Skip to comments.Is Priestly Celibacy Psychologically Dangerous? (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 03/10/2010 6:23:43 AM PST by NYer
ROME, MARCH 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Priestly celibacy is not psychologically dangerous, and in fact, sexual behavior based on "anything goes" is what is truly destructive to the personality.
This is the affirmation made by Dr. Aquilino Polaino Lorente, a physician and psychiatrist who teaches courses on psychopathology at the University of St. Paul in Madrid.
The psychiatrist -- best known for his work in children's and family psychology -- was a speaker at the two-day conference held last week at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
The conference, "Priestly Celibacy: Theology and Life," was sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy as an event for the Year for Priests.
ZENIT spoke with Polaino about his view that a correct understanding of sexuality leads to a correct understanding of celibacy for the Kingdom of God.
ZENIT: Is priestly celibacy psychologically dangerous?
Polaino: It's not dangerous at all because perhaps it blends very well with what is the realistic anthropological structure of the human condition. Celibacy has its difficulties of course given that human nature is somewhat deteriorated and fallen and all the dimensions must be integrated.
It seems to me that open sexual behavior is more dangerous, not normative in that anything goes; I believe that has consequences that are more destructive of the personality than celibacy well lived in its fullness, without ruptures or breaks.
ZENIT: What does a priest need in order to be faithful to his vow of celibacy all the days of his life?
Polaino: The tradition of the Church has a multitude of counsels that can be put into practice and that are effective, for example, protecting one's heart and sight. What is not seen is not felt. Not that one must be looking at the ground; one can see without looking. This ensures the cleanliness of the heart and also the living of the first commandment which is to love God above all things. Flies do not enter a pressure cooker. A satisfied heart does not entertain stinginess or fragmentation.
ZENIT: Do you think that the hedonist culture of this new century, so widespread in the media, influences the fact that some priests are not faithful to their vow of celibacy?
Polaino: It's possible, because priests also have the frailty of the human condition. I think we must focus more on the huge number of priests faithful to their vocation. The exceptional also happens in priestly life but it is exceptional. Although periodically it might be very appropriate to address the exception, we cannot be blind to the immense majority of priests who are loyal, who live their vocation to the fullest, who are happy, to whom the world owes happiness. This must be emphasized.
ZENIT: Can a correct view of sexuality give a correct view of the celibate life?
Polaino: Yes. I believe sexuality today is a very confused function, it is a faculty about which there are more errors than points of agreement with what human nature is. And perhaps it is a program to teach and impart in all ages because as it is one of the fundamental pivots of human life, if it is not well looked after, if people are not well formed, what they will experience is the reigning confusion. This affects seminarians as well as young people and engaged couples about to be married. Today that education is an education for life. It is a subject that at times is badly taught because errors are taught and that means to confuse even more, instead of explaining the subject with a scientific rigor that is founded on human nature.
ZENIT: What does it mean that a priest is called to be a spiritual father?
Polaino: I believe that is one of the topics that has been least reflected upon. Spiritual paternity must also be lived by biological parents and many of them have never heard anything about this. Spiritual paternity is, in a certain way, to live all the works of mercy, to console the sad, to ransom the captive, to be hospitable, to affirm the other in his worth, to avoid creating problems for him and to encourage and motivate him so that he will grow personally, to stimulate the appearance of values that he already has because they came to him with his nature but perhaps he has been unable to identify them or make them grow. I think this world is an orphan of that spiritual paternity and maternity, and I think it is a dimension that the priest already lives without realizing it.
ZENIT: Can the celibate life make this spiritual paternity more fruitful?
Polaino: Necessarily yes because there is more time and more availability. If the final objective is union with God, spiritual paternity takes on greater meaning because it is the best image of the divine paternity in the contemporary world; hence [the celibate person] is like a mediator and to the degree that he lives the divine filiation, he will also lives spiritual paternity very well.
Clearly this very question is a direct attack on the celibacy rules for clergy in the Catholic Church. Why can’t people accept that rules are rules, and if you want to be a married priest, there are other ways to go about doing it (even within the Catholic Church!) without whining about the rules imposed by the Catholic Church.
This is a Catholic Caucus thread. Are you a Catholic?
That’s almost like asking if self-discipline is psychologically dangerous.
This agenda is pushed globally by government institutions, schools, and radical feminists and socialists. And it is damaging to psychological wellbeing and society's stability.
Good to see someone picking up the counter argument.
Catholic Caucus thread. Please see the title
Couldn’t agree more - it’s ALL about self-sacrifice, devotion to others, serving God through selflessness, etc - but OHHHH, in this pro-secular, “how can you give up SEX !?!” society, it’s implausible that ANYONE would deny themselves sexual pleasure...just doesn’t compute...myopic dopes!
I’m a Catholic who tries to obey all the rules. I think priests should too. I just don’t think there are that many celibate heterosexual men who can do the priestly job we want done.
I’d like to see that rule changed. I think other Christian religions have handled married clergy well. I wouldn’t want to see female priests if it meant they would be bringing modern Feminism into their sermons and remainder of their mission.
I don’t think other Christian religions have necesarily handled married ministers well.
They divorce and remarry about as much as the regular population and that often tears up a congregation because they get too invested in the drama.
They seem to have much higher rates of pedophilia and queer behavior. Many of them cheat on their wives.
I’ll just give you my personal experience and I won’t bring up any of the other Protestant minister scandals that happened in this time span in my small town.
