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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Another Upset Woman About Married Priests, WHY?

CATHY: It is impossible to make such assumption that having a wife and children would be distraction to priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope when they were never allowed to have a family in the first place and many have fooled around anyway. To make people choose against a holy sacrament of marriage is to break the first commandment in the bible which is to be fruitful and multiply. You would take away some of the supposed scandal from the church if you would allow for men and women (nuns) to serve and be married. How can ministers of the word even begin to identify with parishoners if they have not lived through some of their circumstances especially since ministry begins in the home. Sex is not vile if done within marriage. It is a God sanctioned act. This not being married is a man sanctioned decree. Every prophet and most of the apostles including St. Peter were married. Their trials were due to the times they were living in. Now, unless you are living in pagan or atheist parts of the world, no one is trying to burn or stone you for being Catholic.


You assert several serious falsehoods:

First, the Church in the West once had a married clergy and determined that celibate clergy best served the Lord and the Church. In other words, we have “been there and done that.”

Second, most Catholic ministers are faithful to their promises and do not “fool around” as you put it. You malign me and many good priests. How dare you do this?

Third, the command in Genesis is given to the species, not to every individual. Otherwise, you would have to force people to get married and mandate that all fertile females get pregnant. Such would be absolutely silly. Our Lord did not get married and neither did St. Paul. Deacons represent both married and unmarried clergy in the Catholic Church. Most priests and all bishops are celibate. We did not “choose against marriage” but rather “chose a spiritual marriage to Christ’s Church.” You minimize the sacrifice and the value of such single-hearted love. You should be ashamed of yourself for that.

Fourth, please, do not be silly; sick and unfaithful people are still sick and unfaithful if they are married. A majority of men who left priesthood for marriage subsequently divorced. Protestant churches may not have their dirty laundry paraded on the news, but they have their own scandals with married clergy. A Methodist minister and friend of mine had a large and vibrant church in Washington, DC. He had an affair with a lady in the choir and got himself fired and defrocked. A married clergy would only amplify the possibility of scandal, albeit with divorce, abuse, incest, etc. There is nothing unnatural or wrong with celibacy. The answer to our problems is not a married priesthood. Allowing nuns to marry violates the very nature of their calling.

Fifth, the family may be the little Church but there is no requirement that every man be an ordained priest. Priests deal with many families. There is marriage preparation, counseling, and confession. We see and hear it all. We know the plight of our people. Our celibacy makes us available to them. We might not have our own wives and families, but we belong to our many parish families. Priests are not fools.

Sixth, a celibate priesthood is no condemnation of human sexuality and marriage. Do you know nothing about Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body? The marital act must remain within marriage as the consummation and renewal of the marital covenant. But there is no requirement that we collect as many sacraments as possible. Most men will never be priests. Most Western priests will never be married. I will never have a child. But few men can stand at the altar and make Christ present with the words of consecration. The Priesthood with Mass and Confession are enough for me.

Seventh, celibacy is a discipline of the Church. But our Lord gave such authority to his Church and it is not for you or me to impugn or spurn it. The Church has the mind of Christ in this matter.

Eighth, the Jewish and Christian view of marriage was not the same. Jews tended to see God’s blessings in progeny, wealth and land. Christians are urged to embrace a poverty of spirit. It is in this light that St. Paul recommends celibacy as the better way. You would be hard-pressed to show a married background for all the prophets. St. Paul and certain others were not married. There is evidence that the early Church had a preference for perfect continence on the part of married men who became priests. Strict celibacy would relieve the tension caused by such a situation.

Nine, while I not entirely sure how this fits into the debate about priesthood and marriage, we are facing terrible trials today, too. I have parishioners with family members suffering violence and death in Asia and Africa. Churches are being bombed and Christians are being martyred. The news here at home is filled with daily assaults upon the Church and our religious liberty. Indeed, the government is seeking to shut us down or compromise our moral message. Sorry, but you really do not know what you are talking about. Not having a wife and family might free a priest from fears of retaliation against them or intimidation through them.  Men often feel that they must make compromises to secure their families.  Are you married Cathy? Does your husband agree with you about mandating married priests?

