July 13, 2009

"I've liked women but I've never felt I wanted to give up my life completely. I've never wanted to go to bed with anybody."

"My life" is the life of a celibate priest, and the speaker is Cardinal Keith O'Brien.
"I am father of this family in the diocese, the family who were entrusted to me 24 years ago. I think I would be neglecting one or other family if I had my own blood family."
Is it the case that anyone who has sex — or who has a family — has less to devote to his work?

51 comments:

Jacob said...

Shouldn't it be Keith Cardinal O'Brien not Cardinal Keith O'Brien?

John said...

"Is it the case that anyone who has sex — or who has a family — has less to devote to his work?"

I would say yes. Family takes a lot of time. It is very hard to be a true workaholic and have a family. As far as sex goes, sex is a wonderful diversion. But attracting sexual partners takes time, effort and money. Again, hard to be out cruising for chicks when you are working 80 hours a week.

Of course few things attract women like a collar. Really, ask anyone who has ever been close with a priest and they will tell you that there are a lot of women who have a serious priest fetish. But, it is probably better that priests are not using their jobs to pick up women. Or they are at least not supposed to.

TMink said...

"I've never wanted to go to bed with anybody."

That is weird and not natural. Like my dyslexia. He is saying that he is asexual. That is odd. I wonder how he counsels people who struggle with their sexual desires when he has none? One of the ways I help my patients is that I use my own experience to empathize with theirs. It is one of the reasons why I do not work with addicts or pedophiles. I cannot understand them from my own experience. What kind of a weirdo thinks kids are sexually attractive? When I was doing too many drugs, I decided to stop. So I am of little use to those people, even if I want to help, because I cannot understand them.

And sure sexual thoughts and feelings are a distraction from work. So is needing to eat lunch though.

Trey - who just had an apple

Jim said...

This is an issue that I differ from my co-religionists on: I think it would be a positive if priests were allowed to marry.

I understand the tradition, but having sat in the pews listening to sermons on many a Sunday I can assure you that a "family man" would not have uttered many of the words I have heard from the mouths of some of these priests.

Their enforced monastic lifestyles necessarily divorce them from the every day lives' of their parishioners and creates a fundamental disconnect between them and their congregation. They are unable to "speak the language" of their flock because they are essentially living in separate worlds.

Also, much like the abusive media circus causes otherwise good and well-intentioned candidates to bypass a life in politics, the celibacy and lack of human intimacy eliminates many a good man from potentially serving in the priesthood.

goesh said...

- yeh right, Dad - a couple of hours on Sunday you are tending to the family, the whole congregation - what a crock, some funerals and weddings and baptisms and the Patriarch keeps them all just humming along fine -

traditionalguy said...

So the Church family doesn't need men who are fathers, but only needs mothers and eunuchs. That is a hard teaching.

Kirby Olson said...

I think a family life adds the ability to do work. One augments the other, and grounds it.

Luther married, and so almost all Protestant branches allow it. I think it makes for stronger, and more sensible pastors, and because they have families, they can relate better to the rest of us.

I never understood the Catholic idea. Didn't Jesus ever want to date or get married?

Kirby Olson said...

Jesus did seem to really like his own mom, and his brother, and they liked him back. That's at least normal. It's weird when people don't like their own families, or ever want to be around them.

jag said...

With all appropriate respect to the Cardinal...

Celibacy is not a desire free life. [Christian] Celibates are called to submerge (not repress) sexual desire into a deeper desire...the desire to give all to Christ.

The life of the priest can't adequately be described as work. It's not a function. It's a way of being in relationship.

traditionalguy said...

This Posting is a wonderful foil to the "Obama is like Sarkozy and looks at pretty young women" story. The net effect is that Obama is a normal guy. Not only is he normal, he is like one of us. Obama's Kenya to Hiwawi to Indonesia to Chicago to Ruler of America life tract is always in need of regular humanising moments. He appears even more real in the peeking pic than that opposition Hockey Mom in waiting.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I never understood the Catholic idea. Didn't Jesus ever want to date or get married?


I believe that the celibacy thing was a political decision to keep the Church's property ($$$) and the position of Priest from becoming inherited. During feudal times and in earlier times Priests were not celibate. They could marry and have families, but the problem as the Church officials saw it was that the Priests in these far off locations became a bit too independent for the Vatican's purposes. The local Priest would often consider the church and the office to belong to himself and just like any feudal lord, pass the title on to his eldest son(s). To control this flaking away of authority and property, the Church decided that Priests should remain unmarried and theoretically celibate.

As a Catholic I think that it is long past time to change that rule. I have always felt that a married Priest would be better able to understand the troubles and sins of his parishioners, especially those issues that arise in marriages and between the sexes.

Bissage said...

“Women weaken legs.”

-- Mickey Goldmill

Will said...

Jacob, you are correct, but sadly the traditional way of referring to Cardinals is losing ground.

