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As a young priest Benedict XVI ‘called for the Church to investigate priestly celibacy’

In 1970 Fr Joseph Ratzinger signed a petition that suggested the Church re-examine the obligation of priestly celibacy, according to a German newspapaer

By on Friday, 28 January 2011

As a young priest, Pope Benedict put his name to a document calling for the Church to seriously investigate the obligation to priestly celibacy.

Joseph Ratzinger was one of the signatories of a 1970 document calling for an examination of priestly celibacy which was signed by nine theologians.

The memorandum was drawn up in the face of a shortage of priests and other signatories included Karl Rahner and the future cardinals Karl Lehmann and Walter Kasper.

The German newspaper Die Sueddeutsche reported about the document today.

The memorandum, which was sent to the German bishops reads: “Our considerations regard the necessity of a serious investigation and a differentiated inspection of the law of celibacy of the Latin Church for Germany and the whole of the universal Church.”

According to the Sueddeutsche, the document said if there were no such investigation, the bishops’ conference would “awaken the impression that it did not believe in the strength of the Gospel recommendation of a celibate life for the sake of heaven, but rather only in the power of a formal authority”.

If there weren’t enough priests, the document said, then the “Church quite simply has a responsibility to take up certain modifications”.

The signatories who had drawn up the document acted as consultors to the German bishops’ conference in a commission for questions of Faith and Morals.

The document’s release coincides with a renewed debate on priestly celibacy after prominent German politicians called for the Church to change the teaching on priestly celibacy in the face of a serious lack of priests.

  • Anonymous

    I attend mass, and usually read the tablet, or the herald if I want to feel ashamed to be a Catholic ;)! I don’t read very much wider than this in terms of Catholic journalism, maybe I should – I’m simply being honest.

    I find some doctrinal issues that get discussed of little significance, Jesus’s message was much bigger than many of the quarrels that occur within the Church I’m sure you would agree, however if this Monseigneur Loftus has disagreements as large as this I would suggest he leave for another Church. Not, that I take offence with his conclusions, rather that I don’t see him getting anywhere when most of us see these doctrines as quite central to being a Catholic.

    On my final point you refer to, I won’t be doing a u-turn. I as you may have noticed I don’t destroy my own conclusions to bend in line with every decision of the Church. And neither do you might I add, in often arguing with the pope and in so doing surely the judgement of the Cardinal electors, whom are inspired by God, are they not?? I do support trying to get closer to the original Latin meaning of the text, because we should at least try to work from the intended meaning of the text.

    The word ‘meaning’ here is crucial – meaning; understanding… truth. Are these values not important to you, are these values not important to the Church? Because if so an increase in Latin in the mass, as a language not understood by 99% of the laity, hardly helps understanding, grant me that at the very least.

    In terms of my definition of change, and what is worthy of looking at in terms of change, my argument still stands. I said that change requested and wanted by a large proportion of a group has a high likelihood of validity and should be taken seriously.
    Now, as the Church is in terms of power structure a dictatorship, this decision has evidently not come from the majority of regular Catholics, who if asked would tell you how they would hate the bringing back of the mass in a language they cannot speak or understand.

    What is the relevance of learning about morality in a language unspoken and un-understood? If you can explain to me this very point then I would have more respect for the Church’s move in this area.

  • Philomena Carolan

    I don’t see any reason why celibacy should not be abolished.
    Priests, Nun’s, Monks, everyone, we are all human with human feelings.
    Whoever thought of celibacy in the first place wants shooting, they really do, many clergy have had breakdowns through this or worse, it is a strain on the Catholic church and a strain for all involved.

    It just does not work, I know many years ago when a specialist in a hospital has chosen a medication for their patient and it has worked, and the patient is better and many years later you get someone to change things and say, (here we are, try something different instead) so the patient does but it does not work and the patients health is for the worst so they say (okay then, we will have to revert back to the old way) and they do, and the patient starts to ‘re-recover’, it is exactly the same thing so, Pope Benedict should go back to St. Peter’s days and abolish celibacy for the good of all. It makes sense it really does.

    Thank you

  • Philomena Carolan

    I diagree, it shows the church knows nothing about humanity as none of this would have taken place in the beginnig, it has nothing at all to do with age.

  • Philomena Carolan

    What has being intelligent got to do with it?

    Everyone can see the damage the Pope is doing to the Catholic church, many main leaders of the church are hammering at the Pope to abolish celibacy through many clergy with child sex abuse and you talk about intelligence!!

  • Philomena Carolan

    The Pope insists that celibacy is a “Gift from God” a “Sign of Faith” if that is the case then where do we humans come from please?????????????? And this is from a so-called intelligant man- of cause it is.(yeh right) And don’t forget, it was when this Pope was priest, he was going to have ceklibacy ablished so, think of that part if you would.

  • Philomena Carolan

    But St. Peter and many other Pope’s like him were married and sexually active since pontification so explain that one please, this Pope has everything going crazy, I wish he would go.

  • Philomena Carolan

    Funny ha,ha

  • Anonymous

    So because marriage and procreation (inextricably linked) is a gift from God, those of us who live celibate lives are somehow NOT blessed in our state of life?

    No priest can have celibacy abolished – don’t be daft. When he was young, Fr Ratzinger was quite a liberal and – in fact – that has never changed. He’s still a liberal.

    But celibacy remains the jewel in the crown of the Catholic priesthood and although Satan is working his socks off to change that, he won’t succeed.

    Luv ‘n stuff…

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear. Somebody doesn’t know that Latin remains the official language of the Church. Naughty naughty.

    To describe the holy Mass of the Ages, the Mass that nourished the saints and that the martyrs shed their life’s blood to preserve, as “self-indulgent babble unintelligible to very view” is an insult of such proportions that few Protestants could equal.

    May God forgive your almost (if not quite) blasphemous comment.

  • Theresa Rose

    EditorCT, I agree with you that marriage and procreation are a gift from God. And that celibacy remains the jewel in the crown of Catholic priesthood. That Pope Benedict as a young priest and one of nine theologians to sign the document calling for an “investigation into the priestly obligation of celibacy”. The document was drawn up in face of “shortage of priests”. Who and when was it decided or discovered that there was a shortage of priests? Before the Ecumenical Council of 1962/1965 (often referred to as Vatican II)? Was it after this Council ended? (Remember Martyjo has already pointed out that this Council was pastoral and NOT a dogmatic Council).

    Certainly priests are abandoning their priesthood, as are nuns their religious life since the mid 1960s. The mindset seems to have set in over these years, is to mould the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church into the secular world point of view, rather than proclaim the doctrines and teachings of the Church to the world.