Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

One of the greatest joys of my life is to gaze into the smiling face of my wife. She like no other can turn darkness into light and sadness into joy. We have been married for ten years and her companionship has been a great blessing to my life. But, my love for her disqualified me from continuing in the priesthood.

Given the positive influence my wife has been upon me, I am continually puzzled why marriage and the priesthood are mutually exclusive. Sometimes I want to stand on the roof and shout to the hierarchy, "Marriage is holy! I have not been defiled by my wife! She has deeply enriched my life and ministry! Why does love disqualify priests from ordained ministry?"

Then the sadness comes and then the anger.

Then I remind myself that even if priests could marry, there are other issues that I find incompatible with my faith. A major pillar upon which so much of Catholic Church teaching rests is papal infallibility. And therein lies the real problem.

Infallibility, an attribute of God.

How do you challenge God?

It's hard for God to change his mind.

Significant reform within the priesthood will not occur because of theological persuasion. Persuasive arguments against mandated celibacy, Infallibility and other areas of needed Church reform were made centuries ago and continue to be made today but to no avail. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is interested in one thing, the continuation of celibate male control of the priesthood and Church. This is their main concern and the demon we face. It does not respond to reason. The stench of its odor can be detected within corridors of the Vatican, cathedrals and chanceries throughout the world. They have sacrificed thousands of priests in homage to celibate male power, not to mention the many women whose priestly gifts have also been dismissed.

But change is occurring now as Catholics lose faith in the Church, yet find a profound and robust interior spiritual life. If they still attend church its for different reasons. They go, not out of obligation, but because of their desire for a community where they can celebrate faith and share their lives. Their locus of control is no longer externalized in an ecclesiastical institution but is internalized within their own souls. For them, the Church is still important but it has lost its power.

This transformation is represented in the lives of priests who have left the priesthood. Within their lives the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are manifest. They continue to do Christ's work and the Holy Spirit leads and guides them apart from the authority of the Church. They are like Toto in the Wizard of Oz who pulled back the curtain and revealed the little man pulling the levers of power.

All the smoke and fire is an illusion.

We have nothing to fear.

We have found freedom and a whole new world that exists ... over the rainbow.


Georgecheck said...

Glad you added a blog page. This will really open up dialogue.

Best of luck.


Anonymous said...

The church has long had a hierarchical system of sacraments - by their own behavior they rate matrimony way below holy orders. Look at the stand on the indissolubility of holy orders compared to the easy annulment of marriage - even in these conservative times.

While many lay people welcome this easier approach to marriage - I don't, I think it hypocritical - it does speak of a darker attitude to marriage compared to the "sacredness" of holy orders.


Anonymous said...

Penny, sad to say, you’re right about the Church’s holding a vocation to the priesthood in higher esteem than matrimony. On the other hand, this might be a case of “oranges and apples,” i.e., an invalid comparison.

The Church declares that Holy Orders is indissoluble to protect the sacramental effects of actions performed by the priest. If those “orders” for a certain priest were subsequently annulled and declared invalid from their beginning, would not a penitent, whose mortal sins were forgiven by that priest in the confessional, have to question whether his sins had actually been forgiven?

And yet, at the same time, the Church teaches that children born of a marriage that was subsequently annulled are legitimate, as long as the marriage was thought to be a valid union at the start (all the required formalities for entering a valid marriage having been fulfilled). Hmmmm….

A further thought. Which is the more powerful sacramental sign: the one-time laying on of hands to ordain a priest (witnessed, incidentally, by none of those to whom the priest would later minister) or the day-to-day loving union of a man and a woman in matrimony? The latter, of course! But the sacramentality and sacredness of sexual union has been denigrated over the centuries by pelagian and victorian attitudes toward all things sexual. What a shame!


Henry said...

Conrad stated “The Church declares that Holy Orders is indissoluble to protect the sacramental effects of actions performed by the priest.” Although this is true, I wonder how many Catholics really believe that God does what the Church proclaims. Catholic teachings presume to speak for God and Church officials seem to believe God is obedient to their commands, but I wonder what percentage of Catholics really believe this. I presume it’s quite low, yet the hierarchy claims to speak for the majority.

When I was ordained, I must have believed the Church had this power but now have difficulty comprehending how I ever really believe such nonsense. In fact, I now consider giving such power to a church or any individual to be dangerous.