Cathy, you really know very little about men as priests or what matters to us. We have men and women friends but we save our intimacy for God. Marriage is a wonderful thing, but so is celibate love. Do you find that hard to believe? We do not need to be married. We do not want to be married. We are happy. Why is it that people like yourself want to mess with our lives? If a man is called to holy orders then God will give him the graces for this state of life.


6 Responses

  1. Father, thank you for defending celibacy like this. I can tell you were hurt by the accusations thrown at you and the clergy from your indignant response, and in a way I’m glad that you would be hurt from those words, since it shows me how much you love the integrity of the Church, your “wife”.

    This brings me to a bit of a question: I’d recently been to a Greek Catholic church for a friend’s wedding where I met a priest who was married himself. I’ve nothing against him or any other married priest I might meet, but it made me feel weird; they’re loyal to the Holy Father, their Sacraments are valid, and yet they have married priests. How can a man share marriage vows to give all of himself to his wife, and yet promise to do the same for the Church?

    FATHER JOE: I struggle myself to understand such a divided heart, although I think the answer is in the mystery of love. My mother had seven children. But in loving any one did she love the others less? No, I do not think so. The question I have is regarding service and the hours of the day. The priest is only one man. A married man is obligated by nature to the care and happiness of his wife and children. This obligation and the demands of ministry might sometimes clash and overlap. The Eastern rites have sought to ease the difficulty with having the priest’s wife become like the mother of a parish. She becomes a co-worker or collaborator with her priest-husband (according to her lay station) in the care of the flock. To help avoid conflict, she must be willing to share her husband by being of one heart and mind with him. It must be a privilege and a sacrifice to love a man who in turn loves with a priestly heart.

  2. Dear Father Joe,

    I apologize. When my sister sent the link to your blog, she was on a rampage of sorts. I read Cathy’s remarks through my sister’s eyes. Because I have been asked similar questions, frequently, I viewed Cathy’s letter as coming from someone who does not understand celibate love, not necessarily as an attack on celibacy. Unlike you, I am not a parish priest. I am a professor at a public university where most of my students are of a faith other than Catholic. Over the years, I have had many discussions with students about why Catholic priests do not marry. It is difficult for them to understand, but with heartfelt, open discussions, I think some of them do begin to understand, just a little. Their questions are honest, and I have never felt as if they are attacking me or my commitment to being celibate. They just want to understand. But, yes, your answer to Cathy did come across as condescending and defensive. 😉 I did not object to anything you said to Cathy, I just thought your presentation could have been a little kinder. But, again, you read her letter from a different perspective. And, I apologize.

    As for my blog about married priests — I did not actually meet the priest or his wife. They were vacationing, I was asked to celebrate Mass a few times in his church because I am on sabbatical from the university and, at the time, I was visiting family in my home state. Although aware that Episcopalian priests have changed denominations, I had never before been confronted by my own feelings on the issue. Where I live and teach, the Catholic church is the second largest in the state. Because I do teach in a public university, I am sometimes “out of the loop” with the Diocese. I do not think there are any formerly Anglican priests, at least none that I am aware of. And, so, it did “hit me in the face.”

    Yes, I do hope that one day celibacy becomes an option. An option, similar to the Orthodox church where a priest is permitted to be married if he was married before ordination. I have known several young men who would have made wonderful priests, including my eldest nephew. He was seriously considering the priesthood, had researched different orders and seminaries, and seemed on his way. But, then, he fell in love while in college. He and his wife have an incredibly wonderful marriage, and three beautiful children. They are both active in their parish and he works for Catholic Community Services. My nephew who did follow in his aging uncle’s footsteps took a slightly different and slower route, being ordained last year when he was 35. As I age, I have come to believe we should encourage young men who have a call to the priesthood, to go out and live life first. Finish college. Work in the secular world. Have relationships with women. Take time to mature before making a lifelong commitment.

