The psychiatrist for the Congregation for the Clergy, Dr Manfred Lutz, has described celibacy as 'a permanent protest against collective superficiality' and a 'provocation' to a world that does not believe in life after death.
Responding to critics who say that celibacy is not 'natural', Dr Lutz, writing in L'Osservatore Romano, said: 'the earthly world, with its joys and sufferings, is not all there is.'
He said that a person who could not renounce sexual activity would not be capable of joining in a marital union either.
Looking upon women as 'the object of satisfaction of a personal impulse plays a key role in the criticism of celibacy,' he said.
Dr Lutz noted that there are even times when spouses cannot 'fully exercise their sexuality, as in the case for example of a temporary illness or a permanent handicap. In these cases, a spousal relationship that is truly profound is not destroyed but rather enriched.'
'In the same way, the issue of celibacy should not be made into an issue merely of genital sexuality, but rather should be seen as a determined form of relationship that allows for a profound relationship with God and fruitful relationship with the persons confided to the pastoral care of the priest."
Lutz said that celibacy enabled a priest to engage more intensely in spiritual direction.
"It is not true that spiritual guidance for couples would be better if it were given by married people. Such a guide always runs the risk of unconsciously reliving the experiences of his or her own marriage and of transforming his or her own emotions into actions through a psychological mechanism without reflection."
"For this reason, such a guide needs solid monitoring to prevent this from happening. On the other hand, a good spiritual guide has considerable existential experiences with many married couples, and therefore can reach out to the most difficult cases."