Cardinal Marc Ouellet
VATICAN CITY — While priestly celibacy is increasingly misunderstood and even under attack, the discipline continues to be a call to a whole-hearted response to God's love, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
"The celibacy of priests, as well as of bishops, has been put into question today with growing virulence because of sexual abuse, including of minors, committed by clerics," Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, cardinal told the bishops of Brazil.
Publicity of the abuse cases has led to "generalized suspicion of the clergy," he said. "The living and important tradition of celibacy in the Church has been belittled and even put into question."
Ouellet, the former primate of Canada and rector of Edmonton's St. Joseph Seminary, was in Brazil in May to lead a retreat for the country's bishops.
Over the summer, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the cardinal's talks, which were focused on the word of God and the identity of bishops.
Celibacy, Ouellet said, has given a strong and concrete witness to the fact that faith in Christ gave birth to new lifestyles and institutions.
"Part of the mission of the baptized called to consecrated life is giving witness that the covenant God wanted with his people is not only an ideal, but a reality," he said.
Although different from a vocation to marriage, he said, the call to celibacy also should lead to "real happiness and unequalled joy," because it is a loving and complete response to the love of God.
Celibacy is not primarily about "availability and service," but is part of the "nuptial and sacramental context of the covenant between Christ and his Church.
"With his celibacy, the bishop certifies that God is love and that he expects his creatures to respond with love to love."