The first minister I remember was old (to me anyway). He was a wonderful married man and if they had children, they were grown. He obviously had a firm vocation and his wife was a dear.
The next one was married and had a teenage son who was horrible, he was always sexually harrassing girls and boys and it was all swept under the rug. He ended up marrying a divorced woman with 3 kids and sexually abused them all. The minister seemed to think of what he did as “just a job” and his wife was barely visible, I don’t even remember what she looked like.
The next was a man very gifted with words. He had studied the early fathers and was full of history and information but he had lost his faith in God and pushed secular humanism, once again the wife was completely in the background.
The next was a young couple, the wife wanted to be a diva. She sang soloes in the choir and they made you cry...not because of the beauty. She ran away with the choir director and left the minister with their 2 children.
That was pretty much where I got off and I can’t tell you much more except that the Methodist hierarchy started moving the ministers around faster because you can hide all that stuff better.
Human failings, once again. We have an imperfect world because we are imperfect beings.
When I was a young adult, I worked in San Francisco for a short time and I commented about all the Southern accents among the flamboyant people and was told, “(A certain Christian religion) sends all their sons of a certain persuasion to San Francisco while the Catholics put theirs in the seminary.”
I think if priests were mostly hetero oriented there would be less tolerance within their ranks for the others.
I don’t have all the answers but I think we can answer the problem of not enough priests and the other problem of too many with short eyes by opening the ranks.
Like you, I too am a Catholic - a Latin Rite (Roman) Catholic, but I practice my faith in a Maronite (Eastern Rite) Catholic Church. The Maronite Church has a Patriarch who also happens to be a Cardinal. Like most of the Eastern Catholic Church, the Maronite Church has married priests. In fact, my pastor's great grandfather was a married priest and served as the inspiration for his vocation. The only difference is that my pastor also chose the celibate life. He also chose to be bi-ritual (Maronite and Latin Rite). He was born in Lebanon and has his major degree in the ancient languages (Latin, Hebrew, Koine Greek and Aramaic). He is fluent in 8 languages and has traveled to South America and Europe.
My reason for giving you some background here is to demonstrate that he has experienced both ends of the spectrum. In 2005, the Holy Father convened a General Synod of Fathers at the Vatican. As often happens, the topic of priestly celibacy arose. It was the Patriarch of the Maronite Church who addresed the issue.
Mar Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir
Vatican City, Oct. 07, 2005 (CNA) - The Cardinal defended the practice of the celibate priesthood and discussed the beauty of the tradition, calling it the "most precious jewel in the treasury of the Catholic Church."
While pointing out that "the Maronite Church admits married priests" and that "half of our diocesan priests are married", the Cardinal Patriarch said that "it must be recognized that if admitting married men resolves one problem, it creates others just as serious."
"A married priest", he said, "has the duty to look after his wife and family, ensuring his children receive a good education and overseeing their entry into society. ... Another difficulty facing a married priest arises if he does not enjoy a good relationship with his parishioners; his bishop cannot transfer him because of the difficulty of transferring his whole family.
He noted that "married priests have perpetuated the faith among people whose difficult lives they shared, and without them this faith would no longer exist."
"On the other hand," he said, "celibacy is the most precious jewel in the treasury of the Catholic Church,"
Lamenting a culture which is all but outright opposed to purity, the Cardinal asked: "How can [celibacy] be conserved in an atmosphere laden with eroticism? Newspapers, Internet, billboards, shows, everything appears shameless and constantly offends the virtue of chastity."
Suggesting that there are no easy solutions to the problem of priest shortages in the Church--an oft brought up point during the Synod--he noted that, "Of course a priest, once ordained, can no longer get married. Sending priests to countries where they are lacking, taking them from a country that has many, is not the ideal solution if one bears in mind the question of tradition, customs and mentality. The problem remains."
The Patriarch's observations have been borne out by several former protestant ministers who converted to the Catholic Church and were accepted into the Catholic priesthood.
I wouldnt want to see female priests if it meant they would be bringing modern Feminism into their sermons and remainder of their mission.
There will never be women priests in the Catholic Church. Jesus did not ordain any women. He selected all of his apostles, and none were women. No one, not even the pope, has the authority to change Christ's design of the priesthood. You can read more here.
Great post, as was Tiki’s.
I think my position is similar to some of the priests at the Synod, open to consideration of change and eager to hear others’ input.
Thank you both.
I don’t believe there are many practicing (as in really living the faith) Catholics who want married clergy. I think this idea of married clergy comes from fallen away Catholics, liberal Catholics, and cafeteria Catholics.
Good thing the Church is not a democracy.
re: I think this idea of married clergy comes from fallen away Catholics, liberal Catholics, and cafeteria Catholics.
And of course non-Catholics!
A specious argument at best. If ordaining married men in the Latin Rite was the panacea that you claim it would be then there would no shortage of Priests or vocations in any of the 21 other Churches; that ordain as a norm married men, that, along with the Latin Rite, comprise the Catholic Church. That isn't the case. The Greek Orthodox Church, which also ordains married men, is also experiencing a shortage of Priests and vocations.
The vast majority of priests I've known have been very down to earth men, and didn't seem to have any psychological problems. My brother-in-law is a priest, so I know about many of his priest friends, as well, and believe me they are ALL watchful for any wierdness on the part of their 'brothers'.