Ontological Bonds: Priesthood, Sacred Virginity, Marriage

by Therese Ivers, JCL

The existence of ontological bonds in some of the Church vocations are among the most challenged teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  Three bonds in particular are challenged for different reasons.  They are the ordained priesthood, the nuptial bond of sacred virgins, and the nuptial bond of marriage.

Priesthood

Most Protestant sects do not believe in ordained clergy in the sense that Catholics do.  Catholics believe that clergy receive a special mark of the soul, an ontological bond that is unique to men who receive Holy Orders.  This ontological bond separates the clergy from the rest of the faithful.  The Church teaches that this bond:

  • Has ontological existence (it is based in metaphysical reality and not just moral or legal)
  • Comes into existence when the Sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred upon the man
  • Is restricted to baptized males
  • Is indissoluble (nothing can dissolve it; men can be priests in Hell)
  • Is essentially different from the common priesthood of the faithful

Most Protestants, however, consider this to be an elitist position and following their interpretation of St. Paul in his “one Body” analogy, do not believe that a priest is essentially different than a layperson.  They cannot conceive of a Divinely instituted hierarchy with a power given to some that is not equally given to others.  Protestant pastors are pastors by reason of their persona, education, preaching ability, by choice of the people, etc., and not because they have a special ontological bond with Christ Jesus that the other faithful do not possess.  This is especially true of the beliefs of major sects who do not accept Transubstantiation and/or other Sacraments.

Marriage

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that an ontological bond is formed between a man and a woman when they are validly married.  Here are some dogmatic facts about this ontological bond:

  • Has ontological existence (it is based in metaphysical reality and not just moral or legal)
  • Comes into existence during the exchange of vows of the spouses
  • Is restricted to the unions of one man with one woman
  • The bond is indissoluble only when it is both sacramental and consummated(the bond is dissoluble by death alone; once a spouse has died the bond totally disappears)
  • Is essentially different than the common motherhood or fatherhood of the baptized faithful since it is a commitment of a specific woman to a specific man

The Catholic Church, from its very inception, has been under attack for these teachings.  Licentious Rome was all for divorce.  Polygamy, polyandry, adultery, and other sins against the bond of marriage were and continue to be quite common.  The most challenging dogma is about indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriages.  All major religions other than the Catholic Church teach that under certain circumstances, the consummated sacramental marriage can be dissolved.  Many speculate that it was not so much the primacy of the Pope or the stance on consubstantiality that led to the rift between the Catholics and the Orthodox, but the teaching on divorce with the Catholics claiming indissolubility and the Orthodox claiming dissolubility of consummated sacramental marriages.  People are very passionate when it comes to sexual matters, and we live in an age of “temporary marriages” and other aberrations.

Sacred Virginity

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sacred virgins (female virgins who have received the Consecration to a life of Virginity from their bishop) have an ontological bond between the virgin and Christ.  Here are some facts about this bond:

  • Has ontological existence (it is based in metaphysical reality and not just moral or legal)
  • Comes into existence when the Sacramental of Consecrated Virginity is conferred upon the woman
  • Is restricted to baptized females who are virgins
  • Is indissoluble (nothing can dissolve it; virgins can be virgins in Hell)
  • Is different from the common priesthood and bridehood of the faithful

The sacred virgin’s bond, just like the bond of the priesthood and of marriage, does not come about simply by her fiat, but by the ministry of another (in marriage this is a mutual conferral).  The Church teaches that it is an indissoluble nuptial bond, which means that it cannot be dissolved by anyone.   While it may come as a surprise to some, Martin Luther was not the first person to think that consecrated life, and in particular, consecrated virginity or consecrated chastity was worthless, or even against Christian principles.  Jovinianus was one of the first to erroneously claim that all lifestyles (marriage, digamy, virginity, widowhood, etc.) were all to be given the same and equal reward in Heaven.

Because there are people who dispute these aspects of all three of these vocations with ontological bonds in the Catholic Church, no comments will be permitted that make it clear that documents such as Pastores dabo vobis, The Council of Trent Session 24, the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, and Vita Consecrata have not been read and understood.   A working knowledge of theological terms (such as vinculum) and their significance, as well as ecclesiastical Latin may be necessary to fully understand the full import of the Church’s writings.  Any comments not in keeping with these documents will be deleted or edited.

(c) 2013 by Therese Ivers, JCL

All rights reserved.

 

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