Chesterton on Celibacy

After yesterday’s rant on Father Cutie and the priestly celibacy issue, I thought it best to get another perspective on this issue.  This reading comes from G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

A clergyman may be apparently as useless as a cat, but he is also as fascinating, for there must be some strange reason for his existence.  I give one instance out of a hundred; I have not myself any instinctive kinship with that enthusiasm for physical virginity, which has certainly been a note of historic Christianity.  But when I look not at myself but at the world, I perceive that this enthusiasm is not only a note of Christianity, but a note of Paganism, a note of high human nature in many spheres.  The Greeks felt virginity when they carved Artemis, the Romans when they robed the vestals, the worst and wildest of the great Elizabethan playwrights clung to the literal purity of a woman as to the central pillar of the world.  Above all, the modern world (even while mocking sexual innocence) has flung itself into a generous idolatry of sexual innocence–the great modern worship of children.  For any man who loves children will agree that their peculiar beauty is hurt by a hint of physical sex.  With all this human experience, allied with the Christian authority, I simply conclude that I am wrong, and the church right; or rather that I am defective, while the church is universal.  It takes all sorts to make a church; she does not ask me to be celibate.  But the fact that I have no appreciation of the celibates, I accept like the fact that I have no ear for music.  The best human experience is against me, as it is on the subject of Bach.  Celibacy is one flower in my father’s garden, of which I have not been told the sweet or terrible name.  But I may be told it any day.

If you liked what you read here, you can read Orthodoxy in its entirety via Google Books.


2 thoughts on “Chesterton on Celibacy

  1. I have often called Northpoint and 722 a celibacy cult. Dating is hard enough without all the guilt trips coming from the pulpit and the peer pressure for abstinece is well within cult proportions at NPCC. We can also remember the scripture that for those couples who cannot control themselves should marry. If 722 and Northpoint do not address the abistence cult syndrome and do not truthfully help and preach God’s word accurately… it will waste many more decades of single people’s lives in some kind of porn to purity to porn cycle.

    1. Hello Marty, great to hear from you.

      I’m afraid that I would have to disagree with you on North Point and 7:22 being a “celibacy cult”. There is a significant emphasis upon sexual purity and abstinence prior to marriage. Note, however, that this is a spiritual discipline which is required of ALL Christians; no Christian worth his/her salt is going to tell you anything different, regardless of his/her denominational or church affiliation.

      I always felt that the emphasis at 7:22 was on making the most of your time as a single person and making the most of the unique opportunities to serve God as a single person that exist during this season of life, and not passing up those opportunities because you just blew through this season of life with a “marriage or bust” attitude. Which is precisely where it needed to be.

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