Wednesday, February 16, 2005

CELIBACY! CONSECRATED CHASTITY! Is it for cold blooded, unaffectionate schizoids ?

I am a Catholic priest. For over fifty years I have been a priest. I am dedicated and vowed to celibacy/ consecrated chastity. Over those fifty years, literally hundreds of persons have by innuendo, indirection or outright allegation challenged or questioned me about my sanity, my sexual balance or my inanity----in relation to celibacy. I have been asked: " How can any one live without an active sexual life ?" Surely, they say, celibacy HAS to make a person unbalanced. ( Obviously, there are persons who are celibate who belong in mental hospitals for reasons other than celibacy.)

The message which has across to me was that anyone so distorted as to take a vow of celibacy---for whatever reason- -must be terribly cold about human love. Such a person must be flat emotionally and certainly sexually repressed. Celibates must be distant, egg-headed and heavily involved in cerebral pursuits. Celibates must "work it off " by gardening, bee-keeping or obsessive screaming on protest , lines outside abortion mills. Male celibates surely must, if not hate women, view females as unattractive, undesirable, useless or uninteresting with the possible exceptions of quasi-maids, secretaries or surrogate mothers.

Celibacy, as outlined above, leads, I have been told, for bothmen and women into fornication, adultery, porno, pedophilia, masturbation, homosexuality and --for males--into fear of the opposite sex. As the " hip" generation sees it--if only these poor, deluded " chastity" people had what street wisdom calls "healthy" sexuality, the above mentioned sexual difficulties would disappear or at least be attenuated.

The highly publicized sexual scandals of the past decade could hardly have happened, they say, if Gen X values were taught and lived. It is all traceable to this crazy, outmoded idea of celibacy.

How does a celibate respond to this challenge?

The description outlined above baffles me. I, as a celibate of more than half a century, with thousands more like me, am astounded at the superficial observations of what I would have called knowledgeable and educated people.

Study after study has shown that the real link between the sorry, sick litany listed above is not a married state or an unmarried state. It is self image. It is not sexual experience or a lack of sexual experience which is the powerful determinant. It is self concept. It is how we feel and think about ourselves. To jump on celibacy as if it were THE factor for deviation is to drag into the framework a very large red herring. Does Gen X know that, according to the study from Emory University, 80 % of all crimes involving pedophilia were done by MARRIED men? That these men would have committed these crimes even if they werecelibate? Problems come not from sexual experience per se or from non sexual experience per se ! They come from identity--way down deep identity.

Afraid of girls ? Dislike girls?I ( and the thousands of other celibates) can’t identify with such weird and unnatural sentiments. I remember being in love ( defined as being smitten by the beauty and charm of girls) with so many females in my life time. Start with the fourth grade and Marie Becker who was " my girl" at that time. In High school, I was the local Romeo.

Even when I was 12 and highly skilled in dancing the Lindy, Bunny Hug and the Shag, I flirted with girls outrageously. I had a vaudeville background as well as a generous Jewish cousin named Irwin who gave me his old jacket with huge, padded shoulders. With such a formidable array of equipment, I would charm giggling young girls. Once, as I so behaved, a jealous classmate, Jackie Weir grabbed the shoulders and shouted : "Look, girls, they’re fake." Even at that age, I, the future celibate, LIKED females.

I fondly remember my college girl friend, Dolly Laura Stock who was reputedly the best looking girl in the parish and a terrific dancer---if not too swift academically. We were strongly attracted to each other. Dislike her and women?Afraid of her and women in general? Hear me: NO WAY ---not at all.

Even as a priest, I have been deeply attracted to many women. Sharing the priesthood of Christ did not and does not diminish my human nature. Put another way, being a priest does mean jettisoning my manhood. In Africa, there were many women with whom I was close. And indeed loved in the priestly and Jesus manner. This is celibate love. Some of them have died. All have aged. Some were nuns or single women or wonderful married women. All were my friends, none of whom I exploited but all of whom were dear friends. In the United States, I have met and admired and befriended scores of women. To this day we have loving friendship and ( sorry to disappoint the street smart guys )they consider me warm and loving and funny and great to be around.

And there are thousands like me--nuns and brothers and priests who understand experientially that love is a "helluva lot more" than sex alone. We do have our clinkers and maybe even the street smart set has its own clinkers. Are the critics and the moderns all so perfectly balanced that they never go to shrinks or divorce lawyers or all night bars where they can have access to "sleeping pills" ?

As a practicing psychologist, I have been leading groups for years, groups mostly of young people with huge, crippling difficulties with interpersonal relationships. Most of the timethe problems center around what look like sexual behaviour but which, upon closer examination, turn out to be problems of self esteem or self concept. The oft repeated insistence on the "correctness" of sexual intimacies seem strangely linked to what appears to be a frantic attempt to justify such behaviour. A young person will fiercely insist that all that is really needed is to accept the naturalness of sexual intimacy. Every one is doing it. All we have to do is relax and accept our actions. We must throw off the inhibitions of the past and so on and so on.

I am startled and dismayed but even at times pleased. Why pleased ? I am a Catholic priest. Why do they come to me to speak of actions clearly antithetical to the Catholic code? Do they expect and want some kind of punishment?

Do they know --on some deep unconscious level-- that they are self destructive and seek some kind of rescue from"Father"? Or Mother Church?

When I point out the inconsistency and incongruity of their life stance and when I ask : " If sexual behaviour really frees you from emotional constriction, what are you doing here--in a shrink’s office?" They boggle and stammer and close down. Really now, babe, who is the mixed up one?

I have been asked at least 100 times: "Jimmy, didn’t you ever want to get married??" To which I jauntily reply: " At least, l,OOO times." Of course, marriage is powerfully attractive. Of course a loving sexual union with a beautiful wife is very alluring. Of course, having one’s own children has incredible and profound appeal. But, there is a very Big Something else. There is an overwhelming call from God which every consecrated celibate understands as so pre-articulate, so intense, so persistent that one simply chooses ( note the word carefully) with FREEDOM the beautiful and fulfilling Love Which is God Himself. This is a Love Which is so freeing that it allows the celibate one to love others non-possessively, purely and generously.

So, to the street smart crowd. There is a view other than yours which pleases and fulfills many; a view which liberates and does not smother; a view which nurtures and fosters growth and which goes out to others away from narcissistic leanings. Try to understand. Be a little open minded or at least try to listen. Perhaps, you might get a glimmer of why this kind of LOVE is real and why it makes, not schizoids but supple, attractive, enviable human beings. Hang out with a couple of them some time and try to shelve ( even temporarily ) any bias you might have about consecrated chastity. You might even want to try celibacy yourself. Gabrielle Brown Ph.D. did and she wrote a book about it;" The New Celibacy or why thousands of American men and women are abstaining from sex and enjoying it."

Don’t knock it. You may be talking about something someone loves.

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