Click here if you don’t see subscription options
James Martin, S.J.May 17, 2010

Can we please put an end to stereotyping celibate men and women?  Can we stop lumping them all together as hateful and mean-spirited?  Can we stop assuming that they are all the same? 

No, apparently we cannot. 

Here is James Carroll, a former priest and the author of Constantine's Sword, who was afforded an entire page in Sunday's Boston Globe,  pontificating on how horrible celibacy is.  Note the odd leap of logic in the following paragraph.  Celibacy does not cause sex abuse.  Celibacy does cause sex abuse.    

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. But the Catholic scandal has laid bare an essential pathology that is unique to the culture of clericalism, and mandatory celibacy is essential to it. Immaturity, narcissism, misogyny, incapacity for intimacy, illusions about sexual morality — such all-too-common characteristics of today’s Catholic clergy are directly tied to the inhuman asexuality that is put before them as an ideal.

Immature, narcissistic, misogynistic, incapable of intimacy, and having illusions about sexual morality?  This is what is "all too common" of today's clergy?  Thanks, Mr. Carroll, for stereotyping me, and all the other good celibates I know, with those terrible terms.  I eagerly await The Boston Globe publishing his description of other traits that are "all too common" in women, Jews, blacks, Muslims, gays and lesbians, and, well, fill in your own ethnic group or social minority or religious denomination.  Carroll goes on:

Catholic priests find ways around the celibacy rule, some in meaningful relationships with secret lovers, some in exploitive relationships with the vulnerable, and some in criminal acts with minors....If a majority of priests is able to observe the letter of their vow, how many do so at savage personal cost?

Frankly, I'm sick of this crap.  It's one thing to address the clerical culture that has given rise to the sex abuse crisis.  It's one thing to take aim at an all-male clergy that has prevented women from entering into roles of leadership (and married men, too).  It's one thing to investigate how celibacy contributed to a hermetically sealed world in which married men and women were seen as "less than," and therefore whose cries were not heard by bishops and religious superiors during when it came to sexual abuse.  It's one thing to wonder how much a celibate world provided a refuge for men with sick sexual impulses.  And, to be fair, some of his piece does try to do this, and Carroll, an intelligent commentator, makes some salient points.

But it's quite another thing to malign an entire group of people who live their promises of celibacy with integrity and their vows of chastity with love.  And why, pray, has Carroll left out celibate women?  Where are the evil Catholic sisters in his opinion piece?  Are they immature, narcissistic, misogynistic (misanthropic?) incapable of intimacy and deluded about sexual morality, too?  They live celibately, in case he hadn't noticed.   Oh, but wait, Carroll likes nuns.  "The nuns acted as if the reforms of Vatican II were real," he wrote approvingly, a few weeks ago.  But how could they do that if they were celibate, and therefore immature, narcissistic, incapable of intimacy and deluded about sexual morality? 

By the way, the vast majority of us priests don't "find ways around the celibacy rule," and if we did enter into "relationships" how "meaningful" would they be if they included living a double life?  

Overall, the notion that a celibate lifestyle can be healthy seems to have escaped Carroll.  For some examples to disprove his stereotypes, Carroll might look to people like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux or, better yet, his great hero, Pope John XXIII.  "I have spent my life trying to understand why John XXIII had such an impact on me," he writes in his book Practicing Catholic.  "Even non-Catholics took to retelling the anecdotes that demonstrated his warmth and humanity."

Guess what, Mr. Carroll?  Your hero, full of "warmth and humanity," was celibate. 

Look, I don't think the all-celibate clergy will be around forever.  (The recent entrance into the church of married Anglican priests is one indication of this.)  But that doesn't mean that celibate men are evil.  Some of them are the most loving, most generous and most caring men I've ever met. 

No matter how dire the crisis we're in, stereotyping of any sort is wrong.  One would have thought that the author of Constantine's Sword, a book on the church's persecution of the Jewish people would recognize the dangers of stereotyping.   

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
William deHaas
13 years 4 months ago
Fr. Mallay - well aware of the link to some of these letters. I also mentioned Rahner (whose correspondence remains locked up from the SJ side; not from the woman). My point - this does shed more nuance in terms of a celibate living out his charism. My caution - letters tell us some but "all" of the story? And what does this say about celibacy as traditionally defined - no special relationships? etc. Am sure we both would agree that deChardin's experience is more human, more developed than the type of celibate description you get from Greeley. It is closer to what I would describe as an adult understanding of sexuality. Yet; we really do not know the whole story.

Ruddy - you use Greeley's own words about the 80 dioceses? Where is the documentation? Sorry, you and I will have to disagree on the value of a sociological critique of Sipe, etc. using Greeley's methodology.....his own colleagues question his approach at times. I would also say that whatever his results of 6-8 years ago were - the whole area has dramatically changed...his results are dated.

Carroll - not defending Carroll or the Boston Globe. Merely stating that it is a waste of time to moan and groan and point fingers. If you are so offended, do a positive article on celibacy and present to the Globe - but, please, make sure that you address the inconsistencies of current Vatican policy on this issue; include the experience of the Eastern half of our church; include the results of studies by Sipe, Kennedy, etc.; and do a fair job of capturing all recent survey results about the catholic in the pews and the percentage who find the discipline of celibacy something that needs to change - this has even come from priests, dioceses who have called for discussion on an organized level; the recent statements by the Austrian hierarchy. Let's be honest - the sex abuse crisis has dramatically colored the way most see celibacy (you can argue but perception is mighty powerful); statements such as JPII trying to close down discussion -say that celibacy is all but a dogma, etc. have only reinforced the notion that the Vatican is hypocritical on this issue. To be honest - the current discipline of celibacy in the Western Church is impacting millions in terms of access to the Eucharist - how about focusing on some real issues. Good luck!
ed gleason
10 years 4 months ago
Not one in a 1,000,000 Catholics ever heard about Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 where it says 'two are better than one'' they get a better wage, help with trouble, keep warm together. etc w/o ever mentioning sex.. Of course we also have Genesis where God tells us about companionship..The Ecclesiastes reading will never make it to the lectionary.
Julius-Kei Kato
13 years 4 months ago
Very, very interesting discussion not only from Jim Martin and James Carroll but from many of the posts! I feel I should say "thanks" for this.
Still, I have to agree with those who say that Fr. Martin seems to be overreacting to Carroll's piece. That is just so curious for me that Fr. Martin who usually analyzes and sorts out different issues in a razor blade sharp way can't seem to get that what Carroll (and other voices like Carroll's) is clearly criticizing is not celibacy itself, nor those who live celibacy joyfully, but the fact that this gift (which -if we are to follow the logic of "gift"- should be freely chosen) has been been mandatory for all priests of the Latin rite. The constraining of celibacy goes directly against a dominical order: "Let anyone accept this WHO CAN" (Mt 19:12).
Isn't there a bit too much defensiveness in your reaction, Fr. Martin? I know how dear it is in your heart to spread the message that celibacy freely chosen and joyfully lived can make a life full. Thank God for that. But if the numbers of those who have left the priesthood or religious life in order to find fullness in a meaningful relationship in a non-celibate way (not to mention those who live out their frustration in dishonest, sick and criminal ways while purporting to be celibate) are any indication, there DOES SEEM TO BE a significant number of priests and religious (of both sexes) who can corroborate the idea that forced celibacy (AGAIN, NOT CELIBACY IN ITSELF) can result in "immaturity, narcissism, misogyny, incapacity for intimacy, illusions about sexual morality." And yes, I say this because I've unfortunately known too many "brother priests" and "sister religious" who are burdened with those factors.
Mandatory Celibacy in a system is radically different from a state in which celibacy is a TRULY free choice. I believe that those who can remain celibate forever are the small minority of any given group. When a state of life that only a miniscule portion of humans can accept forever is made an inflexible requirement of ministry and when this state is de facto the requirement for all those who assume leadership positions in the community, what you have is nothing less than disastrous. 

