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From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church Hardcover – March 12, 2020
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"Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah have written the best kind of food for the Catholic soul: concise, elegantly readable, rich in substance, and passionately pastoral in its message. Don't be fooled by its brevity: This is an immensely important book not just for priests, but for laypeople committed to sustaining and renewing the life of the Church they love."
--Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
About the Author
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant theologians and spiritual leaders of our age. As pope he authored the best-selling Jesus of Nazareth; and prior to his pontificate, he wrote many influential books that continue to remain important for the contemporary Church, including Introduction to Christianity and The Spirit of the Liturgy.
Robert Cardinal Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa. Made an archbishop by Pope John Paul II and a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, he was named the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis in 2014. He is the author of God or Nothing, The Power of Silence, and The Day Is Now Far Spent.
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Hardcover : 152 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1621644146
- ISBN-13 : 978-1621644149
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
- Publisher : Ignatius Press (March 12, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #135,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The authors address the Panamazon synod in particular, in which many argued that the requirement for celibacy be relaxed to accommodate the shortage of priests in that region. The argument was that the reason for celibacy is not understood in that primitive culture so vocations for the priesthood would be inhibited. The authors counter that this is human reasoning and that vocations are from God. God can handle it. Such thinking, the authors say, is actually insulting to members of those cultures and deprives them of priests fully dedicated to their vocation. Marriage for priests not only conflicts with their priesthood, but also interferes with their marriage.
Celibacy for priests is definitively resolved in this book and should put the issue to rest. I highly recommend this book to anyone concerned about the subject.
Old Testament Levites were priests with qualifications they passed along to each new generation. The Levites did not get land, so they lived through donations from other tribes. When Christianity began, priest roles were modeled after the Levites but the job was no longer inherited through membership in the tribe of Levi. Anyone with a calling from God could now become a priest, but the model for the priesthood was otherwise similar between old and new testament examples.
According to Benedict, the Levites of Old Testament days were “strictly obliged to observe sexual abstinence during the times when they led worship and were therefore in contact with the divine mystery.” That requirement was adopted by the new church—with a twist. Because priests in the new Christian church were celebrating the Eucharist daily, there was never a time when sexual activity was appropriate. Thus, a celibate priesthood for the new church. The Levites were only in contact with the divine mystery on set days, so they were able to manage these tasks and still have a family. The difference was daily mass.
I disagree with his conclusion, but Benedict’s essay helped me to better understand the issue of celibacy in the Catholic church and how we came to be where we are today. Now, for a quick observation or two on Robert Cardinal Sarah’s essay.
Once upon a time, Cardinal Sarah was a young missionary. He went to remote villages of Guinea. There he encountered a faith community that was hungry for celebration of the mass and apparently hailed him much as they might have responded to a second coming of Jesus Christ. He cites this experience as a reason for the status quo: How would they all have experienced such joy if that community had simply ordained a married man to be the priest? Oddly, this argument circles back to the original call for a celibate priesthood. Remember the need for celibacy was because the new church wanted daily celebration of the Eucharist? But here, Sarah suggests that years’ long abstinence on the part of the community is perfectly acceptable, and in fact, a wonderful gift of the Lord. (“The wonderful thing about hitting yourself with a wrench is that it feels so good when you stop.”)
On page 113, there is an interesting linkage to Sarah’s Christ-like reception in Guinea. He expresses the opinion that the priest “truly is … Christ himself,” and he even found a quote from Saint Josemaria Escriva, who apparently said the same thing.
Frankly, I don’t much care for the points offered by Sarah in his essay. His words form an emotional appeal that stands in stark contrast to Benedict’s logic. The fact that they both want the same final disposition of the celibate issue does little to compensate for Sarah’s hollow arguments. Throughout, I found his opinions to be formed based on an ideal that does not exist today – if it ever did. No seminarian is perfect and ordination does not alter that situation for ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’
Setting up hurdles like celibacy for mortal men may lead to a deep satisfaction for a few, but for the majority, the call to celibacy appears to be a burden that is difficult to bear. The result of rampant pedophilia in the church is one proof that priests do not all perfectly follow Christ’s example, and those pedophile priests never became Christ – not even for a split second at the moment of transubstantiation during a mass. Idealism in policy making may achieve a goal of more and more faithful doing without the Eucharist, but it will not lead to more Christlike behaviors in the priesthood.
In summary, I suggest you read this book, so you can read the arguments for yourself. If you have limited time, read Benedict’s essay (4 stars) and shred the rest (1 star). Overall rating: 2.5 rounded up to 3.
Top reviews from other countries
Having read the text I can see why Pope Emeritus Benedict was so keen to distance himself from the book. Not because it failed to respect Pope Francis's work, his writing is entirely respectful of Francis, but because Card. Sarah's argument is so poorly put that it lacks intellectual and academic credibility. That is not to say the arguments themselves are wrong, it is that they are put in such a way as to make them implausible.
But then it will please those who enjoy reading the works of Aux Bishop Athansius Schneider, and who are convinced that only he and Card. Sarah can save the Church.