    None of us is the same person we were at 18 or 30 or 42. My feelings about a married priesthood changed when my life was turned upside down by contracting polio a second time when I was 42 and landed in a wheelchair. I have never felt so alone or lonely in my life. It was then that I truly wondered if I had the strength to remain committed to the life of service that I loved. Through God’s grace, I was, but it took a great deal of soul searching.

    Other than my feelings about optional celibacy, I do not disagree with anything you have said. I happened upon Dr. Sipe’s book while I have been on retreat. It was a good book and it did speak to me. As I have looked more closely at his website, I agree that he might have an agenda other than helping people to truly understand celibate love and why we are committed to living a celibate life. May I recant my suggestion that his work become more readily available? I do, however, think that calling him a renegade priest and choosing not to share links to “dissenters” who leave to marry, is a bit harsh. As I said, not one of us is the same person we once were and I cannot fault those priests who realize God might be calling them to something else. I have known priests who leave to marry and I have watched them struggle to make decisions that will change their lives forever. Although it was a disabling disease, not a love interest, I was almost one of them. Therefore, I do not judge.

    And, now, I must return to my retreat and my Lenten fast from the computer. My sister called me with news about a family member, mentioned your blog, and told me she would send me the link. I broke my fast to read what had been written. I have since read a little more of your blog, not just the Cathy post, and I have enjoyed what I have read. I have even learned some things. 😉

    May God bless you, Father Joe, in your life and your ministry — both in your parish and in your blog. You are doing a service for those who may not otherwise know about the Catholic church, or any church. I thank you, also, for your blessings.

    Father Michael

    FATHER JOE: You are quite right, I am often too harsh for my own good, and probably should show more understanding to Cathy and more respect to Dr. Sipe. The emails and messages blur together sometimes and it is hard to stay cool. God bless you again, Father.

  3. Father Mike is right and like the new pope, he is a Jesuit. You are very much in the wrong and will have to eat your words very soon. Pope Francis had a girlfriend and he knows what it is to like females. Do you like girls? I think there may be too many priests who really don’t and are afraid of being found out.

    There are good men and women who are called to sexual lives and to the church ministries. My church already has a married priest and we seek to be an inclusive community. If you’re going to be gay or lesbian, you should not hide it. That is the sin of so many priests and nuns, not their orientation, but their fearful hiding in the closet. Most men have healthy sex lives and want relations with a woman. They want families. You will never have that. You cannot begin to know the joys of a priest who is married. He has it all. You have nothing. Your celibacy has turned you into a mysoginist. It has made you hateful.

    If you like girls, are you resentful for abandoning a woman you cared about so that you could join the old boy’s club priesthood. We are going to break down the doors to that club. Sorry if you wasted your life but one day men like you will be the exception and married clergy will be the rule. We will push your face in it and you will have to see everyday what the married priest has and what you gave up. More than that, we hope that women will enter the ministries and that their gifts will finally be appreciated. Of course, the church will have to acknowledge and repent from its patriarchial oppression of women. I want women priests, women bishops and a woman pope.

    I dare you to post my comment. Like others have complained here, I bet that you will chop it up or delete it.

    Married priests rule!

    FATHER JOE: No, no and no! You are precisely the problem against which I preach. It will be YOUR words that will convict you.

  4. Dear Father Michael, it is not my immediate intent to debate a Jesuit and a fellow priest. But Cathy did more than share her views; her opinions came in the context of an attack upon celibacy and the Church’s authority to require it.

    Am I condescending? It may be that I sometimes come across too harshly, and I mean no disrespect to persons, but it would be accurate that I hold in the highest contempt the view that priests should or need to be married or that celibate love is either inconsequential or problematical.

