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Freeing Celibacy Hardcover – September 30, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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Priest and writer Cozzens calmly explains the celibacy Roman Catholic priests have been obliged to assume since the late eleventh century. Making celibacy mandatory, he argues, grates on the established concept of celibacy as a charism, or freely bestowed gift of the Holy Spirit; indeed, the practice seems to promise, ever so presumptuously, that ordination entails the charism. Many priests testify that it doesn't, and many consequently suffer great anguish, regardless of whether they break their vows (by and large, they don't). That celibacy is necessary for priesthood is contradicted within the church today, Cozzens notes, by the hundreds of married former Protestant clergy who converted to Catholicism and are serving as priests and by the priests of Eastern rite churches in communion with Rome, which have always allowed marriage before ordination. Better for all, Cozzens says, to dispense with prescribed celibacy while continuing to pray for the charism. Much more effectively than other, more famous critics of priestly celibacy, Cozzens teaches as well as advocates. Ray Olson
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This reading regards silence and passivity as no longer acceptable for lay Catholics who want to actively participate with and in the church. . . . After reading this highly insightful and fearless author, my question stands: Do we stay `exiled' from our own faith, or do we have a `faith that dares to speak'? --Ministry and Liturgy

Freeing Celibacy is one of the clearest and most straightforward examinations of the role of obligatory celibacy in the Roman Catholic priesthood and in the life of the Church. In his characteristically low-key, even gentle fashion, Father Cozzens effectively challenges each of the traditional defenses that have been mounted in support of the discipline. The book, in effect, points its finger at a massive elephant in the Church s living room that many still pretend not to see. --Rev. Richard P. McBrien, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana

'Freeing Celibacy' - what a marvelous double entendre! With wisdom, compassions, and passion Cozzens argues that celibacy for the diocesan clergy is freeing an experience of freedom and joy only if the church frees it from legalism, fear of sexuality, and lust for power, that is, only if we have the courage to let it be what it essentially is a gift/charism from God. This book must be meditated upon by every bishop, priest, candidate to the priesthood, and by anyone concerned about the future of the Roman Catholic Church. --Dr. Peter C. Phan, Theology Department, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Liturgical Press; First Edition edition (September 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814631606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814631607
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Carol Blank on October 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Throughout this work on the history and theology of mandated celibacy for Latin rite Catholic priests, Cozzens defines celibacy as a charism, that is a gift from God. This gift, he explains, is not automatically bestowed on men upon entering the seminary or receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders. Faithful response to the charism of celibacy is one of the church's great treasures, he writes, but "when celibacy is imposed and legislated it can undermine the integrity of the church's leadership and cause needless human suffering."

In nine clearly written chapters Cozzens, a psychologist and priest, looks at celibacy as charism, obligation, power, and oppression. In a chapter on exceptions to the church's mandate, he addresses several problematic situations. First, there are married Latin rite Catholic priests today. Typically they were ordained in another denomination and converted, often with their wives and children, to Catholicism, where they were, after some seminary study, ordained as priests. In addition the Church affords optional celibacy to some Catholic seminarians preparing for the priesthood in non-Latin rites in Eastern Euro-Asia, so long as they marry before their ordination. Further, Eastern churches in full communion with Rome have long permitted married clergy.

Calling for a serious review of mandated celibacy, Cozens writes, "Celibacy's troubles should not surprise. We compound these troubles, however, when we attempt to legislate that which is a free, mysterious gift given to relatively few human souls."

This is an excellent resource for Catholics and others who wish to increase their understanding of the complex issues related to Church law on priestly celibacy and Cozzens' views on homosexuality in seminaries and sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Priest, lecturer, and award-winning author Donald Cozzens presents Freeing Celibacy, a serious-minded look at the practice of mandatory celibacy for Latin rite Catholic priests that has been the norm for 900 years. Though Freeing Celibacy extols the gifts of the spirit that voluntary celibacy can bring, Cozzens surveys the history of married priests in centuries past, clergy sexual abuse scandals and the rapidly declining number of priests today, and concludes that it is time to set celibacy free from canonical mandate to become a graced way of life for some but not all of the church's ordained ministers. A thoughtful and deeply spiritual treatise, expressing sincere concern for the future of Catholicism itself. "Just as it is possible for a slave to know more true inner freedom than his master, it is possible for a priest to thrive spiritually and personally in the condition of mandated celibacy. But this does not justify the institution of celibacy any more than a personally liberated slave justifies the institution of slavery."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James E. Harvey on September 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Cops, Crooks, and Clergy: A Long Journey to Inside the Catholic Church

Donald Cozzens' well-researched and rational approach to identifying and correcting one of the most serious causes of today's priest shortage is an important plea to Church leaders. While celibacy may be a charism for some, not all priests have that gift. He establishes that a charism is a gift, and that people all have different gifts. Further, that a gift cannot be mandated by the hierarchy, as it comes from God. In just over 100 pages, Cozzens clearly makes his case.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By BK Reviews on November 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read many books and articles on celibacy. I was sceptical reading this book because most books on celibacy you read repeat thesame old arguments:
- Jesus was celibate, a priest is another Christ
- It frees you from family obligations for the kingdom of God
- It is an ascetical life
- It is white matyrdom
The author in this book invites us to rethink all these traditional arguments. He argues against the widely held presumption in the Latin Church that once someone is called to be a priest, he is also given the grace of celibacy by God. He argues that grace builds on nature. "If an individual does not possess the aptitude, temperament, and quality of soul that are the human foundations of charismatic celibacy, calling upon grace to make up for these deficiencies is a manifestation, one can argue, of ecclesial arrogance." He makes a distinction between charismatic celibates and legislated celibates. He says they are some people who are called to a life of celibacy. These people need not even be priests. He gives an example of Dorothy Day. He says such people are Charismatic celibates. He does not like the idea of legislated celibacy, the kind of celibacy Latin priests are mandated to live. He argues that if the Church is correct that every priest receives the grace of celibacy when called to the priesthood, then there is no need to legislate it because you cannot legislate gifts or graces. The author argues that the practice of married clergy would not be a new thing in the Church as it has been part of the Church's tradition for the first 1200 years of Christianity. He lists some Popes that were married and are saints. Examples include Pope St. Anastasius 1 (399-401) and Pope St. Hormisdas (514-523).
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