250. The Joyful Truth About Celibacy Pt. 4: Marriage and Celibacy Complement Each Other

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[NOTE: The posts that comprise this series are excerpted and adapted from Christopher West’s 2018 revised, updated and expanded edition of Theology of the Body for Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, & Gender (Wellspring 2018). Click here to order bulk copies of this book for your parish at just $3/copy or get your first copy for free using the checkout discount code DESIRE.]

Marriage and celibacy obviously differ in important ways. Yet these differences do not conflict. The values of one and the other vocation interpenetrate. In fact, marriage and celibacy “explain or complete each other” (Theology of the Body (TOB) audiences 78:2). Let me explain.

249. The Joyful Truth About Celibacy Pt. 3: Living In Freedom of the Gift

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[NOTE: The posts that comprise this series are excerpted and adapted from Christopher West’s 2018 revised, updated and expanded edition of Theology of the Body for Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, & Gender (Wellspring 2018). Click here to order bulk copies of this book for your parish at just $3/copy or get your first copy for free using the checkout discount code DESIRE.]

To a world bound by lust, lifelong celibacy seems absurd. The world’s general attitude toward Christian celibacy might be summarized like this: “Hey, marriage is the only ‘legitimate’ chance you Christians get to indulge your lusts. Why the heck would you ever want to give that up? You would be condemning yourself to a life of hopeless repression.”

The difference between marriage and celibacy must never be understood as the difference between having a “legitimate” outlet for sexual lust on the one hand and having to repress it on the other. Christ calls everyone—no matter his or her particular vocation—to experience redemption from the domination of lust. Only from this perspective do the Christian vocations (celibacy and marriage) make any sense. Both vocations—if they are to be lived as Christ intends—should flow from the experience of the redemption of the body.

248. Is Victoria In on Augustine’s Secret?

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Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne (1650).

[NOTE: The series “The Joyful Truth of Celibacy” will resume Thursday.]

On this feast of St. Augustine, I bring you this excerpt from my book Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, & the Universal Longing, in which I dub him the “doctor of desire.”


Saint Augustine was a man who knew what it was to pine and ache and burn inside. He felt it so ardently and wrote about it so poignantly that I like to call him “the doctor of desire.” In fact, he maintained that the “whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing … That is our life, to be trained by longing”[1] – to follow the heart’s deepest desire where it ultimately takes us.

247. The Joyful Truth About Celibacy Pt. 2: What Does This Have to Do With the Stars?

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[NOTE: The posts that comprise this series are excerpted and adapted from Christopher West’s 2018 revised, updated and expanded edition of Theology of the Body for Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, & Gender (Wellspring 2018). Click here to order bulk copies of this book for your parish at just $3/copy or get your first copy for free using the checkout discount code DESIRE.]

“Celibacy for the kingdom signifies the risen man, in [whom] the absolute and eternal spousal meaning of the glorified body will be revealed in union with God himself.” —Saint John Paul II

It was a gorgeous starlit night. A young couple, madly in love, drove off into the country to find a secluded place where they could express their amorous desires. Spotting a grassy knoll, they parked on the side of the road, grabbed a blanket and headed for the far side of the hill.

Little did they know they were on the property of a country parish and an elderly monsignor, hearing some commotion, looked out his rectory window, gathered what was happening, and decided he would go for a little “prayer walk.” The young lovers, engrossed as they were in one another, had no idea someone had approached and was now standing at the edge of their blanket. Jolted out of their passion by a startling but nonetheless polite, “Excuse me,” they were all the more startled by the sight of his Roman collar. Expecting he would scold them roundly, instead, the mysterious man in black looked toward the heavens and probed inquisitively, “Tell me, what does what you’re doing here have to do with … the stars?” After a pregnant pause, he walked back to his rectory leaving the dumbfounded lovers to ponder his question.[1]

246. The Joyful Truth of Celibacy Pt. 1: Authentic Sexual Freedom Is the Solution to the Sexual Crisis in the Church

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[NOTE: This is the first of a four-part series on “The Joyful Truth of Celibacy.” The next three posts will elaborate on the main themes of this post and will be excerpted from Christopher’s book Theology of the Body for Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, & Gender (Wellspring 2018). Click here to order bulk copies of this book for your parish at just $3/copy or get your first copy for free using the checkout discount code DESIRE.]

In light of the recent revelations of yet more heinous sexual misconduct by some clergy in the Catholic Church, we are hearing once again that “ending the ban on marriage” for Catholic priests is the easiest fix to the problem. To think otherwise, it would seem, is to play ostrich and bury one’s head in the sand.

It’s true that the practice in the Latin rite of reserving priestly ordination to celibate men could change. The Catholic Churches of the East have valid married priests, and some married priests of other denominations who convert to Catholicism can be ordained as valid priests even in the Latin rite.

So, if someone asks, “Why can’t priests be married?” the real answer is, they can be. However, with good reason, priests in the West are normally chosen from among men who have discerned celibacy as their vocation.