There are plenty of Islamic fundamentalists who believe they speak for God and are doing God’s will as they engage in carnage. Catholicism is certainly less violent; however, spiritually they consider their damnations to hell, like the Islamists, to be very real. And during the Inquisition and Crusades, they were all too willing to also engage in bloodshed. It must be noted that the Church did not voluntarily relinquish such violence; it was done so by secular decree. Who knows what tyranny we would be living under if the Church would have been successful in the maintenance of its theocracy. Thank God for the separation of Church and State, but we must remember that it came about in spite of Catholicism. The spiritual foundation upon which the separation of Church as State rests is the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Religions with absolutist claims can be dangerous. The old adage seems to be very true: “Follow those who are seeking God and flee from those who claim to possess God.”

Anonymous said...

the gifts of the holy spirit are not contained or limited by any establishment or heirarchy. a legitimate spiritual heirarchy can be invoked and held by lines of transmission and initiation amongst holy people, but also the unseen initiator is present and may bless the individual. there is a lot of cultural space for sacred learning outside the oppressors citadel and
openness and mindfullness is key...
a fish in the waters not thirsty.

in some ancient buddhist practices
all embrace with woman is considered sacred material this is why some women who seem comfortable in a love relationship with men of the cloth might feel more confortable with mahayana or even vajrayana practitioners ,such as tibetan monks those that where red not the yellow bearing hinayanists which are celibate.Women who love the other monks invoke the goddess upon and within in them priour to lovemaking and gazing this is the traditional practice
what i have been taught is that sexuality and sensuality is sacred and each gesture is placed in the chalice of reverence . i have learned to explicitely be within this space with the beloved

what is offensive to me as being a
woman who longstanding in a love relationship with a priest ...is that the church may have given sex and sensuality a coloring or a context which is not sacred
. my experience teaches me otherwise a particular sacrament might be invoked for people of the cloth moving towards intimacy or in intimacy
such as pouring a sacred water into a sacred water or
breaking open geodes
while gazing

all the while mumbling the sacred songs which come as a gift from god
it might be est not to institutionlize such practices outside of asia where such sacred sensual practices are highly revered

it is good to approach all beings with compassion we are all learning i have had to unlearn many harmful practices and through many losses have started fresh with
new frames on the infinite one day hoping to keep the infinite precious and vast as is its own nature
i have found it
its good to be spacious in regard to sensuality and let it express itself within our own chalices and bodies



Anonymous said...

I find this site to be TERRIBLY disturbing.

As a male in my 40's, I considered the holy priesthood. Why didn't I pursue it? Simple: I did not have the charism of celibacy (at least not then in my 20's.)

EVERY Catholic boy and girl knows that their priests are to be celibate. Those that claim that their priestly formation did not equip them to deal with celibacy are simply lying to themselves. Six to eight years goes into priestly formation. What part of Catholic priest = celibate man, isn't understood? From childhood, every Catholic boy and girl knows that Fr. John doesn't have a wife or girlfriend like Lutheran Pastor Bob and his wife Mary. Men going into the priesthood know that to be a priest is to be single and celibate. What part is not understood?!?! Everyone knows that the requirement of priesthood is celibacy - plain and simple. If you do not have the charism of celibacy, DON'T BE A PRIEST! That doesn't make you less of a person!!! Share your spiritual gifts in another way. St. Paul says that we ALL have DIFFERENT spiritual gifts! Whether mandatory celibacy is right or wrong is not the point. It's the discipline of our Church and must be obeyed. The Church may one day reverse mandatory celibacy, but for now, it is what it is and to contradict it is to create confusion and contention. And, those that want it changed, well, good luck doing it from the "outside."

Please keep in mind, MANY spiritual practices and traditions require celibacy. Is a celibate a more exalted state than a married person? Maybe. Is a PhD a greater honor than a B.A.? I would think so. Celibates are willing to sacrifice a very fundamental desire in order to service without the constraints of family life. That is a noble thing! One the other hand, if marriage weren't dignified, then it wouldn't be a Sacrament, now would it?

Priests who break their vows of celibacy are no different than a man or woman that commits adultery. If this blog condones priests "exploring" their sexuality, then this blog should also condone adultery and polyamory because in essence, those here are saying that mandatory celibacy is unfair. Perhaps marital fidelity is unfair as well. Think about it...especially you ladies that are having intimate relations with a priest. And, ladies, in this case the married man's spouse isn't another woman...it's GOD. You might be able to cat fight another woman for your "man," but I think you are no match for GOD Himself.

As a priest once said, some times God calls a person to religious life for a lifetime and sometimes for a season. It's all to learn and grow. Leave the priesthood if you realize it isn't your vocation, but do not blame the Church because this is not YOUR vocation as it is for thousands of others.

Henry said...

I can see why you find this site "terribly disturbing". Once the illusions of one's faith are challenged, it is at first disturbing.