I hate to sound condescending but I'll say it all the same because I think this needs to be heard. You're quite young, Fr. Martin. I pray that you will experience a time when you'll be on the brink of saying, "I can't go on with this celibacy business anymore..."  Then, maybe you'll be less defensive and understand the struggle and difficult decisions that many of us have gone through, yes, and gone through while all the time maintaining that celibacy is a wonderful and essential charism ...   but, not for the many, and, in many cases, not forever. 
13 years 4 months ago
While I appreciate Mr. Jewel's distinction between mandatory celebacy and voluntary celebacy, I'm inclined to believe that since there is no strict enforcement of the celebacy requirement, a voluntary celebacy is what is truly in effect in the Church, not unlike the many Catholics who constructively pledge to not use birth control but do anyway. This lack of adherence, however, should not mean that we should scrap the mandatory requirement as this would only cause those who would otherwise exercise the spiritual will to comply with the mandate to not even attempt to attain the ideal.

- sorry to have chimed in on a message directed to you, Fr. Martin.
Jim McCrea
13 years 4 months ago
Just think how diminished this issue and these countless discussions could be IF celibacy was voluntary rather than mandatory?
The apparent failure of a significant number of men (and women?) to observe the chastity aspects (that is what we are really talking about) of celibacy is more than enough argument that the virtues of mandatory celibacy are in the minds and eyes of the imposers, not those upon whom it has been imposed.
Theresa Kumor
13 years 4 months ago
Immature, narcissistic, misogynistic, incapable of intimacy, and having illusions about sexual morality?
He has described my non-celibate husband and his non-celibate brothers and cousins.  Also, he has described many of my non-celibate friends not to mention the non-celibate stars of today's television shows.
He needs to get his head out of the sand, get rid of his bias and look around at the men in his world.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 4 months ago
Oh, come on you guys!
I like you both but I don't like it when you fight.
Frs Martin and Carroll, opposite ends of the same issue and both guilty of the same sort of criticisms they label each other.
Look, the reason we don't know if celibacy is really the culprit is because the church has put a muzzle on this discussion.
As always, when something is muzzled and forbidden to be discussed, (particularly when that institution is a feudal monarchy that claims to be not afraid of the truth) then we won't have the answers. The information we get is based on opinion from one side or the other. In other words whoever puts the better spin on it.
Want to really know if celibacy is the culprit in sexual abuse?
Do a statistical study on sexual abuse comparing celibate Latin rite Catholic priests with married Eastern rite Catholic priests. And yes, it can be done despite the cultural differences.
Until we get a scientific study it's all speculative opinion from both Frs Martin and Carroll.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 4 months ago
Great post Julius Jewel.
I think you hit the nail on the head.
Celibacy in itself doesn't cause sex abuse, forced celibacy and the failure of individuals does contribute to abuse in the same way that marriage doesn't cause divorce, but forced marriage and failure of the parties to uphold their marriage promises causes divorce.
Does the priesthood of believers require marriage? No it doesn't. I believe that the clerical priesthood doesn't require celibacy either.
You mentioned Mt 19:12. St. Paul also gives advice about remaining celibate but states this is only advice and is not binding. Corinthians 9:5 states that the apostles took along believing wives ''including Cephas'' (Peter). Paul is clear when he states celibacy isn't mandated.