    Her comments were not the first; I am almost daily bombarded by similar views, particular in emails. If I come off as defensive then I am guilty as charged. I find the matter exasperating. I am sick and tired of the crybabies on this issue.

    Is the commentator honest? Cathy does not wonder why priests cannot marry. She does not acknowledge any benefits to celibacy. She is not asking the Church to reconsider, she is demanding it. Indeed, she is saying that the Church does not have the authority to so regulate the sacrament. Okay, she might be talking from ignorance, but these are serious matters. She is arguing that they must marry. It buys into the lie that priestly celibacy is the root cause for child molestation. I have often tried to explain celibate love. Too many people view priestly celibacy simply in terms of renouncing genital activity or not having a family. It is, as you know, so much more. I would agree that many do not understand. I wonder about their very capacity to understand. Indeed, they often misconstrue the deeper meaning of marriage and human sexuality and intimacy in general. They want to fix the house of celibates while their own is collapsing under the weight of immodesty, promiscuity, cohabitation, adultery, divorce, and homosexuality.

    Like you, I am faithful to my promises and love the Church. You relate on your blog that you met up with the wife of a married priest, one of the few that have entered the Catholic Church from the Anglican tradition. You admit that this is the first time the issue of married priests had hit you in the face. Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, a small but growing number of married priests have joined us as co-workers in building up the kingdom. They seem to be good and holy men. But there is a difference, a certain something in the makeup of the traditional priestly character. Something of this is even seen in celibate men who come to the priesthood later in life. I suspect it has to do with the formation of personality. It does not mean that one type of priest is better than another, only different. But, depending upon what kind of priesthood we want, the formation of priestly character matters.

    When the presbyterate of Washington was first asked about how we felt about having more married priests in our ranks, it was done so informally at one of the regularly scheduled annual retreats for priests. Most of us, myself included, said that we would receive them as brothers. However, I did comment that there might be an issue with what it might communicate to our people and how we would interact with them in regards to living arrangements. These are still issues we face. Celibacy is a sacrifice. Sometimes it is easy and at other times it might be sorely felt. I have spoken about this topic before. Men fall in love. But we keep our promises. We can be happy in our celibacy but some priests are haunted by memories of the girl they left behind. Men who were wounded healers in this matter might be severely tried in conscience as they encounter and interact with priests excused from this sacrifice.

    You write: “And so, this week, I wondered why it is possible for a former Episcopal priest to be ordained Catholic and bring his wife and children with him? Why can he be married and I can’t? Why can he come home after a long day “at the office” to the loving arms of his soul mate and I can’t? Why? Why must I suffer through bouts of loneliness when he doesn’t? …I believe, sometime in the far off future, a liberated Pope will change the ‘rules’ and allow priests to marry.”

    I must be honest in saying that I hope you are wrong. I think Eastern rite priests in this hemisphere should abide by the Western rule of celibacy or be shipped off to Europe where the law of the Church tolerates married priests. I am troubled that the allowance for Anglican priests to become Catholic would seem to insist upon celibacy for the next generation (as with the sons of married priests) while intimating that this discipline will be liberally dispensed on an individual basis as asked. It also troubles me that as their numbers grow; there is more argumentation for a married clergy from their quarter where I would counsel silence.

    Maybe what I echo from Church authorities are stock answers to you, but for me they have real value. The celibate priest has a certain freedom to serve and to move from place to place. He belongs wholly to the Church and we know that if he is sent to a rat infested rectory in the most violent ghetto, he will go.

    Mea culpa! Yes, I do get defensive about these issues. Why? It is because the arguments in the media, books, magazines and internet so often tout the failings of priests while giving others a free pass. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League regularly breeches this topic as an element of anti-Catholic bigotry. He is right. I never said that celibacy was easy, and it brings with it inherent challenges; however, allowing priests to marry would be no antidote to misbehavior and sin.

