Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Monday, March 24, 2008

Canon 277: "celibacy" and "continence" are different things

The sad case of Zimbabwe Archbishop Pius Ncube, who was the only credible opponent of Thug-in-Chief Robert Mugabe, is the occasion to try to remind people that Canon 277 of the Johanno-Pauline Code establishes two related but distinct obligations for clerics in the Western Church, namely, celibacy and continence. As an archbishop, Ncube was bound both to refrain marriage (celibacy) and to refrain from sexual relations with anyone (continence). Ncube has admitted to having sex with a woman (a married woman, as it happens); therefore he has admitted to violating the law of continence; he has not attempted marriage with this woman, and therefore he has not violated his promise of celibacy.

Nevertheless, every single press report I have seen on this case alleges that Ncube violated his promise of celibacy! Not one of them claims he violated the law of continence. This is the opposite of what they should be saying.