My point is not to argue about celibacy today but to point out that some can live out this charism, especially those in religious communities where they have support, whereas others cannot.
13 years 4 months ago
When I was studying theology in preparation for ordination as a Jesuit priest, I will always remember what our professor of historical theology said in his homily opening the school year.  If you are "a ding-a-ling before ordination, ordination makes you an ordained ding-a-ling."  Paraphrasing Fr. Ross, S.J., if you are “a sick perverted person before ordination, ordination makes you an ordained sick perverted person." 
James Carroll is correct that celibacy is no more the cause of the sexual abuse of children than marriage is the cause of incest.  He generalizes, however, perhaps from his own experience of knowing men who struggled with celibacy, that yes, celibacy is the cause for the sexual abuse of children.  Unfortunately, he cannot have his cake and eat it too. 
Four percent of American priests have abused children.  Ninety-four percent have not.  All are celibate.  Some would say that these men were affected by the sexual revolution of the 1960’s.  If that were true, we would have had more than 4% abusing innocent children. 
There are valid reasons why the discipline of celibacy should be changed.  I do not believe those reasons have anything to do with the sexual abuse of children.  As a Jesuit, I lived with wonderful men, dedicated to helping others, living faithfully their vow of chastity.  It would never have entered their minds to abuse children. In all the years that I lived in the Society, I never saw nor heard anything which would have indicated that men were abusing children.  Were there problems?  Certainly.  But none involved children. 
Celibacy is a gift.  Not all men are given to that gift.  Some are called to the ministerial priesthood as a celibate.  There are others, called too, to priesthood as a married man or women.  So often, we forget that celibacy, as Carroll points out, is a discipline, not a dogma.  It changed in the early 12the century, not for the best of reasons.  In the 21st century, it may also change.  Paul VI took celibacy off the table; perhaps, a pope in the not too distant future will put it back on the table for open discussion.  If it does, that pope will come from South American.   
Celibacy did not cause the sexual abuse of children; the clerical culture did.  How a bishop could coldly abandon a child raped and violated by a priest is beyond comprehension.  The priest could do no wrong.  The church could do no wrong.  Therefore, protect the priest and the church.  That is what the clerical culture is about; that is not what the priesthood is about!
Our church is both divine and human.  Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, said it so well:  “The sexual abuse of children is, was, and will always be a sin and a criminal act.”  Our bishops need to stop saying they made “mistakes.”  We are losing so many Catholics because the bishops will not face up to the truth.  At the same time, people need to stop blaming celibacy. 
P.S.  Father Martin, there is no such entity as a former priest.  Even if a priest is laicized, he is still a priest.  I think that the correct term is a resigned priest.  If I can still absolve a dying person, then  I am still a priest. 
Katie Fisher
13 years 4 months ago
There have been many very intellegent and very intellectual responses to this post.  I am not that intellectual, but I would like to add my comments to the discussion.
In several of the above posts, several people have commented on ''forced celibacy''.  No one forces a man to be ordained a priest nor is a woman becoming a nun forced to take vows.  One person above even commented that the problems in marriage may be due to ''forced marriages''.  Choice is a part of entering into any vocation, be it the religious life or marriage.  Every man who enters the priesthood knows that it requires celibacy.  Perhaps the solution is not doing away with celibacy, but coming up with a better process of dicerning ones ability to live a celibate life. Another solution is making sure that priests have many possitive friendships and activities. Finally, we are all called to grow in maturity and wisdom as we learn about ourselves and as we grow in relationship with other people.
I agree with the discipline of celibacy in the church - key word:  discipline.  We live in a society that lacks discipline.  You want something, go out and buy it.  Doesn't matter if you go bankrupt.  You want sex: go get it - no matter if you objectify another person.  You like a food:  eat it, even if you become obese.  Discipline gives us the power to become free in other ways, including celibacy.
I also feel that if we are truly going to bring the discussion of celibacy to the table, let us truly look at all sides of the debate.  What about the married protestant ministers who are unfaithful or divorced?(I know several).  What about  the married minister whose wife divorced him because he spent too much time with his congregation and not enough time with her and the kids?  Are we looking at the issue of celibacy as a simply a rule that stops us from satisfying a physical craving, or as a discipline that allows us to focus on serving God more?
I agree with Father Jim.
Rick Malloy
13 years 4 months ago
Bill de Haas seems to insinuate that priests like Teilhard de Chardin and Karl Rahner are suspect because they had friendships with women.  Depite the epistolary evidence we have of their relationships, he claims "we really do not know the whole story." 
I don't know who or what gives de Haas the need or the right to demand to know the "whole story" about someone's heart or life, but I do know he slanders those whom he accuses of infidelity without having any proof that infidelity occurred. And I hope he knows people can be close and good friends, deeply affective friends, and  choose to not express their love and affection in genital, sexual activity.  I hope he has friends, both male and female, with whom he is not sexually active. Why does he doubt Rahner and de Chardin could do the same?
The vow of chastity in religious life and the promise of celibacy for diocesan priests does not mean one cannot have such friendships.  I would argue that persons who have such friendships are better developed on the psycho-sexual levels of their being. Models abound: St Francis and St Clare; Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin; John Paul II and Mother Teresa.
Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
It seems to me that there is much that we do not understand about sexual energy.  It is present from our very formation in the womb, and figures predominately in early childhood (infancy) when our psyches are being formed. It could very well be that sexual energy is very close to the "life force" that keeps us alive and connected with others.
Hence, this is very sacred territory, for both those who are celibate and those who are married.  Chastity, or the decision to live ones life without sexual relations with another human being must be lived with the utmost of care NOT to interrupt (or corrupt or block) this energy, but to "ride" it (surrender to it) in such a way as to bond oneself intimately with others.
I agree with Fr. Jim that chastity is a gift, but I also agree with others that it is a way of living that must be freely chosen and accepted, and can never be mandated.  I also tend to agree with Merton, that a person must be at a certain level of sexual maturity - that is, fully knowing that sex is not about getting something as much as it is about giving and surrendering to another - before chastity should be considered. 
Sexual energy is a very powerful force, frought with danger - look how many people really screw things up when they fall under its spell - but also capable of bringing us to an amazing level of awareness and "aliveness".  Very, very risky.  My guess is that the person aspiring to celibacy must use this energy as carefully as the person who is married.  And both are just a liable to fall short of the ideal.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 4 months ago
Katie, very well thought out comment but we don't live in an ideal world. We don't have enough priests now even with the bad ones. Sometimes we Catholics cut off our nose to spite our faces. Celibacy is just a discipline, not theological.