What you are failing to understand is that mandated celibacy is not the will of God regardless of what the ecclesiastical institution proclaims. They do not speak for God with this teaching. Jesus healed Saint Peter's mother-in-law, which is to say that Peter was married. For the first 1000 years of the Church's history, priests were allowed to marry. From Genesis onward, marriage has been the norm for humanity. It is a divine right that no church law can negate. So priests who come to realize this are free to leave and their departure is not only blessed by God, it is a prophetic act to a wayward Church.

Over the past 40 or so years, 25,000 priests have transition out of the priesthood. This is more than half of the present Roman Catholic priests in the US. The rigidity of the institution forced them out. It is a sad commentary on a Church that proclaims itself "universal". Optional celibacy would be another matter.

There are many very dedicated priests presently serving in ministry, but their dedication is in spite of mandated celibacy, not because of it. If allowed many, probably the majority, would marry and continue to serve with the same devotion as they do now. Perhaps even more so because they would be ministering from a position of loving, intimate companionship.

We read in scripture that "God is love." Yet, love disqualifies priests from ministry. Any way you look at it, mandated celibacy contradicts the will of God as seen in the scriptures and serves to oppress good and faithful priests.

I hope you are able to look beyond what the Church has prescribed for you to believe. There you will find freedom and truth.

Conrad said...

Henry has already responded very logically and convincingly regarding the mandate of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. Here’s another perspective from someone who’s been there.

Mr. Anonymous, I find your approach legalistic and pharisaical. To start from the position of “it’s the law,” rather than from a consideration of all the factors involved, is unreasonable. A parent’s “because I said so” is not helpful to the child, and betrays, rather, the parent’s need to be in control.

I would prefer to comment on your primary question, “what part of Catholic priest = celibate man” is not understood? I can only speak from my own personal experience.

I believe the answer lies in the impossible demands made upon me by a church and a familial milieu that demanded a constant striving for perfection, and a social-religious atmosphere that unquestioningly took as gospel whatever the Church said. This led to an attitude, during my years in the seminary from the age of 16 on, that I needed to choose the path in life where I could do the most good with the years God allotted to me. My repeated failures in chastity during that time (masturbation — always duly confessed along with a firm purpose of amendment) only served to exacerbate my already poor self-image and drove me to a perfectionism that had me convinced, again because this is what I heard the Church telling me, that it is possible to be perfect, and therefore that SOME-how, without the slightest idea of just EXACTLY how, things would all work out all right. That was all taken for granted. Hardly an apt preparation for what was to come!

During all my seminary days, spiritual direction was woefully lacking. Nowhere along the line did any spiritual director sit down with me and explore my feelings, my aptitudes, my emotional and physical needs and urges. Sex education was limited to studying the reproductive organs in physiology. Personal spiritual advice was limited to one and ONLY one instance, which consisted in my confessor sternly reprimanding me for having masturbated and demanding that, if I committed that awful deed ONE more time, I would leave the seminary. Now. Go figure. Do you really believe that I was suitably prepared to dealing with sexual issues once I was out in a lonely rural rectory? I don’t think so!

Mr. Anonymous, you are also confusing vocations. A vocation to priesthood is not a vocation to celibacy, nor vice-versa. One does not have to be celibate to be a good priest, as was very well known in the first half of the Catholic Church’s existence, and still is today in Eastern Rite churches as well as in Roman Rite churches that have ordained married Protestant clergymen to the Catholic priesthood, and permitted them to remain married and with their families. I am convinced that I had a vocation to priesthood. I am equally convinced that I never enjoyed the charism of celibacy.

Marriage to God? What a ridiculous concept! (Except perhaps in a metaphorical sense. Now, please define "metaphorical adultery.")


Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that during your seminary training you were almost booted because of masturbating? Does the sacrament of confession not have any "power" to forgive? Seems that priests and seminarians ARE held to some "higher standard" and expected to be perfect in this discipline! Juxtapose that with marriage - adultery isn't grounds for an annulment - nor is masturbation for that matter! This seems ridiculous.

To Mr. Anonymous as well:
And frankly, for many young men entering the seminary (especially in the "old days") could one truly understand what celibacy would mean to them for the rest of their lives? How many of us understand our own sexuality or can fully comprehend marriage in our teen years or even early 20's? One has barely socially matured by that age.... Add to that the sheltered environment of the seminary and/or minor seminary and it seems to me a recipe for psychosexual arrested development.

For too long in the Church sex and the body have got a bad rap. No wonder celibacy and perfect continence/virginity have been "put up on pedestals" as the ideal state. Gosh, we'd die off!!!!! I have no doubt that celibacy is a way to keep control of the priests because it keeps them dependent on the system and dependent emotionally as well. No other "influences" can take hold very easily, since priests aren't really allowed to have close relationships with anyone outside - and if they do, those relationships are always suspect in one way or another.

Conrad said...

