There has been a lot of confusion in recent years. The popular belief is that God calls someone from the time they are conceived to either be religious or married – His call one way or the other is determined at that very moment – when in reality, it is not so clear cut. God is always calling – and He calls ALL to at the very least "consider" religious life. Ultimately, He leaves the decision up to us, but His persistence in calling us to religious life is to some degree based on how well we do (or do not) respond to his grace, and based on things that happen in this fallen world (like my dad losing an eye before Vatican II – that was once an impediment).

    I side with Anonymous on this: that "vocation" in the strict sense means only the call to the evangelical counsels, especially the call to celibacy. This is the more traditional view. The problem is, this term has gone through a series of re-definitions in recent decades, just like the terms "literal" and "spiritual" senses of Scripture have been re-defined multiple times by multiple theologians. In another 50 years, I am guessing we will be calling "single life" a vocation – simply because the definition is so fluid. Or, we will go back to the more traditional definition. One thing is for certain – we have gotten out of hand with the way we use the word. "Teaching" and "nursing" are now considered "vocations", as is "motherhood", as is "serving soup kitchens", etc. The word means so many things today that it practically means nothing. In one sense, those are "vocations". In another sense, a "vocation" is a "complete gift of self". But in the most ultimate sense, a "vocation" is a complete gift of self to God. It is all in how we define the term.

    As for the question from Roland's Dad: there is a story in Catholic lore about a student challenging a priest with the question, "Father, if everyone was celibate, the world would end". According to the story, the priest replied, "Oh, and what a glorious end to the world that would be!"

    Anyone who can get their hands on Dr. Hahn's "Genesis" series (free in a parish or diocesan library) should listen to the last 25 minutes of Tape or CD #5. He does a terrific job on this topic – best I have ever heard or seen done.

    Wade St. Onge

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ah, Patrick: you always seem to address the issues no one else does.

    This is the Church's "forgotten dogma" – the one that makes "material heretics" of probably about 95 percent of orthodox Catholics.

    In the past, I have had to correct priests, seminarians, and even an orthodox religious professor with a doctorate in catechetics at an Ex Corde Ecclesiae University on this issue. I could have probably corrected some bishops on it as well – some of them are even unaware of this teaching.

    I believe that this "egalitarianism" seriously harms vocations. This is the continuation of the quote from Pius XII that Patrick reprinted in part: "But recent attacks on this traditional doctrine of the Church, the danger they constitute, and the harm they do to the souls of the faithful lead Us, in fulfillment of the duties of Our charge, to take up the matter once again in this Encyclical Letter, and to reprove these errors which are so often propounded under a specious appearance of truth."

    Those are strong words! He said that teaching they are equal is "dangerous" and "harm souls".

    This is a well-ingrained heresy, which can be seen in some of the responses which try to minimize and qualify it, such as differentiating between "subjectively" and "objectively" better (a distinction that cannot be found in our Tradition – the Church has only spoken about "general" and "particular" vocation).

    I do not know how this ever crept into orthodox Catholicism and became such a widespread notion – especially since Vatican II taught the superiority as well.

    Wade St. Onge

  10. Anonymous says:

    In reference to comments about the seminarian in question's vocation and his role as a priest, one may suggest that he is a very effective and caring pastor, not one who feels that because he is in Holy Orders that his call and life is in any way superior to the vocation to marriage.
    From a seminarian

  11. Anonymous says:

    It may be objectively better, but that doesn't mean it's subjectively better – it doesn't mean that it confers more merit.

  12. Admonsta says:

    Something occurred to me this morning about this. I was thinking about how Mary was called to be Jesus' mother, with all the difficulties and blessings that entailed. She accepted humbly. Nobody else in the world could have taken that role, because they were not called to it. As I see it, hers was the highest vocation of all, but I am not angry to consider my own path in life not as exalted as hers. Those who have higher callings also have the graces to follow their path.

    Another analogy that came to me was that of a business. If everyone took the job of managing director, no work would get done. Somebody has to answer the phones. That person's job, while not seeming as "high end" as the MD's job, is just as important to the running of the company … possibly more important.

    I don't think it is necessary to judge a vocation by its importance or highness. We must humbly obey and trust God to reward us accordingly. He's smarter than we can imagine.

  13. Patty Bonds says:

    I'd like to second the motion Patrick made about Lisa Duffy and Journey of Hope. Google "Divorced, Catholic, Now What?" and you'll find her. She got me through the early, dark days of my divorce and helped me stay close to Christ and the Sacraments throughout the experience. I'm so grateful for her work. Also, as a divorced/annuled person, I've found that God often calls those of us who have lived without a sense of calling find their calling in the consecrated life.

