Dear Blog Visitors:
Edgar Davie kindly sent me a copy of his book, entitled 'Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith.' He asked that I read it and consider writing a review. Upon completion of the pages, I am very pleased to provide the following enthusiastic review that has been circulated to publishing outlets:
Book Review: ‘Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith’ by Edgar Davie
Review by Rev. Ray Grosswirth, M.A., M.Div
Whenever I have an occasion to read a good book or view an exciting movie, I am naturally eager to share the details with friends and acquaintances. However, it is very important that I only tease the appetite, so as not to give too much away. Today is no exception, because I want to tell you about a new book. However, as with the case of a good mystery, I don’t want to provide too many details before you have a chance to delve into the pages of this particular gifted author.
As the title suggests, Edgar Davie has tackled a complex topic – namely, priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church. I have written numerous articles on this subject, in an attempt to urge change in the long-standing policy of mandatory celibacy, which has been in force, for the most part, since 1139. It is important to state, however, that the celibacy policy did not appear out of the blue, minus a historical context. In the engaging and scholarly work, ‘Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith,’ Edgar Davie took great pains to take us on a century-by-century journey – a journey beginning with the pre-Christian era, and ending with an open question: What next?
Coming from a Judeo-Christian background, I truly appreciated Edgar Davie’s exploration of Judaism in the world of Jesus. He correctly makes it very clear that early Christianity cannot be discussed apart from Judaism.
Since the imposition of mandatory celibacy, our church leaders have cultivated their own theological and historical spins on the reasons behind the policy. How often have we heard Vatican officials state that Jesus willed celibacy for priests? The author of this remarkable book correctly places Jesus in the midst of Judaism, whereby marriage was expected of males by the age of 20. It is therefore reasonable to assume, as Edgar Davie suggests, that the Apostles were married, inclusive of Peter, who historians and theologians correctly identify as the person who began two thousand years of papal succession.
I appreciate the courageous and important questions posed by Edgar Davie. How about the question, “Was John the Baptist Married?” Davie addresses this question head-on. What is his conclusion? As stated in my introduction, I don’t want to give too much away, because I want you to read the book for yourselves. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Defenders of mandatory celibacy may be tempted to ridicule this book, labeling it as one in a series of ‘political’ treatises on this topic. However, anyone who picks up this book will soon discover the in-depth approach this author has taken, whereby readers, in effect, become flies-on-the-wall, eavesdropping on church councils, and witnessing the evolution of doctrines and dogmas.
In order to fully understand how the celibacy policy evolved, Edgar Davie provides the perfect backdrop: movements within the church, patristic domination, confusion with Canon Law, etc. Finally, Davie asks us to consider the plight of the priest in today’s society. One of the conclusions he reaches is this: “Since the freedom for all Christians to marry was handed down to us by Jesus and the Apostles, it remains Infallible Dogma.”
In conclusion, ‘Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith’ by Edgar Davie is a must-read for men and women who desire more inclusivity in the Roman Catholic Church. The book also meets the needs of those who have a desire to learn about the complex history of priestly celibacy. I, for one, feel nourished by the author’s pages and I want to thank him for his excellent writing.
Ray Grosswirth is a married priest who lives in Rochester, New York.