Anonymous #2,

You said a mouthful pointing out the "recipe for psychosexual arrested development."

For decades lately, I've been haunted by wonderings about how different my life, my attitudes and my loves might have been, had I had normal interaction with the opposite sex during my teenage years!

That the victorian environment in which we seminarians in the 40s and 50s were kept was psychologically crippling is, in my estimation, indisputable. And, Mr. Anonymous #1, I DO blame the Church for THAT.


Anonymous said...

I am in love with a Catholic Priest. Though I am not Catholic any more, I did have some misgivings, mostly because I care about him and do not want him to be involved in anything that he might regret later.

He was the one who made the first move -- I was already in love with him but never said anything because of my respect for the Catholic religion and for him as a Priest, though when I met him I didn't know that he was a Priest.

He was the agressor. He is not in the US and we met while working on a Human Rights project. He is a missionary in a third world country and is also from that country - he grew up with a severe reality about life and how the world works. But if he didn't get it then, he certainly got it after starting his missioary work.

I don't think that he had any idea what it would be like to be celibate and never marry. He was kept from even meeting girls in the seminary. He told me that he had met me before he was ordained. He was in a 'victorian environment' with regard to women and sex. But somehow, he survived it.

Because he is on the road much of the time and has never had any real time off, he is getting burnt out. Just recently with me, he has realized that he can have some companionship and a decent relationship with a woman, despite the facts of his seminary education. He is poor and is kept poor because of where he works. But he is so good to the people in his parish that he gives his posessions away - jackets, watches, cell phones, food, etc.

Even though now we are half-way around the world from each other, we talk every day,sometimes twice a day and he has finally planned a vacation - we plan to spend two weeks together as soon as I can get the money together to get there. The I plan to help him get to the US to get his Masters degree.

He is an extraordinary man, I admire him greatly for his work and who he is. It was God's plan for us to meet - it had to be because neither of us planned to fall in love with each other. We both tried, without success to stop it. I have been married(my husband died some years ago)so I know what it is like to love but I love this man more and differently than anyone I've ever met.

I and he are both well-aware of the road ahead of us and we are prepared to deal with it as much as anyone can be prepared for it. I wanted him to be certain of his feelings and make the decision first - he again made the first move and calls our planned vacation together 'our honeymoon'.

Our future is uncertain but so then, is everyone's. I don't plan to ask him to give up being a Priest. It will be his choice and his decision. I don't plan to give him up either. He is aware that his life could become difficult and if he is forced to make a decision, I am prepared to accept it, but I won't give him up voluntarily.

It is time for the Church to wake up and smell the coffee - to change. If he could be married, we would not be going off on a vacation together but I would be there helping him with his ministry. I would be an asset to him and his ministry and he has even said that I would. He knows how much I care about his people and about helping the poor.

From the articles I've read and those whom I've known, I think most men who have left the priesthood to get married would have stayed if they had been allowed to be married priests. I also think that the continued adherence to an archaic rule has brought the Church to a situation that it has been forced to accept a great deal less than the best men to admit to the priesthood in recent years when they could have accepted wives who would be an asset to the ministry. The choice of celibacy should be optional for all priests.

Henry said...

I admire both of your courage and ability to see that your love is a gift from God, regardless of the church's insistance upon mandated celibacy. God and his gift of love are not controlled by the church, especially when their teaching is as irrational and non-biblical as mandated celibacy is. Your comment about mandatory celibacy greatly shrinking the pool if gifted and and qualified people for priestly ministry is so very true. It is creating a crisis situation in the church. Celebrate your love with enthusiasm and thank God for his gift. There are many places he can minister with you at his side and with God's abundant blessings. Too bad the Catholic church cannot give you the same. One of the best views of Catholicism is in the rear view mirror.

Anonymous said...

What I can't understand is why I so often read that priests who have resigned, married, and joined another denomination who accepts the marriage and allows the priest to have a ministry--but they still say they wish the RC church would change its views so they can go back to it? Why? The church was the oppressor, made the priest unhappy enough with its regulations so that he left and wasn't that understanding or supportive at his leaving. Not only that, but the church's antiquated and not very reasonable stance on many things besides mandatory celibacy would still exist even if it changed the rule there. The best move I ever made in my life was when, as a youngster, I vowed to myself "I am not going to let this institution control me or force me to lead a life of guilt." I voluntarily left the RC church and I would never return as a member of something I consider to have all the earmarks of a cult, starting with the reliance upon an infallible leader.

Henry said...