As a doctor I sometimes chuckle when I read that we can't have married priests because they may be on call and it will ruin the marriage and so forth. What about physicians? I will dare say we are on call a lot more. We take care that our marriage remains strong. My wife nor children do not suffer. We have married deacons and the sky hasn't fallen in yet. The bishop would deal with a priest divorce the same way they deal with a deacons divorce.
Thomas Piatak
13 years 4 months ago
Fr. Martin is exactly right about the value of celibacy.
Katie Fisher
13 years 4 months ago
Thanks, Dale, for the compliment.  However, most of the physicians I know have other physicians who take up load and they alternate being on call.  Ministry demands a lot of a person.  I am not a religious, but I work in ministry in my church as well as have a full time job.  The  adult ministry I work with is rewarding yet very demanding emotionally; it takes considerable time to do ministry well.  I don't have a family at this point in my life - and I notice that most of the lay people active in ministry are either single or their children are grown.  As I stated earlier, I personally know ministrers of other faiths who are haveing difficulty in their marriage and with children because of the time and demands of their ministry.  Something to think about.
I know that we have a priest shortage, but I am not sure if celibacy is the real issue.  Deep down, too many people see celibacy it as ''unnatural'' and think that no one is capable of this.  Truth is, everyone does not have the same sexual drive and there are probably many people capable of this discipline.
I honestly believe that there are young men out there who may be thinking about the priesthood, but are scared to consider it because others would ridicule them and make them feel less than who they are because we may say ''oh man, how can you live without sex?''.  I have talked to a few seminarians and their fear was not of never having sex, but what their family and friends thought of their decision. Mr. Caroll's comments add to the clamor.  Do we encourage young men to listen to that small voice in their hearts? Or are we caught up in the culture of hypersexuality?
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 4 months ago
Katie, I have nothing against celibacy.  However, it should be optional.  Christ called presumably both married and possibly unmarried men as apostles.  We read where St. Paul stated that he and Barnabas had a ''right'' to take along a wife ''as did the rest of the apostles and Cephas''.  If Christ called married men and if Christ/God is unchanging then He is calling married men to the priesthood today, I know some who have received the call but the Church bars them.  It's when the church makes up rules inconsistent with scripture that we get into trouble.  If it's good enough for Christ, it's good enough for me.  Church rules and tradition can be added but never can they preempt scripture. That's my opionion.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 4 months ago
I think that we spend too much time thinking about the sexuality and sexual desires/drives when we have mandatory celibacy. I don't know of any other profession where the persons' sexuality is an issue, even those who work with children like teachers! It's a hot issue and we Catholics are always involved in sexuality or involved in what is going on in the bedroom whether it's celibacy, birth control, and on and on ad nauseatum.
If we had optional celibacy there would be less focus on this aspect. Yes, there are many who can live this life and they should be encouraged but not all can and as St. Paul stated, if they cannot then let them marry.
We have seen the diaconate grow 1000% since it's reinstitution and 95% of all deacons are married. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be a shortage in the Eastern Catholic Rite nor is there much talk about sex abuse (yet).
Mandatory celibacy is only a discipline and I think it's time to reconsider optional celibacy (and female deacons like Phoebe, but that's another discussion for another day!).
Katie Fisher
13 years 4 months ago
Interesting points,Dale; however, the emphasis on sex and sexualitiy is a human focus, not just a Catholic focus,  and is a topic of discussion for everyone, irreguardless of their state of sexual activity. (have you been on facebook????  Watch any talk show or morning radio show!)
 Many ''bedroom'' topics are brought into the political arena by evangelical Christians and not so much by Catholics and making celibacy optional will not affect that.
We have both been looking at many of the practical aspects of celibacy.  But one thing stands out - that this discipline of celibacy produces a great spiritual freedom.  I am going to use a simplistic example.  I have not always been as careful about what I eat and I didn't always excercise.  I thought it was insane to give up the foods I loved.  But when I developed the discipline of eating fresh, raw foods and exercising daily, I began to look good, and, more importantly, I felt energetic and my health improved. 
I also began to realize that I had self imposed limits on myself and some of my beliefs about what I couldn't do were untrue.  My discipline in one area translated to personal freedom and a new realization that I could do a lot more in and with my life.
In the same way, and on a greater scale - the discipline of celibacy creates a spiritual freedom and the ability to focus solely on serving God and loving others in an agape way.    This dicipline mirrors the life of Christ and is a great gift of the church and a counterbalance to a society that is selfish and hedonistic.  Instead of giving in to what man thinks is reasonable, celibacy is a countercultaral call to freedom and to bring a little of the Kingdom into the world.
Those who can accept this call go on to the priesthood.  Those who don't have this particular gift go on to the sacrament of marriage.
Katie Fisher
13 years 4 months ago
You are right, Dale, about scripture. I think the church is very much in alignment with scripture. Jesus says in Matt. 19: 10-12
[His] disciples said to him, ''If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.'' He answered, ''Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. 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 can accept this ought to accept it.''
And St. Paul, although he could have taken a wife, stated in 1 Cor. 7:
I should like you to be free of anxieties. 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. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.
Seems like support for priestly celibacy to me.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 4 months ago
Katie, not really.
No where is celibacy mandated, not one word.
There is support for it but nowhere is it mandated.
St. Paul may have preferred celibacy but it appears the other apostles did not. St. Paul can't speak for all of them.
Also, to copy from what you've written above:
''not to impose a restraint upon you,''
That's the rub NOT to impose a restraint upon you. That is exactly what the church is doing.
Also, Cor 9:5 is clear, who had wives? '' the rest of the apostles and Cephas (Peter)''.
In my opinion optional celibacy is the way to go.
Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
Jim, you might be interested in Merton's views on celibacy (which I happened upon yesterday).  The following is from his journal, "Turning Toward the World", pages 151-152, and dated August 16, 1961.
"It is certainly true that man is most human, and proves his humanity, by the quality of his relationship with woman.  (This, in Marx, surprised me.)  How much more true that I realized in the past!  Here in the monastery with our chastity, we are ideally supposed to go further still, in his dimension of humanism and love.  This is one of the keys to our problems:  how can one go further than that to which one has not yet arrived?
"Not that virginity cannot be deeply and purely human.  But it has to be spiritual and positive.  And this spiritual character of chastity and virginity is NOT found in alienation.  It is NOT found in sentimentality, in a "thought" of pure love for Jesus."
[Here Merton deletes a passage of two lines.]
Monica Doyle
13 years 4 months ago
