Common Misconceptions About Sexuality And Celibacy

Despite the grimness of many Christian sects…the bible is clear that Jesus loved good times. He began his ministry at a party in Cana… remember he brought the best wine… and the party went on for days.

High on his list of things to do after the resurrection was to go out and eat with his friends (Jn 21:12; Lk 24:30,41).

He was a man of charm and charisma. He got men and women to follow him without their really understanding why…until after he died. He was a tactile man who touched his friends…he washed their feet…they could rest on his shoulder at meals…they could kiss him as Judas did one fateful night.

His touch restored life and health. People yearned to touch him…so much so that he had to preach from a boat to get away from them…if need be.

He did not deny or devalue his responsiveness to those he loved. but he did not exploit them for his own gratification either.

Many catholic clerics and religious committed to celibacy have not had any training…and have developed no skill…in managing their attractions to others.

At one extreme they despise sexuality as one of the devil’s wiles (even though it is the means God uses to get us here).

At the other extreme there are those who go into denial and claim they are doing ministry when they are being sexual.

In the center are those who are sexually neutral…uninterested or afraid.

An ageing Brother was very nervous about his first massage when he came to us. I helped him understand what to expect. When he came out he was ecstatic and said “I realized today that no one ever touched me in forty years!”

A sister was confused when I asked her what it meant to her to be a woman. She finally said “Well…I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a woman.”

For them…and others…celibacy was a denial of the very thing that makes them human…their bodies.

An Irish priest summed it up when he described his psychosexual development during an evaluation. He wrote…

“I was brought up in a religiously oppressive environment…and entered a Jansenist seminary at an early age. And if ignoring…despising and abusing my body was the key to sanctity…then surely I am among the blessed!”

At the other extreme are those clerics and religious who maintain that celibacy simply means they have promised not to marry…it does not mean not having sex.

Both of these groups are alike. Both lack understanding about how to manage their sexual energy while remaining true to their religious commitment.

This misunderstanding has led to a scandal ridden decline in the moral authority of the catholic church. Sexuality cannot be eliminated by vows…veils or prayers. Managing one’s sexuality is a social skill all civilized people must master…whether they are married or single.

How one acquires that skill…and how one practices it so that sexuality is part of one’s life…celibate or not…is a worthwhile quest.

The first thing celibate individuals must do is clarify their beliefs about sexual energy. Specifically…whether it is a gift from God…or whether it is a burden from the devil. Only by making a decision like that can you design a plan of personal sexual education and the practice of managing consecrated sexuality.