I appreciate your comments and commend you for your ability to not allow the Catholic Church to control you or inflict guilt upon you. The reason some of us continue to strive to promote reform within Catholicism, even though we have moved on with our lives, is because we desire see the Church become more inclusive for the sake of generations of Catholics to come, as well as for those within the Church who would like to see reform occur. Many have shaken the dust from their feet and no longer wish to engage the institution because of the pain it has caused and that is understandable. Yet, others find themselves compelled to promote reform, even though they are a voice in the wilderness.

Rosanne Dingli said...

It is for reasons much deeper than that, Henry.
If our tennis club did not want us to take our children along on the weekends, and made us dress a certain way, or not eat certain things, we would shift to another club... why, even consider playing basketball instead! We would not stay on, and go through enormous privations and discomfort, would we? Why don't Catholic priests shift, and join a denomination where they can have the best of both worlds?
It is because of cultural and psychological conditioning about what they really consider the RC church to be: it is deep and almost immutable.
You saw the light, but many cannot because they take their role as Sheep rather literally and soulfully. I am not making fun or taking it lightly: but it is so. It is an ingrained regard that places the RC church not only above themselves but also above all other churches.
Moving to a more enlightened or flexible 'club' is not an option for them. They would rather suffer and 'sin' than shift and be comfortable elsewhere. This is of great interest and mystery to me and others like me.
If one thinks so many of the church's edicts are so unrealistic, why follow them? Why stay on? Some people would rather battle and argue and write and debate about contraception, celibacy, female ordination... when they are all available elsewhere! Can you see how some people are right to feel perplexed at such behaviour? What sort of a hold does the RC church have that makes these people immobile?

Henry said...

It is difficult to understand the hold the Catholic Church has on priests unless you have turned your heart and soul over to it by way of ordination. I once counseled a woman who had been involved in a cult and couldn't help but see similarities. This is not to say the celibate priesthood is a destructive cult, but the emotional hold it has on priests is similar. I wrote about why it is had to leave on my website and you can find it at this link: http://www.leavingthepriesthood.com/#anchor_113

Anonymous said...


Until recently, my priest who lives half way around the world from me and I had not met in person. We talked on the phone almost daily and we chatted a lot over the Internet. I am the anonymous from April 7, 2010 above.

Recently, after knowing each other for almost two years, he was able to come to the West - he is from India. We met for a very short time because his trip was paid for by an order of priests in Canada, and they demanded most of his time. This was supposed to be his vacation and he has ended up being at the beck and call of the head priest of the order.

However, the important thing is that we met in person and we both remain committed to each other for the long term.

I feel badly that he is in this position because if the Church would relax the celibacy rule, I think that he would easily make a decision. This way he is caught in a place, where he is really in love with me and I with him but beause he wants to be a priest, is forced to hide that love from everyone.

He went into the seminary when he was 15 years old and was actively prevented from any exposure to women. But despite that he is completely ok with loving me both spiritually and physically. So he must have decided that he didn't agree with the celibacy rule at some point.

We both view our love as a gift from God and we are looking forward to being together while he studies here in about a year. But the questions remains as to what he will ultimately decide because if he remains a priest, he will not be able to maintain a relationship with me. But for now, he is mine and I intend to do everything in my power to keep him with me.

Some of the postings that I have seen here and other sites, are from women who have been in similar situations and who advocate running away from him as fast as you can, but I can't do that with this man. I have waited all my life for such a man and now that I've found him - I don't plan to give up without a fight.

I can see what is happening to him even now - he is incredibly busy all the time, running from here to there when in India and while in Canada, they have arranged meetings all day every day, so he doesn't have a minute to himself-- always doing the work of the Church. He will be burnt out in a couple of years and be a shell. I don't want that to happen to this man. He is too valuable to his people and to me.

I want to help him with his work and I know that I would be a huge help to him, but the Church dictates otherwise. Women can be the mothers of priests, but otherwise, we can't do anything to help.

When I asked him how he knew so much about sex, he said that he learned a lot when he was studying about being a counselor but that a lot comes naturally. Well, if that is the case, then how is it that the Church demands that the priests deny their own human nature by remaining sexless for their entire lives?

It is completely natural for a person to have a companion in life and denying that to these men is a critical mistake. Is it any wonder that the Church was unable to detect the pedophiles and perverts that it took into its ranks?

Because the Church turns a blind eye to the actual nature of humans is exactly what has contributed to the scandals of recent years and the damage to individuals who trusted the Church - children.

Perhaps when the Church changes its viewpoint on this subject, some people might consider returning to the Church. But it is likely to be too late for many because of all the pain the position on celibacy inflicts on the priests involved as well as those who might be a comfort and help to them.

Henry said...

