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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Priestly Celibacy – Dueling with Dualism

It is popularly argued that priestly misbehavior is due to the “infliction” of celibacy upon candidates for the priesthood. However, it is beyond ridiculous to assert that trying to avoid sex immediately leads to pedophilia or lesser forms of misconduct. The radical proponents for married priests, nevertheless, contend that unless the priest has a release for sexual desire, he will eventually explode with an act of transgression. They insist that the priest will fall because he was bound to fall. This is like saying that a man restricted to one wife is bound to fail. Adultery is not the end result of a promise of fidelity to one wife in marriage. Priestly misconduct is not the end result of a promise of celibacy in priesthood.

Catholics are not puritans and yet an outside observer might think that we were somewhat schizophrenic. They would be mistaken, but only because of a failure to define terms and make distinctions. For instance, it is a basic premise that God is good and his creation is good. While we struggle with fallen nature, we affirm the handiwork of God. The natural order, the complementarity of the male/female bodies and marriage are all important parts to the divine design. Attraction and human sexuality are good and also authored by God. Nevertheless, we have sometimes spoken about the flesh and sexual attraction as if they were bad things. We would not want to impugn the work of God in nature. Certain clarifications are kept in mind. First, depending upon one’s state of life, one may not be entitled to the goods that others enjoy. Human sexual congress is beautiful, but outside of marriage or twisted to conform to a disorientation, and we have an evil or sin. Second, because of original sin, our level of control is seriously compromised. Our passions and appetites may threaten to overwhelm us. This struggle was taken much more seriously in the past. Stories of the saints purposely facing the numbing cold while exposed or St. Francis throwing his body into the briars to mortify the flesh strike us as extreme or mad. While in practice it may seem that we embrace a type of Manichean dualism or Jansenist self-deprecation, in theory or principle, the Church remains orthodox. We know full well that men and women are not angels, no matter how much believers aspire to the spiritual or supernatural over the natural. Third, priests are prophetic signs in their very persons of Christ’s kingdom. There is a messiness to human experience.  Our mortality is always pressing upon us. Physical strength and beauty leaves us in awe but is fleeting. We deeply desire to put on perfection and immutability. Everything changes and everyone dies. Even God became a man and suffered the Cross. The incarnation divinizes human flesh by grace and by eternal participation with the Logos or Word. We desire a share in his victory and immortality. The dead will rise. We will be restored body and soul. But like the angels, there will neither be marriage nor the giving in marriage. There will be no more need for propagation. There will be no more need for sacraments. We will see and know God and the source of life and love directly. Priests witness as prophets to this great eschatological hope.

Serious critics of compulsory celibacy, not the average Joe on the street or the tabloid sensationalists, contend that it signifies a dangerous and even pagan dualism. They clamor that it represents placing greater weight upon the soul than upon the body. Worse yet, they point out what seems to be the victory of heresy where the spiritual is praised and sought out while the material or the body is condemned and fled. They would argue that the religious celibate might be running away from his own humanity. I cannot speak for all priests. It may be possible that there are some men who see themselves and the world in these terms. Hopefully formation programs would identify such men with these sorts of inclinations.

A man should not become a priest because he hates or looks down upon women.

A man should not become a priest because he is fearful of females and afraid of intimacy.

A man should not become a priest because it is easier to opt out of a sexual or romantic life.

A man should not become a priest because he has been hurt and does not want to hurt anymore.

A man should not become a priest because he wants to be a robot or alien outsider among men.

A man should not become a priest because he is gay and wants to hide his orientation and/or lifestyle.

A man should not become a priest because it is easier to be a boy than a man.