Finally someone can point out the flaws in James Carroll's suave intellectual pronouncements. Having recently read Practicing Catholic, I only became aware of his subtle, yet smart, way of making a claim that is untrue. On page 312 of his book, he states ''Indeed, it is because I take the Church's rejection of abortion seriously that I so firmly reject its teaching on birth control, which leads to countless abortions''. (Italics mine)  I recommend Mr. Carrol work in a community pharmacy, a drugstore, preferably one in an area with a Catholic Church and school, maybe even one near a Catholic college, before he makes such pronouncements. It is there he will find out what people do or do not know about the Church's stance on artificial contraception. I also recommend he talk to women who have had abortions and actually do real research as to the root causes of abortion.  I thought writers were supposed to obtain factual information before they tried to influence others by their words.  What ever happened to intellectual honesty ?
Brendan McGrath
13 years 4 months ago
I've also noticed how critiques/attacks on celibacy tend to leave out female celibacy.  Though actually, it's probably not such a strange absence; it probably stems from the cultural attitude (perhaps more common here in the U.S.?) that a male is or should be hyper-sexualized, while a female doesn't have to be - and indeed, shouldn't be too sexualized.  Nobody would find it "strange" or "abnormal" for a woman not to get married or not to sleep with people - indeed, there are many things that society sees as OK for women but not for men.  (E.g., what's the female equivalent of a "mama's boy"?  There isn't one - unless it's "daddy's little girl," which isn't pejorative.)
13 years 4 months ago
Thanks, Fr. Martin.  I'm sick of it too.  It seems to many like Carroll those of us who are celibate are either incapable of intimacy or deviant, secretly having sex when nobody is looking, or ultimately incomplete and unhappy.
That it is integral to our commitment to Christ as religious and priests apparently is not possible.  That it frees us to have deep, intimate and loving relationships with people without breaking our vows seems unimaginable.  For many, I think the whole idea of it is an offense.  But why?
Maybe what it comes down to is this: "If I can't live a celibate life, then how could anyone else possibly do it?"  If you're looking for narcissism-or at the very least, self-centeredness-here it is!
13 years 4 months ago
I once studied stereotyping but do not claim to be an expert in the topic as it was many years ago.   A couple of short comments.  
We all stereotype.   We couldn't get through the day if we didn't.  We make assumptions about things (yes we stereotype objects) and people.  If a door doesn't open in a certain direction we get a little peeved.  We expect things to behave in a certain fashion and it makes our decision process easier when we employ this behavior.   We expect people to say ''Thank you'' after we help them in some way. But we also learn and we re-evaluate everything and develop a new image of things and people.  We notice that some people never say ''Thank you'' and maybe we then think they are rude, or their culture is the cause or they were not brought up properly.  But we have an impression or image of that person and it is then a stereotype.  We all do it.
Most of the authors on this site constantly stereotype people or try to implant or create a stereotype within the minds of its readers.  One author on this site is especially egregious but most are guilty.  I could point out specific examples and I occasionally do in comments I make.   I find it common in the opinion pieces here and especially in many of the comments.
Now for my stereotype.  Mr. Carroll is a disgruntled man who is really very anti Catholic but must hide behind some semblance of rationality in order to express his anti Catholicism and thus convert others to his position.  I haven't read anything by him in a few years but this was my stereotype from what he wrote a few years ago and his present piece just reinforces my stereotype. 
Winifred Holloway
13 years 4 months ago
Father Martin, I think  you are overeading Mr. Carroll's essay.  He is taking issue with mandatory celibacy and explicitly points to the vows that religious take as part of their monastic life  - poverty, chastity and obedience - as more coherent to the life that they will be living.  His argument is that mandatory celibacy for ordained ministry is not a ''gift'' but primarily an exercise in power by church leadership. His piggybacking of the reaffirmation of both mandatory celibacy and birth control under Paul VI is right on point. He is careful to mention that he is grateful for the witness and service of many priests he knows and has known.   His rhetoric gets a little overheated in places as does yours.  We can get that way when we are exasperated, a condition I find myself in often when it comes to the arrogance and cluelessness of the hierarchy.
Rick Malloy
13 years 4 months ago
Andrew Greeley reports: "I've been doing sociological research on the priesthood for more than 30 years. There are two findings from this research that are beyond question. The first is that priests on the average are the happiest men in the world, happier in their professional and personal lives even than married Protestant clergy. The second is that men are on the average inclined to leave the priesthood (ordinarily) under two conditions: They are unhappy in priestly work, and they want to marry. If they are happy in priestly work and want to marry, on the average they are much less likely to leave." (http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2010/04/lets-enlist-short-term-priests-long-term-solution).
Carroll and others miss the fact that many celibate Catholic priests are happy and well adjusted, even more so than our peers in other professions and walks of life.  There is joy and a sense of mission like no other inherent in preaching and scaramental ministry.  The several dozen married Roman Catholic priests in the United States today (usually former Protestant clergy) will provide interesting data surrounding the questions Carroll raises.  Will they be noticably better adjusted people than their celibate counterparts?  What of married Catholic Deacons?  And is there any definitive evidence that those priests who have left are any better adjusted or happier than those who stayed? 
Just because many married people get divorced is not a reason to condemn marriage.  Just because some find celibacy a path they choose to follow no longer, because they fall in love and marry (a choice Carroll himself made), is not to say celibacy itself is deficient.  Allow people the freedom to be human and walk their path to God as they choose.  Who is Carroll, or anyone else, to judge the motive and qualities of someone's heart? 
He should reread his own excellent book An American Requiem.  There he himself ruminates on the mysteries of human relationships, especially his own with his father.
Rick Malloy
13 years 4 months ago
Here's Teilhard de Chardin on the energies of Love. Interesting to note it was written in his meditation on chastity.  "Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man (sic) in his bodily and spiritual being" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2337.  Married, single or celibate, we are all called to practice the virtue of chastity.  Best left to God are any Judgments about how successful any of us are in our pursuit of Chastity.
“What paralyses life is the failure to believe and the failure to dare.  What is difficult is not solving problems, but formulating them; as we see it now, harnessing passion to make it serve the spirit must -on biological evidence- be a condition of progress.  Therefore, sooner or later, despite our incredulity, the world will take that step.  For everything that is more true does come about, and everything that is better is finally achieved.  Some day, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity we shall harness -for God- the energies of love.  And then, for the second time in history, man (sic) will have discovered fire." (Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., La évolution de la chasteté, 1943 in Cuénot 1958:29)
13 years 4 months ago
In a culture that worships sex, that no longer teaches the virtue of sacrifice, that strives for personal pleasure as an end in itself, it is not surprising that celibacy is not only misunderstood but classified as a source of evil.