I appreciate your comment regarding mandated celibacy: "the Church turns a blind eye to the actual nature of humans". I experienced a kind of removal from the rest of humanity while in the priesthood. It is hard to put into words. Deep in my heart, I felt a little like a bird in a cage who longed for intimacy and love but the cage made it impossible. Yes, there were lots of acquaintances and friendships, but the cage made it impossible for a true heart to heart connection. There was a deep part of myself that I was denying that made life less fulfilling and I did not perceive it as bringing me closer to God. If anything, it was the opposite. I felt a little like an odd ball, perhaps even pitied by some people because of the lifestyle I was forced to live. This did not preclude some very satisfying times in ministry, but like a background noise, this sense of being distanced from the rest of human and the deep loneliness that brings, was always there.

Anonymous said...


One of the things that I noticed about this entire situation is that there is a lot of talk about sex in relation to celibacy but not much attention is paid to that which you bring up. That is the craving of one human being for the companionship of another, which I think is more important in a relationship than anything else.

In a recent discussion I had with a present day seminarian, I brought this up to him and he really knew the 'party line' regarding celibacy and incredibly believes it - that it is a holy state - and kept trying to justify it to me(he has no idea about my priest). I think that he wants to be priest so much that he is taking this as part and parcel with the priesthood and is unable to look at it from the viewpoint that it is mandated by the Church and not by God.

Heaven forbid that any of the hierarchy of the Church take the view that wanting to have a companion in life is part of human nature and that celibacy is an unnatural state. I happen to think that it is part of the smoke and mirrors used by the Church to set the priests above those of us women who might 'tempt' the priests to let their hair down and actually become human and completely relate on an intimate level with another person - a woman.

Before we met in person, I warned my priest that he would change in ways that he didn't expect and I asked him if he was certain that he wanted to do this. He was certain and I am certain that he HAS changed in ways he didn't expect, though the time we had together was very short.

For the first time in his life, he talked to someone on a very intmate level and once you have experienced that, it is not possible to go back to the way you were.

It is this that the Church is afraid of - the human intimacy - having priests experience. While sex can lead to this, sometimes it doesn't. But if a man is barren of human emotion by being barred from experiencing the love of a woman and the emotional intimacy that accompanies it, then he is easier to control. For it is the emotion and intimacy that is the very essence of man - it is part of what makes us different from the animal kingdom.

Henry said...

While in the priesthood, I remember a discussion with other priests about the need for intimacy. It became apparent that one of the things many if not most priests long for is a significant other to look behind the curtain of their public ministry and love them for who they are as human beings.

Within his ministry, a priest has many acquaintances and friends, but few priests find them to make that intimate connection, which is found in a relationship of love. And yes, this involves much more than sexual intercourse. Mandated celibacy tends to, by its nature, define intimacy as sexual because celibacy is all about abstaining from sexual activity. Normally, the word “conjugal” is used by celibates in the Church to talk about marriage and it almost always infers sexual intimacy with little understanding of anything else that marriage entails. Yet, married couples realize their relationship is far more complex than sexual intimacy, something celibates have difficulty understanding.

Mandated celibacy defines a priest by sex and puts an inordinate amount of attention on his sexuality. The current sex abuse crisis reinforces this understanding, which is unfortunate. I remember attending a Natural Family Planning workshop with other priests. During the workshop, a couple was showing their chart indicating when they were fertile, which in turn indicated when they were to have intercourse or not, depending if a pregnancy was desired or not. At the top, were a few Xs. One young priest asked, “What are the Xs for?” The couple replied, “That is when we had sexual intercourse.” The priest said, “I thought there would be many more Xs.” – Spoken like only a young celibate could.

It is easy for celibates to view women, or men if they are gay, as sexual objects because their training and the ambiance in the seminary and priesthood defines celibate as sexual. The main thing about celibacy is to abstain from sexual activity, which keeps their sexually up front and center. I think this emphasis over stimulates their sexuality, particularly for younger priests. And because they are trained to run off to confession each time they masturbate, many become somewhat alienated from their sexuality. This also turns women into sexual objects.

Living one’s life within the environment of mandated celibacy is a very strange place to live.

Anonymous said...

I've never thought of an affair with a priest, but had a weird relationship with one. I went for counselling once, because I had decided to not be around my parents and siblings anymore, and recently, my nephew had committed suicide. Not exactly light fair, but I still got no real counselling from said priest. It was very awkward. He seemed overwhelmed at church, at times. Cud lapse into a weeping spell. My husband and I thought we cud reach out and invite him for dinner. It seemed as though I became a muse to him, for his sermons. Sounds weird, but I liked the attention. I was on shakey ground with my father, and still upset about nephew, I was going along with the schoolkid's crush. Before I knew it, I became the harlot to others of his circle who he must've talked to. Why does this happen to people who are hurting to begin with and go for help? Insult to injury. I sent him a letter and said I was sorry if this hurt his standing at the church. I didn't think I'd crossed any line, but even if I went to another church to get away from it their sermon was about adultery. I'm either imagining all this, or is there some lesson in seminary about how to totally destroy susceptible women?

