|#3 Celibacy in a Sea of Contradictions|
by AW Richard Sipe - Nov 01, 2012
The church's teaching forbidding contraception is effete and ignored by most married Catholics, but, like masturbation, it remains on the books and some rigid and uninformed priests hold their parishioners to that rule with threats of guilt. [However, an archbishop, Robert Sanchez, admitted under oath that he had sexual relations with several young women but added that he "always used protection".]
Many pastorally sensitive priests join the sensus fidelium and disregard the judgments of Humanae Vitae (1968) and Casti Connubii (1930) that forbid artificial contraceptives including the "pill".
The ambiguities about sexual behaviors and the many disconnects between rules and practices constitute a grave stumbling bloc to moral development and practice. These need to be discussed.
Young Catholic college students who approached counselors for advice when faced with a pregnancy demonstrated the absurd moral contradictions between Catholic sexual "doctrine" and practice.
When the panicked student was asked, "how did that happen?" he did not get the force of the question that implied he had some control of the outcome. When asked explicitly, "why didn't you use protection?" the invariable response was, "that's a mortal sin".
The Roman Catholic seminary and religious order training systems generally are confused and also defensive about sex and celibacy. Catholic priests primarily get their sex education by hearing confessions and counseling troubled folks under stress. It is not fair. It is not good for anybody.
No seminary seriously teaches celibacy. They dabble; they deny; they avoid. At best they are afraid. At worst both faculty and students are psychosexually immature and/or sexually active.
A noticeable proportion of men with dubious sexual histories and developmental inadequacies people the list of candidates for ordination. This holds for some faculties and bishops also.
First, if seminaries were serious about teaching their students about chastity and celibacy they would clean out inadequate rectors and faulty faculty - they are legion.
During the course of my career I have met dozens of seminary rectors and faculty. Many, indeed, were fine men conscientious and upright in every way. I can name many. There were, however, a goodly number whose moral performance did not match their scholastic stature.
Secret private lives betray major character and personality deficits. Those who have to cover up their own secret lives hinder and impede the work and influence of more qualified clergy. Like abusers they undermine "the credibility of the Church's message" to use the words of Pope Benedict XVI.
Who, in the clerical culture, however, is going to report clergy malfeasance? And to whom? If the janitors of Penn State were afraid to speak up about the violations they saw, what of a priest or seminarian who will lose everything - and not be believed anyway - in a system whose very existence depends on secrecy and the myth of sexual safety
The clerical power structure is laced with blackmail and cover up. Scores of priests and bishops are aware that their comrades are having questionable, or even criminal relationships, how many have reported that activity?
It all starts in the seminary training. Rectors and faculty members who have sexual relationships with their students or who are involved in affairs with women or men do exist. (The account A Tale of Two Bishops on this Site is but one example.) I know of many others. The known cases would make Boccaccio blush.
One rector had a series of sexual partners selected serially from among his students. Another restricted himself to encounters with students who had already left the seminary. He justified his actions because they were of age and no longer studying for the priesthood.
Some students are marked for seduction while in studies and only after ordination inducted into a sexually active fraternity. (Documents record the process.) One professor engaging a newly ordained in a sexual encounter said, "I have waited eight years for this".
A few faculty form a coterie of initiates and can incorporate students into their coven before ordination. Their sexual liaisons are wide ranging and extend high into the power systems of the church.
That is why oversight currently is impossible. "It was rigged," said one rector who was personally involved in the Vatican visitation of U.S. seminaries. After I read the summary published in 2009 (in English) I spoke with him and a number of seminary faculty members who agreed it was a "fraud".
Dangerous administrators impose their destructiveness both from their sexual activity and because they are extreme company-men, conformists, careerists, and yes-men eager for promotion. Sociopaths and narcissists unfortunately are accurate descriptors of too many clergy in positions of power. They are the system.
If seminaries were serious about reformation of the system the church would institute adequate celibacy/sex education.
Authorizing priests to hear the intimate concerns and anxieties of people under the mantle of a sacrament or the aegis of a counselor without real training is criminal. And sometimes those situations do lead to a crime.
Sex education has to be taken out of the confessional exchanges that establish bonds based on the exposure of secret sin and forgiveness.
Teaching celibacy and sex to priests is not an easy task. Lord knows I have tried for decades to get the message across that adequate education would involve at least a three-year six-semester sequence as rigorous as the sequence in sacred scripture.
Any adequate treatment of celibacy and sex should include the biological, psychological, social, moral, historical/ascetical and spiritual dimensions of clerical celibate/sexual commitment. From my experience anything less is negligent and irresponsible.
(Even if celibacy were optional such a sequence would be desirable for a Roman Catholic minister who is asked for moral leadership and counsel.)
Any serious discussion about sexuality and the clergy has to take historical statements into account neither dismissing them outright nor accepting them whole without critical examination that utilizes advancements that science offers for understanding human sexual nature.
When can we start a dialogue that let's us discuss all the questions about human sexuality - every aspect with calm respect and critical honesty.