This is just another leftist attack on Catholicism.
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
13 years 4 months ago
Oh my... When will it end? Clearly the life of a celibate priest was not for James Carroll. Fine - peace be his. I am reminded of the story of the two Buddhist monks (which you and most others probably know but I will repeat here anyway) who were sworn to not touch women. They came to a woman trying to cross a stream and one of the monks carried her across with reverence and generosity. Upon reaching the other side, he put her down and they each went their own way.
Some time later the other monk expressed how upset he was that his brother monk had touched a woman. To which, the first monk replied, "Are you still carrying that woman around? I put her down at the river's edge and have let her go."
Carroll's anger will always get the better of him. Pity, he is clearly a smart man; just one that cannot and will not let go of what needs to be let go of.
And of what needs to be respected.
David Pasinski
13 years 4 months ago
As one who has appreciated some of Carroll's insights and found others too broad, historically questionable, and "pontifical" with the tone that he writes about so disparingly AND as a "married priest" who knows some (but not really a lot!) who seem to have benefitted from mandatory/chosen celibacy, I concur that he paints with too broad a brush. I admire too many celibate women - often avowedly so as religious - and some clergy, who despite their struggles, maintain a healthy and loving lifestyle.
Jim Martin is right - stereotyping is wrong and too many of my fellow reformists and leftists in their anger and disillusion are allowing these other issues to creep into their thinking- often myself included...But it is necessary for him and others in some sphres of power to sperak out more about reform of this imposed discipline.
Optional celibacy and women clergy will be no panacea, but I am likewise tired of the lack of courage of so many clergy who profess to be for these reforms who will not speak openly and "to power."
There is a cost to speaking your mind and opening the discussion. We remeber what happened to Thomas Reese...
Cathy Fasano
13 years 4 months ago
To be very pedantic, celibacy is simply the state of not being married, and the not-having-sex part is a side-effect of not-being-married. I wonder if there isn't a point about it being bad to live alone, where marriage is one form of not-alone, but then so is any sort of communal life from vowed religious life, to single people who are roommates to diocesan priests who live in rectories with other priests.This is not about sex. It's about there being at least one person in your life who needs to know which meals you are going to be home for, which meals you are cooking and which meals you will need to be fed. Someone who expects you home at a certain time and will get worried if you are late. Someone whom you will annoy if you are a slob. Someone that you will need to take care of if they get sick, and someone who will take care of you if you get sick.Someone whose opinion matters to you, who will be shocked and appalled if you do something shocking and appalling.I live in a sparsely-populated mostly rural diocese, 250 miles from one end to the other. Priests here almost always live alone, and it's a fair hike to the next parish. In the last decade or so assignments have been getting shorter and shorter. Our current pastor is in his first year. His predecessor was here for a year, his predecessor four years, his predecessor seven. The priest here for four years was transferred after one year in his assignment after he left here. The pastor here for seven years was an ''old-timer'' and so when he was here we always had a newly ordained priest who stayed for one or two years as the pastor served as mentor - and we covered two missions in addition to the church in town, which was all 3 churches in 2 counties. The upshot is that our parishioners have now been trained not to get attached to our priests, and our priests not to get too attached to the parish.I think that ''it is not good for man [or woman] to be alone'' is a pretty good overriding rule, as long as we understand that marriage is just one form of ''not alone.'' Fr. Martin, of course, is a religious order priest, who lives in a big city, and is emotionally attached to all sorts of people, starting with his Jesuit confrères. Where I am, in contrast, the way of life for diocesan priests is a substantial obstacle for living a healthy and normal emotional life. There are all sorts of ways other than a married priesthood to address the problems - but they are problems, they are getting worse, and we need to address them.
David Pasinski
13 years 4 months ago
Reading Rick Malloy's summary of Andrew Greeley's research regarding those who "leave" priesthood for marriage impels me to be a voice of the minority. I am someone who truly loved being a priest, agonized for years about the decsion to marry, and finally made the choice, as I wrote to the bishop in my six page letter, "that I am resigning to the fact that the Church will not use me for priestly service in a married state rather than my resigning from priesthood."
At that time, if I could have continued as a priest and been married, I would have jumped at it. However,as I have reallized, I could no longer make that choice even though I am extremely active in my own parish and in various "ministries," if I had to maintain the birth control is wrong, that divorced and remarried persons are not welcome to to the Eucharist, that the Eucharistic table is closed, and that women could not likewise be called to ordination. So, right now, if I had to affirm those tenets, I could not be "married priest" even though I continue to think of myself much in that light.
Livia Fiordelisi
13 years 4 months ago
Dear Fr. Martin,
I'm sorry to say it but I feel that you might have overreacted. As a celibate woman, I agree that healthy celibacy is a rich, full, diverse life that God intends to fill with the freedom to love and serve. Unfortunately, it is not always lived with integrity and there are many examples of those who live as James Carroll describes. Again, I believe that Mr. Carroll is speaking from his experience of mandatory celibacy as a requirement for priesthood. Obviously this was not his call.
Celibacy is a mystery and as such is open to much misunderstanding and rejection. This is part of the call. I know that I don't expect to be understood, accepted and certainly not applauded for a mystery that I can't even begin to fully understand. Try to be at peace with the fact that many will be turned off by your call and get on with living the rich, full life that you describe-always the best witness! :-)
Vince Killoran
13 years 4 months ago
Please don't be too hard on critics:celibacy is difficult to explain, and the value of it is not always apparent to the non-celibate.
Robert Imbelli
13 years 4 months ago
Carroll's analysis reduces the practice of mandatory celibacy in the Latin Church to the issue of power and control. There is no mention of celibacy as a single-hearted commitment to the Lord Jesus and his body, the Church. No reference to witness to the transcendent destiny of humankind. Indeed, as I recall, no mention of the celibacy of Jesus himself.
Mr. Carroll regularly pontificates in the Boston Globe as their voice on Catholic matters. His usual cathedra is the Monday issue. It was something of a surprise, then, to see his article as an "Opinion Extra" feature taking up a full page in Sunday's Globe. Holding the page at a distance and admiring its being so boldly featured, I could not but think: now that's power! It also makes one wonder at the Globe's stake in this.
Would they publish a piece celebrating celibacy? Jim Martin, it's worth a try!
William deHaas
13 years 4 months ago
Agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Rodrique.  Carroll does overstate; can let his anger get the better of him but let's be fair - Fr. Martin misses the mark at times also - he lets his biases and subjectivity interfere with making a good analysis.
Would suggest, Fr. Martin, that you and MSW have read way too much into this.  There are significant numbers of qualified and experienced folks who have written and are writing about the impact of celibacy on the church.  It is a charism that should never have been forced upon the church's priesthood.  It is a gift - when forced, it loses its power, it is no longer in a context of gratitude; it becomes a legality that loses its soul.
Let's not get into arguments about married priests vs. celibate priests.  Folks choose to leave for both good and bad reasons;  folks choose to remain in the priesthood for both good and bad reasons - we all know priests and former priests who fall into both categories.
I find it interesting that researchers such as Sipe, Kennedy, retired bishop Robinson, retired archbishop Quinn, recent writings by Donald Cozzens all address  the issue of celibacy; O'Malley's insights into Vatican II and Paul VI's decision to pull celibacy from discussion.  They all make salient points including facts that an estimated 50% of all priests are not living their vow of celibacy at any point in time (you also exaggerate on this retort).
Celibacy is a human decision and not a dogma.  Why are we afraid to discuss this issue in an above board and transparent way?  What are some afraid of? 
Fr. Imbelli - you have oft expressed your disdain for Carroll - you continue that pattern.  The Boston Globe may have given him a ''power'' forum but your response is beneath your dignity.  Fr. Malloy - a couple of comments.....deChardin - do you really want to quote and hold him up as a responsible, celibate model given his relationships (yes, which the SJs keep hidden)?  Quoting from Greeley - those comments and survey by Greeley on priests and their happiness are more than 10 years old and came from a survey of the LA archdiocese....given the est. $700 mil settlement and the fact that 71% of all LA parishes had a pedophile priest since 1960, do you really think that survey is pertinent; valid; or can really give us solid documented evidence?  What do you think that survey in Ireland, Austria, Germany, Holland would say to you today?  Rather than take pot shots at Carroll, would love to have one of you SJs address celibacy in Alaska and the NW United States as lived out by SJ priests and bishops?
Christopher RUDDY
13 years 4 months ago
Bill DeHaas's comment about Andrew Greeley's research is wrong. Apart from Greeley's own decades-long sociological research into the priesthood, which has involved broad national samplings of priests and American Catholics in general, the survey to which Mr. DeHaas refers was conducted by the LA Times in 2002-after the crisis broke in Boston, not before-and involved a national sample of 80 dioceses, not just LA.
Greeley's findings on the happiness of (celibate) priests, mentioned by Rick Malloy, are seconded by sociologists Stephen Rossetti and the late Dean Hoge. Greeley himself has criticized the work of some of the writers mentioned by Mr. DeHaas for their lack of methodological rigor.
Greeley's 2004 book, ''Priests: A Calling in Crisis'' takes up both the LA Times survey and his criticism of other commentators on priestly celibacy.
It is also difficult to see how Robert Imbelli's comment is ''beneath his dignity.'' He simply mentions the positive rationale undergirding celibacy and asks that the Boston Globe give space to a proponent of celibacy. There doesn't seem to be a problem, unless one believes that Jesus's own celibacy rendered him inhuman or subhuman.