Henry said...

Just because a man has been ordained a priest does not mean he is emotionally mature. Sounds like this one has some serious problems. When it comes to relationships with women, some are emotionally arrested because they have never taken the opportunity to experience intimacy at a very deep level. He may be physically 60 years old or whatever but is an adolescent when it comes to issues of intimacy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to get something off my chest. I may consider confession in the future. I am currently going through an annulment for my first marriage and I find it to be emotionally, psychologically liberating so far. I hope the end result is too! I am remarried for a second time. We had a civil marriage with the JP. It is not a marriage of love and passion but of convenience and financial security. Both my husband and I are very fond of each other and are friends. If he were to have a sexual affair it would not bother me; actually I would b relieved because it would take the pressure off of me. We have a 4.5 y/o daughter. At the time I became pregnant I was considering divorce because of the so many problems he was having with his ex-wife and my step kids. I gave in to shut him up for a while and bam, it happened, pregnant for the first time at 44! We love our daughter and we have a nice family.

I went to the parish priest to ask about returning to the church, the annulment process and confession. I've had a difficult life and want to gather my baggage and say good bye to it. I met the priest who was very charming. He was stern and to the point and not flirtatious. We did connect at an emotion level even were humorous with each other. I was impressed by his good looks for a 50 year old man. I am in sales and customer service and I naturally struck up a conversation with him which he seemed uncomfortable with but was cordial.
He gave me the advice I needed and I went on my way. I admit, Easter Sunday after mass I exited the church and gave him an Easter greeting. His big smile, glad to see me, floored me!

In the meantime, I wrote him a thank you letter that week and complimented him on how I enjoy his Mass.

The next week while I exited, I greeted him and he had a look of love in his eyes; pupils dilated and he took a deep breath. It was noticed by my husband who snickered. I was flattered but I admit, I felt the charge and can't get him off my mind.

I think my "crush" is stupid. I haven't felt this way since my first love at 15 (which my parents intercepted). My heart is a flutter. I want to get him off my mind. I avoided him last Mass and slipped out the side door and will continue to do so. It is so unrealistic a priest and a married woman. I need to be flogged emotionally. I wish he to be mean to me and break this spell.

I do thank him for sparking a dormant emotion from within my soul.

Thank you for listening.

GI Jilly said...

I came upon an article that referenced this blog. I was Baptized Catholic but later Chrismated through the Orthodox Christian Church. I never liked Vatican II, nor Vatican I, which (as many other things) required celibacy in Priests. Orthodoxy is unchanged after 2,000 years and our Priests marry. Mind you, they must be married before Ordination, but I thought it important to show that there are additional arguments for allowing married Priests. I think God puts these decisions in front of people for a reason and it's not any set result. Follow your Nous and you will always be right. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Wait, but don't you guys realize the challenges of celibacy when you decide to become a Roman Catholic priest? My friend stays away from priesthood for he cannot leave his BF for 15 years, through I think he would be an excellent priest…I have never thought the this subject would be this complicate...I'm converted from an atheist and mixed Tao-Buddhism background, the basic understanding of getting into a monasticism business is that they can pursuit whatever things earthly (money making is encouraged) save eating meat and mating with others openly…the easy part for them is that we don't care their personal lives however messy up or corrupt they maybe. Meanwhile they have made up new trends of "old philosophy" like to have healthy sexual relationship is essential for the balance of inner power, and they will show you how to do it right for free..
if priesthood is a social occupation and the Church a corporation, these rules are definitely unacceptable (save it is in Japan); while if the Church is perceived as within the Holy Spirit , it would not be a question of personal will. So the main issue here is to choose between remaining a Roman Catholic or simply leave this religious stuff altogether. No one can stops it if someone wants to become an atheist, just enjoy the job as a priest and personal life at the same time; the Church is false so all its moral teachings are invalid too, and personal fulfillment is the most important thing for living a life, then why do you still care anyway ?

Anonymous said...

Wait, but don't you guys realize the challenges of celibacy when you decide to become a Roman Catholic priest? My friend stays away from priesthood for he cannot leave his BF for 15 years, through I think he would be an excellent priest…I have never thought the this subject would be this complicate...I'm converted from an atheist and mixed Tao-Buddhism background, the basic understanding of getting into a monasticism business is that they can pursuit whatever things earthly (money making is encouraged) save eating meat and mating with others openly…the easy part for them is that we don't care their personal lives however messy up or corrupt they maybe. Meanwhile they have made up new trends of "old philosophy" like to have healthy sexual relationship is essential for the balance of inner power, and they will show you how to do it right for free..
if priesthood is a social occupation and the Church a corporation, these rules are definitely unacceptable (save it is in Japan); while if the Church is perceived as within the Holy Spirit , it would not be a question of personal will. So the main issue here is to choose between remaining a Roman Catholic or simply leave this religious stuff altogether. No one can stops it if someone wants to become an atheist, just enjoy the job as a priest and personal life at the same time; the Church is false so all its moral teachings are invalid too, and personal fulfillment is the most important thing for living a life, then why do you still care anyway ?

