Please note - the Fr. Cozzens intervied for this piece is NOT the well known scholar Donald Cozzens who writes about the clerical culture, and the damaging effects of mandatory celibacy, but ANDREW Cozzens - no relative, to my knowledge.
(WCCO) Pope Benedict XVI released a 131 page “Apostolic Exhortation” Tuesday reaffirming church teaching on abortion, gay marriage, and divorce. He also said that Catholic priests will remain unmarried.
"Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy, and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and society itself,” wrote the Pope.
"Celibacy is a great good,” said Father Andrew Cozzens who teaches at the St. Paul Seminary.
Cozzens said celibacy has always been practiced by some priests, but it has been a requirement in the Western or Roman Catholic Church since the 4th Century. However, the Eastern Catholic Church, in places like Eastern Europe and Asia, does permit some priests to marry and has for centuries.
The western church requires priests to practice celibacy, meaning to remain unmarried. They are also required to be chaste or abstain from sexual relations.
“The foundation of priestly celibacy is completely found in Jesus Christ,” said Cozzens. “Christ was celibate."
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially in today’s society.
"Every vocation has struggles,” said Cozzens. "My experience of it is it’s a free, joyful reality. It’s sets me free to love in a new way.”
The idea is that a priest becomes married to the church and treats the members of his parish as his family. Cozzens says he would not be as good of a priest if he were married.
"It would change my relationship with God,” he said.
So why do married clergy work for other Christian faiths?
"That's a very good question,” said Cozzens. "For us (Catholics), the man who stands at the alter represents Christ. Jesus was not married."
Neither were most of his Apostles. In fact, Paul believed marriage was necessary simply because of temptation.
In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7 he wrote: "It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." He goes on to say: "Those who marry will face many troubles in this life."
"Celibacy is not a kind-of anti-marriage or even anti-sexuality,” said Cozzens. "A sacrifice is only a sacrifice if you're giving up a good. To say that celibacy is a value or a treasure is actually to affirm marriage."
However, critics say the celibacy requirement has contributed to the abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church and is the reason for the shortage of priests. Cozzens says abuse is not a matter of celibacy.
"It’s the result of sin and you're going to find that whether priests are married or celibate. And is the value of celibacy great enough to hold on to even if we have less priests?” he asked. “The church is clearly saying yes."
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