  14. Susan L says:

    That sounds like an excellent idea, Patrick. I would love to help someone in her situation if I only knew who needed it and what they needed. There is one divorced Catholic lady that I know of with 6 children and I send her food from time to time. In fact, now would be a good time to load up the car again for her.

    If somebody such as Anonymous (who is already divorced) started a group, it would help people like me help them. I'm all for it.

    Anonymous, I figure that you probably don't have much time either. Would it be possible to talk to your priest about the idea? About putting something in the church bulletin concerning a meeting. Meet once a month…or every other month. Start a list of what divorced families are in desperate need of right now and then the parish family can fill that need. People do want to help. We just need a little nudge and a little guidance.
    We can't individually do everything but collectively we could do a lot.

  15. melody says:

    I know that the married life is the vocation that God has called me to. And it is the highest calling for my life and my path to sanctity and to the arms of my Father in heaven.

    If your road is to a religious vocation, I rejoice with you that you have been called to serve Him in such a beautiful way. I recognize that your calling is indeed a higher and more "intimate" way and I am grateful since you are also a gift to my vocation, my family, my Church. You help lead me closer to His Sacred Heart. We compliment each other but you also lead me and I do not envy the crosses that must come with a vocation like yours.

    The fact is that both of us are being called to union with God as His saints. I, through my vocation. You, through yours. Total union with God. There is no higher aim than that. I do not begrudge you the gift He has given you. I just pray that I can respond fully to the particular graces that He has made available for me; and become little enough to be filled completely, according to His plan.

  16. Patrick Madrid says:

    I'm not really sure who you would feel that I am shuffling you off, Anonymous. You asked why no one was doing anything about this issue, and I pointed out one group that is. As you might imagine, I'm already pretty swamped with all the things I'm trying to help out with, so my sincere suggestion would be that *you* take it upon yourself to get proactive and do something to help divorced Catholics, rather than remain unhappy that others aren't doing enough. I don't say that in a sarcastic or condescending way. I really mean it: Since you are passionate about this issue, what are YOU doing about it? Maybe you could start a "chapter" of Lisa's DivorcedCatholic group in your area, or something along those lines, to get things rolling. Just a thought.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The real discussion is: what is being pointed out / focused on? John Paul said, "As a way of showing forth the Church's holiness…" consecrated life is objectively superior. One of the major ideas of Vita Consecrata was to emphasize the eschatological character of the consecrated vocations. They point the way to heaven. Matrimony points out the relationship between God and the Church. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” The two vocations mirror different truths.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Madrid, it's nice to know that your sister is offering help to divorced people. I've been to her website. Yet why can't someone as well known and well respected as you write a column about the Church's need to integrate divorced people into the life of the church? Ms. Duffy's website is nice, but I feel as if you are shuffling me of into a "separate but equal!" place. I don't want to be separate. I want to be integreated and acknowledged, not looked upon as a pariah.

    In my opinion, the issue of divorce is why we are losing so many people to Protestantism. Why can't we be honest and say so? The Protestants on the whole are much more accepting and open to divorced people, and offer divorce care resources and care groups. My archdiocese (Seattle) has no such thing that I am aware of. It is so very difficult to be a single, divorced Catholic. People say, "I'll pray for you" when actually what we need is practical help! An oil change; a lawn mowed; a bag of grocercies; a tank of gas!

    When confronted by sick people, Jesus didn't just say "your sins are forgiven". He gave them practical help by healing them. Where is the healing in our Church?

  19. Patrick Coffin says:

    Methinks married people who object to this wise ordering of things are insecure in, or ignorant about, the holiness of their own lived sacrament of matrimony. Me further thinks that celibates who object to it over-reach in their desire not to appear smug or "better" than married folk.

    "More blessed" is an objective assessment, not a subjective verdict. As we know, some marrieds are exuberant and heroic in their sanctity, and some celibates are plain miserable to be around. The key is to "fuggedabowdit" and just follow what God has called you to. If you do that, you'll be happy instead of neurotically fretting over which is the "best way" to follow Christ.

    Methinks.