Henry said...

Many of us care because we have seen mandated celibacy to be an oppressive law that is hurting both priests and the Catholic Church. So we do what we can to promote reform.

Forbidden-to-Love said...

Henry, I am a victim of the law of celibacy. I am trying to break the wall of silence as I wrote my memoirs and by running a website where support and understanding can be found. I hope that things will change in the Catholic church. I believe that they don't need to remove the law of celibacy but they should to leave some room for the freedom of choice.

Thank you for listening!

Louise Ouellet

Anonymous said...

Celibacy is beautiful and women should support our priests in their vocation. It might not be easy, but our love affairs should be with Christ, not with vulnerable, lonely priests who need our spiritual companionship.

Henry said...

Anonymous, isn't that the problem? Celibacy has created "vulnerable and lonely priests" whom you suggest need sympathy. It is unfortunate that the institutional church has placed priests in a situation in which they are pitied. They live in glass houses and people pity the sad lifestyles they are forced to endure. This is demeaning to priests and becomes evil when they are ridiculed for desiring intimate companionship. Laity need to understand that their ridicule is abusive to both the priest and those those who love them. Their ridicule needs to be directed toward the institution that creates this sick system.

Anonymous said...

Henry, Conrad and the rest of you out there, the priest shouldn't be pitied but those who do not understand the meaning and profundity of the priesthood should be. No created thing can satisfy the longing in man only God can do that. Now it is funny that you claim that the priest totally devoted and dedicated to God lives a lonely and pitiable life because he has no wife beside him. This points to the fact that you guys have a fundamental problem- it is obvious from your post that you have no personal knowledge, experience nor faith in Jesus Christ. All you speak about is material pleasure, wordly comforts, selfish sense of human security but absolutely nothing of the qualities we know were associated with Christ - self sacrifice and discomfort even to the point of death for the sake not of his girlfriend but of humanity. If there is anything we can say of the earthly life of Christ is THE CROSS. The will of the father put him him in the most painful of conditions, contrary to his own will, to the point of the most gruesome of deaths. Now the priest is meant to be another Christ. What does that mean for you? A life of ease and human comforts, a life of continually questioning and defying divinely constituted authority? A life of seeking ones own will and satisfaction? Don't you see your view of the priesthood is diametrically opposed to that of Christ? So please before you call for a radical reform of the Church and lead people to buying your ideas, take some time to get to know, to experience and love God and maybe he will grant you the grace of becoming a better priest.

Henry said...

You are judgmental has hell aren't you. I served in the priesthood for 15 years and Conrad longer than that. How many years have you served?

My faith in Christ is robust and I continue to serve him in ordained ministry (33 years) albeit 18 years outside of Catholicism.

I never have cared for substitutionary atonement, i.e., God needed to send his Son to die on the cross so we could be forgiven ... He would be arrested for child abuse today. What kind of monster God needs to have his Son killed in order to forgive? There are other understandings of Christ's death that make more sense to me and many others in mainstream Christianity. Substitutionary atonement was developed by Anselm hundreds of years ago where God was seen as a King who demanded someone pay the price for sin. It is an archaic image of God and one that destroys faith for those who think about it.

Catholic fundamentalism, like other fundamentalisms is harsh and dangerous. Fundamentalists think they have all the truth and others should follow them. I suggest you expand your view and let God be the judge.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to know how you would explain the paschal mystery completely divorced from its being a meritorious atonement for sin and door to salvation without radically contradicting the very words of Christ in Scripture. And I didn't mean to sound judgemental, I was only analyzing the comments which opened a wide gate to understanding, to some extent, the persons behind them. Fundamentslism is very dangerous indeed, but one should not confuse that with holding on to the truth. When for fear of being called fundamentalist we abandon what we know to be the Truth, then we invariably decide to wallow and grope in darkness and ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your journey and facilitating this discussion. I was blessed to come across it today. I am in a silent relationship with a priest. I would love to see the Latin Rite decide to be more of a both/and institution, and have both a celibate option and a married option for their priests, as that more fully encompasses the totality and universality of the Catholic/catholic/Christian faith, history and tradition, and it's the right thing to do.