James Richard
13 years 4 months ago
What's not being addressed when the subject of mandatory celibacy gets debated, is how is it the Vatican sees the value in ordaining married Anglican priest to the Latin Rite, but not other married Catholic men?
When you can answer that, you'll be able to defend mandated celibacy. Otherwise it just becomes a tap dance in defending a discipline that may be right for one person, but not for another.
Pearce Shea
13 years 4 months ago
Father, thanks for this. I agree completely.
To be honest, things aren't much better for Catholic couples who try to live as God and the Church intended. Try telling a co-working that you don't use birth control if you ever want to see what a boggled mind looks like. Celibacy, especially for non-Catholic women, often seems to make more sense than NFP. At least we don't have to walk around worrying who out there see us and thinks "pedophile" or "oppressor" or something like that.
But take heart. We didn't join up because we wanted to get into all the cool clubs. As the recent readings at Mass remind us, the Church didn't start with the ubermensch, but with a bunch of failed witnesses and martyrs.
William deHaas
13 years 4 months ago
Mr. Ruddy - my reference to the LA Survey and the timing was in terms of the LA Archdiocesan 2007 sexual abuse settlements.  I never mentioned nor referenced 2002 and Boston.  You mention 80 dioceses - would have to see evidence of that?
I respect the work of Dean Hoge and yes, he had published some remarkable studies about the well-being and satisfaction of priests.  But, I think his conclusions and analysis were much more nuanced than the simple conclusions of Greeley.
Greeley does criticique some of the same researchers that I mention - most of those I mention work and do research in the behavioral health field as opposed to sociological surveys and studies.  If you are going to research behaviors such as celibacy, I would place more weight on those who are skilled in psychology and the behavioral sciences in order to make any analyses and conclusions versus some type of survey results.  Surveys are notoriously inaccurate; can be easily skewed; and can be easily interpreted to arrive at whatever you want them to say.
Greeley's 2004 book - please seriously read that book.  His critique is not professional; he does question their methodology but based on what - his opinion? He offers no alternative; he cites no documented evidence that points out that their methodology is suspect.  His arguments are old, tired, defensive, and sound like one of his novels.  This book itself is outdated; events have passed it by.  Greeley, by his own admission, has his own authority issues - why, one could cynically say that Greeley never met a pastor or a bishop that he did not cross swords with or find fault with....so, how is he much different from the Carroll you describe?  (by the way, Greeley's novels seem to hold up a type of heroic adolescent celibate role model.....his novels also never mention female celibates since you mention that)  Since you have already dismissed some of the researchers who Greeley cites in his book, read Sipe's response to Greeley's book in his ''The Serpent and the Dove'' - chapters 4 & 5 - link:  http://www.richardsipe.com/Books_by_Sipe/Celibacy_in_Literature_and_life.html
Highlight:  ''Andrew Greeley claims that priests possess a special fascination because of the celibacy associated with them. He is correct. Celibacy is a source of fascination. In his autobiographical account, Greeley delivers a double dose of fascination: first in the rhetorical style with which he deals with sex and defends celibacy, and second in the intriguing way’s in which he exposes himself.''
''Greeley shows one sign of a troublesome quality —an implicit superiority toward non-celibates.  Greeley is reluctant to share his own “weaknesses,” in spite of the fact that he does include some narrative of his celibate development—no adolescent loves and no adult love affairs''  (Kennedy's 1972 psychological investigation and report described and characterized this type of celibate development but, I presume, you would reject that as did the NCCB which never published or used these very studies they commissioned)
My comments directed at Fr. Imbelli had more to do with his reaction.  Fr. Imbelli is usually a careful and thoughtful writer.  Given that, those who have read and followed Carroll know his weaknesses, his biases, etc.  So, why get overly defensive about the value of celibacy - his Boston Globe article obviously was not a thorough study of the strengths and weaknesses of the charism of celibacy; nor did he intend to do a balanced study.  So, why react to it?  Again, I think some of you have read way too much into his comments - does he directly demean celibacy?  Does he directly say that all celibacy is a waste of time? 
Finally, here is a more recent presentation about priest morale - link:  http://www.elephantsinthelivingroom.com/documents4.html    click on Church Structures and scroll down to the last article - "Why Priests Are Coping Poorly" 
Christopher RUDDY
13 years 4 months ago
Dear Mr. DeHaas,
The parameters of the LA Times survey, including the number of dioceses, can be found on pp. 133ff. of Greeley’s “Priests.” That section is accessible through a Google Books search.
The various links you provide contain interesting points, but, as you acknowledge, they speak psychology-psychiatry, not sociology. Greeley’s critique of Richard Sipe and others is that they present their studies as sociologically normative, but lack the necessary sampling and controls, among other things. Greeley can be notoriously combative, but in “Priests” he explicitly provides a reasoned critique of Sipe’s (and others’) methodology. One may not agree with that critique, but it must be engaged and not dismissed ad hominem.
In addition, contrary to your claim that I “describe” James Carroll in unflattering terms, my post said nothing about him.
Last, I don’t presume to speak for Father Imbelli, but one of his points was questioning why the Globe gave Carroll an entire page in its Sunday edition when he already writes a regular Monday column that has made many times over many years the very same points about celibacy. There is nothing new here; the dateline could equally be 1974, 1984, 1994, or 2004.
Carroll’s piece, as Jim Martin points out, engages in unworthy stereotyping that undercuts his own argument. A full-page article, as opposed to a shorter weekly column, should meet a higher standard of evidence and fairness; 2,130 words—a lot for a newspaper—allows for the nuance that is lacking in Carroll’s piece, perhaps even a four-word acknowledgment that “Jesus himself was celibate.”
Now, if only readers would get similarly worked up over Carroll’s dismissal—in “Constantine’s Sword” and its nearly verbatim reprise in “Toward a New Catholic Church”—of Jesus as the unique, universal savior and of the Cross’s saving power!
Rick Malloy
13 years 4 months ago
Mr. DeHass slanders both Teilhard and the Society of Jesus.  If we Jesuits are "covering up" something about Theilhard, are scholars like Ursula King and Sr. Cathy Duffy, SSJ, also in on the "cover-up"? If we Jesuits keep these things hidden, why is something like the following found with a simple google search?  Seems we Jesuits aren't very good at cover-ups...
The Letters of Teilhard de Chardin and Lucile Swan A Personal Interpretation by Ursula King
"The long awaited correspondence between Teilhard de Chardin and Lucile Swan has now appeared in print. The letters have been superbly edited and annotated by Thomas M. King S.J. and Lucile's cousin, Mary Wood-Gilbert. They are accompanied by photographs, explanatory essays, and a helpful chronology of the lives of the two correspondents.  It has long been known that a deep friendship existed between Teilhard and Lucile, yet few details were available before. We had to await the full text of this correspondence to discover the strong, loving bonds which existed between these two great souls.
Many volumes of Teilhard de Chardin's letters have appeared in print, made available by those who were their recipients, since Teilhard never kept any copies himself. Previously published letters give us many insights into Teilhard's personal life and manner of working, his travels around the world, and his friendships with people from different backgrounds. Teilhard was a beloved and precious friend to many. Several of his close friends were women, among them his cousin Margurite Teillard-Chambon, the philosopher L6ontine Zanta, Solange Lemairre, Ida Tieat, Rhodh de Terra, and the American sculptress Malvina Hoffrnan. Some, but not all, of Teilhard's letters to these women have been published much earlier, whereas his letters to Lucile Swan have only now become available.
They represent not simply another correspondence with one of his women friends, but they are a unique collection of very special letters which throw new light on Teilhard as a person and put his ideas, especially those about the nature and power of love, into a hitherto unknown perspective. "
Molly Roach
13 years 4 months ago
One core dilemma in the current situation is that many priests are not living their celibacy.  I am not referring to sex offenders here but rather to priests and bishops who are sexually active with adult partners or who are promiscuous.  Two issues: one is the sheer hypocrisy of this with bishops and confreres looking the other way-a real don't ask/don't tell.  The truly poisonous issue is that such sexually active clerics are subject to blackmail by the sex offenders.  I think this situation is what has drained courage out of everyone else.  No one wants to be the man who reveals this swamp because it would seem to "hurt the church."  There will be no healing until this is looked at squarely. 
Dave Cushing
13 years 3 months ago
No one seems to have picked up on KathyF's point that the issue really has to do with living alone, and not necessarily whether a person is having physical sex or not. Her observations reflect my own experience working in ministry with priests for over 30 years. The real cost of mandatory celibacy is that it attracts (or produces) individuals who have no sense of personal accountability or responsibility to another human person. As a result, the great majority of priests I know are much more self-centered than the married men I know. By and large, they have a very difficult time accepting other viewpoints, learning to live with different perceptions of the truth, and having an honest discussion with someone who disagrees with them. (To wit, Fr. Martin's angry response to Mr. Carroll's comments.) What most of them need is a relationship to someone other than their mother who cares enough about them to say "Grow up and stop acting like a child" once in a while. Even the best spiritual director never knows you the way the person you come home to night after night. Is all of this true of every priest I have known? More or less yes - and I have known some very good priests, but none of them were Jesuits. (For what it's worth, this seems equally true of most single adults I know, and it seems more acute among single people in professions, and among single males more than women.) I have lived half of my adult life as a chaste celibate and half as a married person; the really important difference had almost nothing to do with sex. So I think KathyF is exactly right, and the problem with this discussion is that almost no one even noticed.