  20. Rick says:

    A restatement of Marcel's thoughts in another way. Essentially, I would say consecrated life. Existentially, it depends on the person's calling. In other words, the Lord invites certain people to take on the evangelical counsels for a closer following of Him. So, closer is better in general or theoretically. In practice, it is better if the person is equipped for this higher calling. However, not everyone is cut out for it. So, what is better will depend on the person. Married life will be better for someone who does not have the gift of celibacy is stating the obvious.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Marriage is a very good thing. A great thing even. If it weren't, then giving up marriage for the priesthood (monk, nunnery, etc) wouldn't be much of a sacrifice–and the priesthood itself probably wouldn't mean much.

    When I look at it that way, the whole "celebacy is better than marriage" isn't quite so irksome.

    Kathryn G

  22. TimJ says:

    Beginning Experience for the divorced, separated and widowed has been active in dioceses around the country for decades. There's is a healing ministry. While I'm on this subject, counselors that have been married and divorced 2, 3 or more times are not experts in marriage counseling. They are experts in divorce counseling.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Many married couples throughout the Church's history including famous saints who were married have consecrated their lives to God (usually in the presence of a priest in a private ceremony)where they resolved, after having children,to abstain from marital relations for the rest of their lives and live only for the Glory of God.

  24. Patrick Madrid says:

    Anonymous 2:17, gotcha covered.

    Someone has been doing a great job of reaching out to divorced Catholics for years now — my sister, Lisa Duffy, at divorcedcatholic.com. check it out.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Roland's Dad makes an interesting point, and I thought St. Thomas Aquinas's perspective on this might be helpful. He actually raises this very objection about virginity: if God commanded man to "increase and multiply," isn't perpetual virginity wrong?

    St. Thomas answers that some duties are incumbent on every individual, but others belong communally to the human race as a whole. Procreation is like this; as long as somebody is doing it, everybody doesn't have to do it:

    "Wherefore sufficient provision is made for the human multitude, if some betake themselves to carnal procreation, while others abstaining from this betake themselves to the contemplation of Divine things, for the beauty and welfare of the whole human race." -Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 152, a. 2.

    An interesting side-point: by this reasoning, it seems like it would follow that if you were the last man on earth, you might be obliged to marry and not practice holy virginity.

  26. Roberto says:

    I wonder if the seminarian (and others with him) were confusing the superiority of the consecrated life with the superiority of the people who are called to it. While it is abundantly clear that a consecrated (and celibate) life is superior in that it offers a better and easier avenue for communion with God, that does not mean that celibate people are better than married ones or are loved more by God.

  27. Anonymous says:

    So what does that say to the Biblical injunction to"go forth and multiply"? And the current injunction that the pro-life movement is always stating "to be open to life"! If we are called to the married state of life are we settling for less in the next? I think there are people in all states of life that are holy as well as not so holy. It is
    not the "state" perhaps in itself but how we live out our calling that determines its goodness. This is reminding me of Catholic high-school ( long ago)when during Religion class the nuns would promote first the religious life, then the married state ..and really never much was said about the single life…which meant to everyone…the left-overs..since very few, if any, chose it.In other words a bit of propaganda on the part of management
    to fill up the convents and the seminaries first, then in order that the applicants keep coming the married were to be open to all the children God "sent" them.Since the single life did not contribute to the "system" not much could be said.
    Who would not want to "op" for the surest road to
    Heaven? All nonsense…hormones settles the issue
    for the most part. Always has and always will! Just a different "slant" on the natural law!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Marriage is good. The consecrated life is good. Divorce is bad, but the Church does have a lot of divorced people in it that are TOTALLY ignored. When will someone address the needs of the divorced in our Church. We EXIST!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I am taking the opportunity to raise a question that I remember being debated when I was a seminarian. Is marriage a vocation? I had a spiritual director whose credentials and knowledge were impeccable. He was a Jesuit that taught and worked in Rome. He insisted that the true sense of "vocation," understood as a calling to follow Christ in an evangelical manner, does not apply to marriage.
    I am not disposed or able to really add much or dispute about this with anyone. But I remember at the time his opinion shocked many of us who were raised with the idea that marriage was also a vocation. I can only say that his position, whether you agree or not, forces one to think carefully about what "vocation" truly means.

