Abstaining from Common Sense

Many times, I type the word Catholic into the Google News search as an easy way to catch up on news in The Church. Lately, I'm thinking I should abandon that practice, since I seem to pull up articles that rip into our Faith much more than articles that point out the beautiful things about our faith.

Case in point, an article by James Carroll of the Boston Globe entitled "Celibacy and the Catholic Priest."  The first sentence was promising, as Carroll wrote, "Like all Catholics, I gratefully depend on the faithful ministry of the many good priests who serve the church."

Hey, so do I! We have something in common James! Can I get you an iced tea? Let's sit down and talk about all the ways that Priests help us! I'm all ears!

Yet I offer a broad critique of something central to their lives and identities — the rule of celibacy.


I write from inside the question, having lived as a celibate seminarian and priest for more than a decade in my youth. Yet when I left the priesthood in 1974, I was more conscious of vowed obedience as the pressing issue than celibacy. I wanted to be a writer, which required a free play of the mind that seemed impossible in the life of “orders.’’ 

Huh? You left the priesthood because you thought you had to free your mind in order to be a writer? That's a little strange, but I'll forgive you. After all, the 1970s were a crazy time, so I'm sure that you've recovered. By the way, I won't be reprinting every one of your words. Just the ones that get a little nutso.

But now I see how imposed sexlessness and restrictive authority are mutually reinforcing. Power was the issue.

Oh. That. Boy this will be a joy! Let's see what other crazy things he'll say!

Celibacy cuts to the heart of what is wrong in the Catholic Church today.

Holy crap! That's what cuts to the heart of what is wrong in the Church today? Celibacy? You mean living the same kind of life that Saint Paul, many disciples and Jesus Christ himself lived? Wish I had a time machine to go back and tell Saint Paul that 1 Corinthians 7, specifically the line, "An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided," is A LIE FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL! YOU MAY HAVE DIED FOR THE FAITH, PAUL, BUT YOUR SO FULL OF S***!

OH MAN, I'M STARTING TO SOUND LIKE A TENT PREACHER! Calm it down, calm it down, and let's hear the author out.

No, celibacy does not “cause’’ the sex abuse of minors, and yes, abusers of children come from many walks of life. Indeed, most abuse occurs within families or circles of close acquaintance.

Excellent point. You can't say that one group of people have a monopoly on sexual abuse. Sadly, all walks of life have their bad apples, and the Catholic Church is no different than a school district, dentist's office, or the home.

A special problem arises when, on the one hand, homosexuality is demonized as a matter of doctrine, while, on the other, the banishment of women leaves the priest living in a homophilic world. In some men, both straight and gay, the stresses of such contradiction lead to irrepressible urges that can be indulged only by exploitation of the vulnerable and available, objects of desire who in many cases are boys, whether prepubescent or adolescent. Now we know.

I think what he's trying to say is that, because the church "demonizes" homosexuality, and that there are no women priests around, that men being surrounded by other men will lead them to molest children.

I'll get in trouble for swearing in a Catholic blog, but I'll say it anyways. You have got to be shitting me. Really, that's the point you are going to make, that since priests are working in a male-only field of employment, that it's going to be too much and the priests head will explode if he doesn't harm a child?

Two problems with that. First, earlier you just said that abuse comes from all walks of life, which must mean that the problem is much deeper than who you are surrounded with on a day-to-day basis. Second, it's not as if these priests never see women. They pastor churches with female parishioners. Church staffs have women. The community in which they live has women. And most priests have family, which means they do have regular contact with their mother, sisters, aunts, etc.

Your way off the mark. Sadly you'll continue though.

But when the monastic discipline of “chastity’’ was imposed on all priests as “celibacy’’ (from the Latin for “unmarried’’), something went awry. Sexual abstinence was no longer freely chosen, since the vocation to ordained ministry and the call to the vowed life are not the same thing.

Becoming a priest is something a man freely chooses to do. Nobody forces him to do so. You know the costs of the holy life before you sign up for it. But up next, we get to the heart of the matter. The author makes the claim that it's all about The Church getting their rocks off on having power over people.

WHY HAD celibacy come to matter so much to those in charge of the church? The answer is familiar because celibacy, like other issues having to do with gender, reproduction, and sexual identity, is not really about sex — but power. The hierarchy found in the imposition of sexual abstinence a mode of control over the interior lives of clergy, since submission in radical abstinence required an extraordinary abandonment of the will. In theory, the abandonment was to God; in practice, it was to the “superior,’’ who always thought he was. The stakes were infinite, since sexual desire marked the threshold of hell. “Gravely sinful’’ defined every priestly deviance, including the minor and intensely personal matter of erotic fantasy. The normally human was, for priests, the occasion of bad faith.

Oh good grief. Where do we begin. I think the last sentence sums up the craziness perfectly. The normally human part. Having sex outside of marriage, regardless of who the person is (married, single, priest, religious life, etc.), is wrong. Yes, it's normal, but that's sin for ya. It's normal for every person to sin. It's an occasion of bad faith for everyone, not just priests. And since priests are considered married to the church, they'd be cheating as well.

And nobody likes a cheater.

That is why bishops have exchanged their once ample influence on matters of social justice for a screeching, single-issue obsession with abortion, a last-ditch effort to control the intimate sexual decisions of lay people. When it comes to their clergy, the single-issue obsession remains celibacy.

Shocking, you have a problem with The Church's stance on abortion as well. It's not so much controlling the intimate sexual decisions (so creepy sounding) of lay people as it is saving a child's life. Yeah, that intimate sexual decision you refer to is an actual human being. Which makes it pretty clear that you have a much bigger problem with The Church, not just with it's teachings on celibacy. Besides, since when did bishops give up their quest for social justice?

Carrol goes on and on, most of which is too tiresome to print here. He insinuates that most Catholics ignore the birth control rule (not the faithful ones), and that most Catholic women find an all-male priesthood an insult to their gender, while hammering home some bizarre concept that The Church is so power-hungry that it puts these rules in place just for fun. He does wrap it up with one doozy of a line though.

Lies, denial, arrogance, selfishness, and cowardice — such are the notes of the structure within which Catholic priests now live, however individually virtuous many of them nevertheless remain. Celibacy is that structure’s central pillar and must be removed. The Catholic people see this clearly. It is time for us to say so.

Thanks for putting words into our mouths. That's so irresponsible to say "The Catholic People" as if you took a poll showing 95% of the population believes that.

If you want to get rid of celibacy in the priesthood, that's fine. So be it. It's a discipline, not a sacred rule, and it's something the Pope could come along and change. But to say that it's the core problem that the Church has is flat out irresponsible. Especially when we see abuse happen in so many avenues of life. This is an insult to someone like myself who regards a good handful of priests in my life as friends.

I was talking to my girlfriend Allicia about this article tonight, and she made an excellent point: Promiscuity, not celibacy, is the problem facing The Church. If the priests who abused children would have remained faithful to their marriage vows they made to the Church, NONE of these problems would be facing us. Sexual sin doesn't just hurt God. It hurts a lot of people, and the abuse scandal is Exhibit A.

It's when we disobey God's commandments that problems occur. Not from following his laws that he gave us out of love, and trying to live a life of holiness with a single-focus on Christ.


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    About This Blog

    A blog for the masses, if by masses you mean myself and family members who probably read this out of pity.

    I'm dustin Faber, the 16-bit Catholic. This blog is an amusing, sometimes thought-provoking look at my life and the world around me. Poetry, cooking recipes, gaming, faith, things that make me go awww, things that make me go grrr, and my obsession with a good glass of root beer can be found here.

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