    Did I ever say that celibacy was a “cake walk”? Do you doubt my own realistic practice of celibacy? Like you I live it out every day. But I stand by what I said, if a man is called today to the priesthood, God will give him the grace to be celibate. It is a great gift. Given that this is the discipline that the Church imposes, God will not abandon his Church or his priesthood. Every vocation has its challenges. I regularly pray for our married priests, even as I personally feel sorry that they must endure additional struggles and penances as married men. I suspect in some ways their lives are harder than mine and yours.

    You write: “I believe that part of the problem with the misunderstandings about living celibately is that we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about being sexual beings with normal human sexual feelings. It is taboo. We are celibate; therefore, we must not feel. Seminaries do a pitiful job of preparing future priests for a celibate life. My recently ordained nephew assures me that his seminary is working at changing that — they at least talk about the struggle to be celibate. I was blessed with an incredible mentor who talked openly with me about sex and celibacy. From the time I began my studies, he warned me how difficult it would be. We go into our vocations with idealistic dreams. The reality is not that easy.”

    Yes, about all this I would agree. I hear things are changing, but past formation about sexuality was essentially reduced to Punch and Judy talks… stay away from punch (alcohol) and don’t touch Judy (girls). Repression of feelings and subjugation of passions or desires was emphasized over acknowledgment or integration of ourselves as sexual persons and the redirection of our energies toward service and community. The older we get the more we realize that nothing is easy. Celibacy, Marriage, the Single Life, Widowhood, what have you… from our jobs to our health, we find both joys and sorrows. Old dreams are fulfilled or die, new dreams are born.

    I would direct you to read “The Relevance of Priestly Celibacy Today” by Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe. He writes:

    “And yet, the problems encountered in a correct training for chastity are, from this point of view, the same ones as anyone encounters who aims to attain full maturity of personality. The specific aspects of education, both at seminary and in life afterwards, to perfect chastity in priestly celibacy are to be understood not on a merely anthropological terrain but rather on that of grace, in the sphere of which celibacy is not ‘the’ problem but one among others, and is ‘contained’ within a symphonic context of priestly training. Human maturation and religious maturation ever go hand in hand and are mutually integrated.”

    You write: “Over the centuries, celibacy and priesthood have become synonymous. However, they should be viewed as separate vocations — God calls us to a vocation of priest and He calls us to a vocation of celibate. Separate.”

    Here, too, I would draw your attention to the remarks made by Archbishop Sepe of the Congregation for the Clergy:

    “The force binding celibacy to the priesthood lies in the ontology of the priest. The priestly character, being configured to the priesthood of Christ the Head of the Church, is consequently the instrumental cause conjoined with the supernatural grace in the sacraments, especially in those of the Eucharist and penance. The priest, hence, transmits the divine life to the faithful, and this his supernatural fatherhood must not be confused with or limited to a natural one. His being and his acting must be like Christ’s: undivided.”

    Distinctions were made, and celibacy was a discipline not a doctrine, however, this did not preclude sound doctrinal connections.

    Again, quoting the Archbishop, who cites Pope Paul VI, we read:

    “In this sense, the problem of celibacy is not just to be stated at the level of historicity and, therefore, of the out-of-dateness of a ‘disciplinary’ norm, but on the supernatural plane of Christ’s love for his Church. The priesthood is not a gift given for the use of the individual who receives it, but is for others; so, those who receive it have to be able and fit to give themselves totally and unconditionally to the brethren. As Pope Paul VI put it in the encyclical SACERDOTALIS COELIBATUS, ‘The priesthood is a ministry instituted by Christ for the service of his Mystical Body which is the Church. To her belongs the authority to admit to that priesthood those whom she judged qualified —that is, those to whom God has given, along with other signs of an ecclesiastical vocation, the gift of a consecrated celibacy. In virtue of such a gift, confirmed by canon law, the individual is called to respond with free judgment and total dedication, adapting his own mind and outlook to the will of God who calls him. Concretely, this divine calling manifests itself in a given individual with his own definite personality structure which is not at all overpowered by grace.’”