  30. Mitch says:

    Adoro, my bad on that, in the west their is clear distinction between chastity and celibacy, in the east it is fuzzier. That is probably b/c there isn't mandatory clerical celibacy in the east, so they see all as being called to celibacy/chastity to some degree. Monks living the ascetic life are closest to the heavenly life, they share closest in the life we will live in heaven. But married people share also in that heavenly ascetic. They are celibate in that they are in union with one spouse, and in that union they participate in God's creative action through the procreation of children. Ascetic monks by prayer participate in the continuous creation of the whole universe. Their prayers participate in God's creative action that made the heavens and the earth. Thereby both the Monk and the Spouses participate in God's creative act, but in different degrees. Participating in the creation of the whole universe as a primary action in your vocation is obviously greater than participating in creation through the procreation of children as a primary action of your vocation. But both are participation in God's creative action.

    At least that is how I understand it, but I am open to correction (btw, I am Roman Catholic, but I am increasingly influenced towards Byzantine explanations of things)

  31. Marcel says:

    There is, most certainly, an objective superiority to consecrated celibacy. But, on an individual basis, the subjective superiority for an individual depends on the Vocation given by God.

    In other words, for myself, married life is better for me because it is what I am called to.

  32. K Gurries says:

    I think this topic highlights an important distinction – the distinction between the absolute and the relative orders. I talk about this in a different context here (but I think it applies to this as well):

    http://opuscula.blogspot.com/2009/08/intervention-of-mgr-dupanloup-part-ii_9240.html

  33. Howard says:

    I think the thing to remember is that although the consecrated life is, when considered by itself, superior to married life, this superiority is NOT more important than obedience to one's vocation. If God calls me to the married life, but I, out of some distorted sense of my own importance, thwart this and become a priest, is it better for me than if I had accepted God's will for me? Is it better for the Church? Not likely!

  34. Robert B. Heath says:

    What I want to know is: did that seminarian persist in his vocation? If he did, how did he turn out? I would seriously question if he really had a vocation.

  35. Adoro says:

    Mitch, I don't think you meant to do this, but it seems you are equating celibacy and chastity. They are very different things.

    It is true that EVERYONE is called to chastity.

    But not everyone is called to celibacy. Those who are called to marriage are most certainly NOT called to celibacy. They are, however, still expected to live chastely.

    Also, these two things are not opposed, and that is the entire point. YOUR perception is that marriage/consecrated life are opposed to each other. They are not. As are all things Catholic, it is both/and. Marriage is what gives the world priests and religious. Priests and religious strengthen marriage! On earth, they are complimentary.

    However, as Our Lord told us, in heaven there is no marriage. The consecrated state is therefore closer to the ends towards which we will be directed; it is that which gives it greater nobility. Not in our eyes (clearly!), but in God's eyes, for He is the one who has revealed this.

    Charles Cardinal Journet, in "The Theology of the Church" does a wonderful job explaining the differences and complimentarity of this teaching, and he's very readable.

  36. Roland's Dad says:

    Very interesting post. Even though I am married I completely agree. Something interesting though – If everyone chose the unmarried life and lvied it correctly, the human race would die out within a generation. I don't say this as a bad thing, just interesting. It's hard to imagine God being OK with nobody having babies, but that's why they say He works in mysterious ways.

  37. Mitch says:

    Patrick, personally I feel when we set up the equation as Celibate/Consecrated Live Vs. Marriage then it does seem to be dumping on marriage. But if we take a more Eastern (Ortho/Cath) look at it, then we see that all are called to celibacy(chastity) by their baptism. We participate in that in varying degrees based upon where we are called. Married, consecrated virgin, active brother/sister, monk/nun, hermit, etc. (Leaving any questions of ordination out). The more ascetic life one lives the closer you are to living with God, for the monk/hermit living the perfect ascetic life is the closet to heaven anyone will get on earth. So in this sense it is better, but not a question of either/or, but rather a degree of the life you live. What married people do is not different than a hermit in kind, but in degree; both are called to life a life in relation to God. No Jew or Greek, slave or free, etc. Its egalitarian in what we are we just "be/are" in different degrees. There is a great article on this in the Jan. 2007 First Things by a Byzantine Monk. Unfortunately it now requires a subscription to read. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/celibacy-in-context-48

  38. Jeffrey Pinyan says:

    People might be surprised that the Second Vatican Council taught this as well! I would suggest reading the following: Optatam Totius 10, Presbyterorum Ordinis 16, and Perfectae Caritatis 16.

    Of particular note is this passage from that first document: "Students ought rightly to acknowledge the duties and dignity of Christian matrimony, which is a sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Let them recognize, however, the surpassing excellence of virginity consecrated to Christ, so that with a maturely deliberate and generous choice they may consecrate themselves to the Lord by a complete gift of body and soul." (… perspiciant autem virginitatis Christo consecratae praecellentiam…)

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