Denny Duffell
13 years 3 months ago
Actually, I enjoyed Carroll's piece, and even though it did overly generalize certain things, I felt that it successfully made the point that mandatory celibacy IS about institutional power and control.  That was involved in its origin, and despite all the rhetoric, that's also involved today.  It should be considered a free gift (as St. Paul considered it), not mandated as a requirement.  I felt Fr. Martin's response was too thin-skinned, especially since Carroll exempted ordered priests living in community from his generalizations. 
And what does the "happiness" argument prove?  As a deacon of 21 years experience, with 41 years of full-time service in the Church, I know my married vocation is a tremendous gift to my life that I feel grateful for every day.  I work with many happy celibate priests, too.  But then, I also know a lot of happy non-Catholic ordained ministers, mostly married, men and women.  I hope that we're all happy because we're following a call that really rang true within our hearts.
And I think that call comes to men and women, married and single.  I do know good women who have left the Catholic Church to pursue ordination.  Why is that necessary?  Why is our hierarchy unable to discuss this openly?   

The latest from america

The world and the Catholic Church today need to take a leap forward “in faith, charity and hope,” Pope Francis said in his homily at a late afternoon Mass in Marseille’s open-air stadium.
A Reflection for the Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
Zac DavisSeptember 23, 2023
A Reflection for Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time, by Kerry Weber
Kerry WeberSeptember 22, 2023