    Pope Paul VI wrote his encyclical back in 1967 on this matter, “The gift of the priestly vocation dedicated to the divine worship and to the religious and pastor al service of the People of God, is undoubtedly distinct from that which leads a person to choose celibacy as a state of consecrated life (15).”

    Pope Paul VI further wrote in SACERDOTALIS CAELIBATUS:

    [14] Hence We consider that the present law of celibacy should today continue to be linked to the ecclesiastical ministry. This law should support the minister in his exclusive, definitive and total choice of the unique and supreme love of Christ; it should uphold him in the entire dedication of himself to the public worship of God and to the service of the Church; it should distinguish his state of life both among the faithful and in the world at large.

    [21] Christ, the only Son of the Father, by the power of the Incarnation itself was made Mediator between heaven and earth, between the Father and the human race. Wholly in accord with this mission, Christ remained throughout His whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified His total dedication to the service of God and men. This deep concern between celibacy and the priesthood of Christ is reflected in those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and mission of the Mediator and eternal Priest; this sharing will be more perfect the freer the sacred minister is from the bonds of flesh and blood.

    [26] “Laid hold of by Christ” unto the complete abandonment of one’s entire self to Him, the priest takes on a closer likeness to Christ, even in the love with which the eternal Priest has loved the Church His Body and offered Himself entirely for her sake, in order to make her a glorious, holy and immaculate Spouse. The consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers actually manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church, and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage, by which the children of God are born, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh.”

    Similarly, both Popes John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have also so emphasized the intrinsic compatibility of celibacy to the priesthood that it has made certain clergy in the Easter rites squirm. Of course, remarks are principally addressed to the West.

    You write: “Celibacy has been around a lot longer than the Christian church. Celibacy is not exclusive to the Catholic clergy. Ghandi was celibate. Buddhist monks are celibate.”

    Yes, and no, there is no absolute equivalence in such celibacy. It is not practiced simply to develop discipline or to renounce the reality or value of material creation. Back in the 1970’s and 80’s there was a phenomenon called the new celibacy. Business executives and others practiced celibacy so as to redirect their energies or focus to work, money and success. There was even an element of this in the sporting world. Remember the movie ROCKY? There is a scene where the aging trainer tells the boxer, “Women weaken legs!”

    By contrast, priestly celibacy is defined by its Christological, Ecclesiological and Pastoral connections. It is a sign of the priest’s single-hearted love, his solidarity with the poor, and his iconic value as a sign of contradiction and a herald of the kingdom.

    Yes, many of the first apostles and other shepherds were married. But the Church was new and still finding her way. The potential candidates for ministry were limited. Just as there is a development of doctrine (under the guidance of The Holy Spirit), I suspect that God also protected the Church in the development of Church ministries.

    As for the Council of Elvira and fifth century canons directed against sexual wrongs by clergy, we should not be surprised. Sin is not something new. And here too, a possibly married clergy did not prohibit moral transgressions among them.

    Toward the end of your comments, you recommend the book, LIVING A CELIBATE LIFE by Richard Sipe. You urge that it become more available for clergy, seminarians and laity so that there might be movement on the taboo topic of “sex and the celibate priesthood.” How much do you know about Father (now Doctor) Richard Sipe? Given that he is a renegade priest who left ministry and got married, I hardly think that Church authorities would recommend him or his works. Unfortunately, this means that a few good points he makes on priestly maturation and the abuse situation will fall upon deaf ears. But, he did it to himself. It is my policy to delete links to the sites of dissenters, but readers can find it easily with Google. I am familiar with all his books, some of them out of print, but I frequently disagree with him. In more recent years he seems to “deliberately” seek out forums where he might profit and add to the scandal and hysteria about certain topics of Church life and ministry. He dissents on married priests, women priests and the evil of homosexuality. Accordingly, he endorses CALL TO ACTION, DIGNITY, CORPUS and FUTURE CHURCH.

