Persa has written in her own beautiful style. She poses a lot of interesting questions. Shall we start discussing? This is your blog. I expect and encourage readers to have their say. Believe me, it’s not easy to have such space in the Catholic Church. Let’s participate on our blog. We don’t want to publish articles and stop there. We would like to have your feedback.

I am Persa. Those of us who are reading this blog are truly blessed that Fr. Daniel made it available to us. Technology can be an aspect of modern life that we need to be constantly on guard against, but as usual, this is not a simple good v. evil, black v. white. The internet allowed many of us to find a place where we were able to see that we are not alone. Without it, because of the insularity of clerical culture, many of us would have been further hurt, but worse, thought ourselves crazy
with no one to show us otherwise!

I was in a relationship with a priest that had many of the elements of others we have read about
on this blog. The details are unique, but the outline is the same – repeated approach and
unexpected retreat, love expressed and then fearfully withdrawn. But, once again, this entire
issue is not black and white, but very gray, very nuanced. I am reading about how non-dualistic
thinking is the hallmark of a more complex, evolved spirituality. I have become so aware of this
in general, but especially in this case. While I was hurt and sometimes diminished by this
priest and unkindly categorized, gossiped about by the parishioners and laity (who are just as
caught up in and responsible for perpetuating clerical culture) – at the same time, I have had two
of the most profound and loving (platonic) relationships in my life with two priests and known
several others who can only be said to be incredibly beautiful human beings. How can this
be? The very system that is causing the problem also sowed the seeds of something
miraculous. Non-dualistic thinking. Both/and. I think it applies well to questioning why either/
or, instead, seems to be the paradigm when a man has a vocation to the priesthood.

Often we women are told or made to feel that we are the problem for being drawn to a priest.
Really!! What is wrong with us?? I’m sure we are endlessly psychoanalyzed. Why are we
wasting our time with an unavailable man? We clearly have no self-esteem! Well, maybe. But
that could be said of many people in relationship. Non-dualistic thinking. Many possible angles,
no? Personally, I find a man , who at some point, turned his back on what (especially western)
society defines as “success” to serve people very attractive. I find a man whose life at least
partly entails trying to be kind, trying to really listen, trying to BE with another human being of
any gender, very attractive. I find a man who spends time – a little or a lot – trying to follow our
Lord very attractive. Priest or not. But this is how it starts. If a priest, understandably, desires
more intimacy (of which sexual expression is only one part) than a celibate life allows and he
communicates this, women respond as they do with any man – not out of pathology, but from a
sense of attraction. This is normal human experience initially on both sides. But the
unreasonable expectation of enforced celibacy eventually twists it into pain for both people, not
transformative love.

We must move past our own particular sadness. We – and the entire church – must look at the
larger question of whether a celibate, clerical culture is relevant any longer. Our stories are only
one indication of the existence of a problem. Did celibacy ever have anything to do with being
closer to God and doing his work? I doubt it. And if it did at one time, no excuse can be made
in this day and age. The argument that the priest is free to love ALL people because he is not
committed to one in particular is insulting to rabbis, imams, orthodox priests, ministers of all
persuasions. Are these religious people inferior to celibate Catholic priests?? Of course not.
One could argue that loving everyone and loving someone teach very different things and
provide very different challenges and joys. I can’t imagine that someone who resists one or the
other is superior in any way, nor can I imagine that Jesus meant that loving in only one way is
following “the greatest commandment”. OK. We all struggle with this. But the particular
craziness of the Catholic church is that it elevates those who are consciously avoiding one facet
of love. James Martin, in his defensive NYTimes op ed piece as a counterpoint to a beautiful
and thoughtful editorial by Bill Keller, said self-righteously that celibacy allows for loving
differently. Uh, yes. Exactly. Differently and incompletely – and simultaneously being much
admired for it! Isn’t that convenient?!

Then there is the argument that having a deep relationship with one person drains one’s
energies and focus on the wider group and wider accomplishments, a balancing act that is hard
to achieve. Well, women – who are often not valued by the church – have been doing this since
time began. A woman can have a calling to be an artist or dancer, ESL teacher or immigration
lawyer, AND to be a wife and mother. The constant struggle is to do both and not be defeated
when it all seems impossible, to integrate the two and understand that they each inform the
other and make life richer. This requires compromise and hard choices to be made! Even
today. Are the priests of the Catholic church so limited and delicate that they may be crushed
by these very human demands, that they need to be protected from having to experience this,
that they can only honor one vocation at a time? If so, then they are not to be admired. They
are to be pitied!

And the argument that not having significant others in one’s life allows one the freedom to go
anywhere at any time to do God’s work? From where I sit, no matter where one is today, one
can do God’s work! And if there is a special need, well, we now have such a thing as airlines,
as inconvenient as they have become. Were all the medical personnel with MSF who went to
West Africa celibate?? Did they need to take this vow to do their dangerous , but necessary
work? Of course not. And they are admired for their courage. Catholic priests , though, are
often first admired and respected and considered to be “special” for their celibate lives,
regardless of their other contributions, even if there are few . This is, as I written, as much the
responsibility of the laity for responding this way. The church, however, is built on this
ridiculousness!

There are probably more arguments for the necessity of celibacy that in most cases, are merely
clever justifications for the status quo. Any intelligent and sensitive person who is living in the
“real world” would, most likely, be able to address and refute them. Celibacy may never have
served a purpose beyond clerical self-preservation, but on an individual basis, the world has
seen how it has been destructive, for the Catholic priests and the people they try to love in the
way in which they have been forbidden. There will always be a need for priests. But it is
becoming more obvious that there is not, and never has been, a need for exclusively celibate
ones!

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