Catholic Controversies · Clergy Sex Abuse

Clarity is Charity: What celibacy means

Evidently, some Catholic clergy have difficulty understanding what “celibacy” means. Fr. Dwight Longenecker catches Fr. James Martin, saying in his 2010 book, (page 216) that celibacy is “the restriction against marriage for members of the Catholic clergy.”

Fr. Longenecker reports the unsurprising consequences of this sort of muddled thinking.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker saw it for himself.

When I was a layman working for a Catholic charity in England I was in a different rectory every weekend and had plenty of face time with the priests. Most were good, solid, hard working men for whom I have great respect, but one man was clearly living with his concubine and another man had photos of himself and his boyfriend all over the rectory. My suspicions about both men were confirmed by another priest in their diocese who said, “these are the men who justify their relationships with the interpretation that ‘celibacy’ just means they can’t get married.

Fr. Benedict Kiely writing in National Review reports: 

During my seminary years I heard the nonsense, often spouted by members of religious orders vowed to chastity, that celibacy meant only “not getting married” and did not preclude sexual activity…. I know of one famous cleric, now dead, who boasted (and it turns my stomach to think of a priest living so brazen a lie) of a male friend with whom he had sex regularly.

Permit me to help. I apologize in advance, if I scandalize some innocents. But this clarification is evidently necessary.

Priests of the Roman rite: if you have taken a vow of celibacy (we do have a few married priests, after all, usually former Episcopalians) here is what your people expect of you:

  • No sexual activity with men, women, children or animals.
  • No sexual stimulation, with or without orgasm, using inanimate objects, computer screens or your own hands.

Clarity is Charity.

You’re welcome.

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