Thursday, December 12, 2013

let's talk about sex

Pope Francis, Person of the Year 2013,
a celibate man!
"yo, i don't think we should talk about this
come on, why not?
people might misunderstand what we're tryin' to say, you know?
no, but that's a part of life!" (Salt 'n' Pepa - Let's Talk About Sex, 1991)
"well, isn't that special" to quote Dana Carvey's character, The Church Lady.  here we are trying to prepare for Christmas, and the culture we live in produces yet another ridiculous article on celibacy.  there are so many good things to read, please don't waste your time on this article from the New York Times.  rather, read Fr. James Martin, s.j.'s reply:
Oh brother. More lazy stereotypes about celibates. Bill Keller’s op-ed today in The New York TimesSex and the Single Priest” (ha ha) says that pretty much all celibate priests are lonely and that celibacy “surely played some role” in the sexual abuse crisis. By his own admission, Mr. Keller hasn’t been an active member of the church since around high school. But that’s not the problem with his piece: former Catholics have written perceptively about the church. The problem is that Keller’s article is based largely on the opinions of two priests who left the priesthood and a sister who left her order, and his own speculation about what the celibate life must be like. That’s like writing a piece on marriage and speaking only to divorced men and women. “Yeah,” some of them might say, “married life stinks.” 
Maybe it would have been helpful to look at some actual data. Sure, there is some loneliness in the priesthood--and there are problems in married life too. But the picture that Mr. Keller paints is ridiculous. 
Ironically, Mr. Keller likes Pope Francis a great deal and speaks of his overall approach to the church approvingly. But he somehow missed the fact that Jorge Mario Bergoglio took a vow of chastity when he made his first vows as a Jesuit in 1960, and made a promise of celibacy at his ordination in 1969. In short, he has been living celibately longer than Mr. Keller has been away from the church. Does the Pope strike anyone as a sad and lonely guy?
question? today's question on discernment deals with chastity and celibacy.  how does a man discern the priesthood today knowing that he will be required to make a promise of celibacy?  our culture says it is impossible.  what do you think?

thoughts!  here are comments and concerns i often hear from men discerning a call to follow God in the priesthood:
  • "I can never become a priest because I like girls too much."
  • "I am afraid that I will be lonely and not happy without a wife."
  • "I really struggle with masturbation.  I am not holy enough to become a priest."
  • "I have a history of sexual activity:  I am not a virgin.  Can I still become a priest."
  • "It is not so much giving up sex that worries me, but not having a companion.  I don't know if I can live my life happily without the intimacy of a wife and having my own children."
"Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;  some, because they were made so by others;  some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever an accept this ought to accept it."  (Gospel of Matthew 19:12)
ask most priests about their vocation, their journey, and you can often hear the echo of these questions!  if the world says it is impossible, obviously something happened for them to choose the priesthood!  indeed, God's grace is at work, right here right now!  a good candidate for diocesan priesthood should have a healthy psycho-sexual development and orientation.  Fr. Brannen writes in chapter five, "Signs of a Vocation to the Priesthood":
"A healthy man should have a normal sexual attraction for adult females and this attraction should be under the control of the will.  It is preferable that he have some normal chaste dating experiences, though this is not absolutely required.  A man should not be addicted to pornography, masturbation, or any type of aberrant sexual behaviour.  If he has ever been sexually active with a woman, then he should have a lengthy period of sexual sobriety prior to making application to the seminary.  If a man has had some same-sex attraction, this does not automatically exclude him from becoming a priest.  However, because same-sex attraction is a disordered attraction, a more careful analysis of this man's pyschosexual development and identity is indicated.  In general, a good candidate will have shown evidence of his capacity to live a chaste, celibate life."
this could be part one of many, on this particular topic.  however, let's conclude with St. Augustine, who himself said, "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet!"  He is a good patron saint for any man discerning the priesthood, and woman discerning her vocation!
"Long-practiced chastity is comparable to virginity." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II, II, 152)

ps:  every Thursday i will reflect on a certain area of discernment.  if you have a particular question, please let me know via Twitter, Facebook, or email!  for more on discerning the diocesan priesthood, please visit the older posts under priesthood.

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