    We are not entirely of one mind about certain things, but know that I thank you for your blessings and will also keep you and your ministry in prayer. God bless!

  5. My sister came upon your blog, sent me the link, and asked if I would respond. I have not read any of your other posts, Fr. Joe, therefore, I am unaware of who “Cathy” is — someone who posed a question to you, someone in your parish, or someone else. If I may, I would like to address both what Cathy stated and your answer.

    As a Jesuit, who lives my vows faithfully, I have been asked similar questions as that posed by Cathy. From the way she writes, it would seem that this conversation began elsewhere. Yes? What I hear in her statement is a misunderstanding of celibacy and frustration with the horrendous sex scandal of the Catholic Church and how it has (not) been handled. What I hear in your answer to her is a condescending and defensive voice and denial of how rare true celibacy is among clergy.

    Cathy raises honest questions from someone who does not live a celibate life. She is not the only person who wonders why we cannot marry. Many priests wonder the same thing. Celibacy is something that is not understood by most laity, and certainly not the general public. Why is that? Because we do not explain it well. We have stock answers: We are married to the Church, we can better serve the Church by not having familial distractions, and so forth. We also tend to become defensive: Married Protestant ministers also have affairs and they get divorces, Protestant ministers also abuse members of their congregations, celibacy is a cake walk. Really? Last I heard, celibacy is just as difficult and needs just as much daily work as a marriage. You said, “If a man is called to holy orders then God will give him the graces for this state of life.” God may give us the grace but, Fr. Joe, we must work at it every day. Rather than doing away with celibacy, I believe we must be open and honest about what it takes to be celibate. It is NOT a cake walk.

    I believe that part of the problem with the misunderstandings about living celibately is that we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about being sexual beings with normal human sexual feelings. It is taboo. We are celibate, therefore, we must not feel. Seminaries do a pitiful job of preparing future priests for a celibate life. My recently ordained nephew assures me that his seminary is working at changing that — they at least talk about the struggle to be celibate. I was blessed with an incredible mentor who talked openly with me about sex and celibacy. From the time I began my studies, he warned me how difficult it would be. We go into our vocations with idealistic dreams. The reality is not that easy.

    Over the centuries, celibacy and priesthood have become synonymous. However, they should be viewed as separate vocations — God calls us to a vocation of priest and He calls us to a vocation of celibate. Separate. Celibacy has been around a lot longer than the Christian church. Celibacy is not exclusive to the Catholic clergy. Ghandi was celibate. Buddhist monks are celibate. Cathy brings up a point that some of the first apostles were married. So were the first priests and bishops and popes. Sexual abuse also dates to the beginnings of the church. At the Council of Elvira, in the 4th Century, 38 of the 81 canons regulate sexuality. Punishments were dictated for clergy who transgressed sexually, and those who abused boys were among the most severely reprimanded.

    While on retreat for the past several weeks, I came across a little book about celibacy, written by a former Benedictine who has spent his career as a clinical psychologist, researching celibacy and the sexual practices within the Catholic Church — “Living the Celibate Life” by A. W. Richard Sipe. It is a gem of a book. He also has a website that might be of interest:

    [DELETED – Sorry, Father, but it is my policy not to post dissenting websites; however, readers will readily find it by typing his name on GOOGLE.]

    My hope is that Dr. Sipe’s work becomes more readily available for clergy, seminarians, and laity. Reading his work might help us all to understand celibacy and to begin dialogue about an otherwise taboo subject — sex and a celibate priesthood. We are all sexual beings and we must confront that on a daily basis if we are to live an honest and celibate life.

    My blessings to you, Fr. Joe, and to your readers.

    Fr. Michael

  6. Amen Father! You addressed this response in every possible way that is true to the Catholic Church, to priests and religious brothers and sisters. THANK YOU! May God continue to bless you, all priests and religious brothers and sisters and those studying for the priesthood and the religious life.

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