TMink, I don't read his statement as saying that he's asexual. He seems to be valuing his independence more highly than marriage and sex. Other people do this as well even without religious strictures. And certainly, given his age and religious upbringing, he'd be unlikely to view sex as merely a recreational activity, but something that would require serious commitment to his spouse.

richard said...

Is it the case that anyone who has sex — or who has a family — has less to devote to his work? are you asking; Do you mean can I have it all? don't all choices involve associated costs? One of the reasons larry summers posited in his ill fated conversation on why the under representation of women in the hard sciences was this precise question.".... was it the reluctance or inability of women who have children to work 80-hour weeks." right or wrong i don't know. But it is a legitimate question or topic for discussion. Can people Have it all or do we blind ourselves to the costs associated to the pursuit of this goal?

The Crack Emcee said...

Since my divorce, I've climbed to #1 in my (for a limited time) new chosen field. And, just like with my previous career in music, everyone resents my success and keeps insisting I should be humble about it. I won't. I'm good at what I do - I assessed the business as correctly as I've nailed cultism - and nothing's going to stop me or make me shy about it:

False modesty is for losers.

I'm an American - and we're supposed to always shoot for the top.

Will said...

They could marry and have families, but the problem as the Church officials saw it was that the Priests in these far off locations became a bit too independent for the Vatican's purposes.
You are correct to a degree, the matter is more disciplinary than theological, but it is fair to note that both the Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have always limited the episcopacy to celibate men. And the Episcopacy is where the real wealth and power were accrued.

The Crack Emcee said...

Oh, and two more things:

1) My attitude, now, is of course The Macho Response.

And 2) I haven't thought about a woman in years.

John Lynch said...

Of course it is true that you have less to devote to work if you have a family.

Ask anyone whose spouse values work over them. One can suffer for the other.

If you are a responsible spouse or parent you know that it takes a lot of time and energy.

As for people not wanting to have sex, that may not be "natural." When I was growing up wanting to have sex with other men was "unnatural." I'm not sure why not wanting to have sex at all is so strange. The cardinal may not be speaking truthfully but without any evidence we may as well take him at his word.

Clerical celibacy is an odd thing in today's Western culture. I don't think it's a necessary thing, but centuries of tradition and the rest of the Christian world disagree. Since most of the believing Christians are going to be in Africa and Latin America I don't think it will change anytime soon.

jimbino said...

Yes, it should be self-evident that the folks who positively changed history, from Jesus Christ to Martin Luther, Newton, Einstein, Ayn Rand and so on, were those who either got the message to eschew spouse, kids, cats and dogs early on, or who, once having made the
BIG MISTAKE, like Einstein, quickly abandoned all that domestic nonsense.

Paddy O. said...

Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 7:23-40:

"Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry , you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin.

"Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

"I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife,and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.

"I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

"If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well.

"So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is."

Paddy O. said...

In other words, ideally a person has more time to focus on work or other tasks if they don't have a family. They also have more freedom to travel, to risk, to schedule their own time.

But, the ideal isn't always ideal. So do what works best for you, and which helps you focus the best at the tasks you've been given. If you can be single, then that's a great way to give your time and energy to big tasks. If you're constantly screwing up those big tasks because you're really wanting a relationship (which may be about lust or loneliness), then go ahead and get married. Plus, don't lead anyone on, make a decision one way or another.

The Protestants have, I think, erred in other ways by making celibacy/singleness almost forbidden for most pastors. This isn't official, certainly, but it is extremely culturally expected. This leads to other problems such as workaholic pastors having families to fit in and do what is expected of them, but at the same time neglecting or dismissing their families, leading to all kinds of emotional problems for the children and wife.

Ideally, a person should feel comfortable living as they really want to, and people would value both the pursuits of celibacy (and let such people use their time constructively) and marriage (and emphasize that with marriage comes emotional and social responsibilities to the family).

Patrick said...

Maybe I read too quickly but no-one seems to have really highlighted the false premises of the question.

He is not really talking about having less time to devote to his work, but he is worried that another family will impinge on the time he has for his existing family.

That isn't very complicated and seems quite reasonable.

traditionalguy said...

The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry. The Episcopal clergy marry. No bad results from either system is reported. So the Roman Catholic experience is the outlier.It may be related to a spiritual marriage of the Roman Catholic Priests to the Queen of Heaven whom they primarily worship. Different strokes for different folks.

Christopher said...

goesh said: "- yeh, right Dad - a couple of hours on Sunday you are tending to the family, the whole congregation - what a crock, some funerals and weddings and baptisms and the Patriarch keeps them all humming along just fine -"

Spoken like someone who hasn't the faintest idea what priests do every day. Check out how many dioceses have lost good men who are simply burned out to mental and physical exhaustion from being "on call" 24 / 7. Especially in the American Church, which has been suffering a decades-long decline in vocations, resulting in merged parishes, closed parishes and parishes struggling with perhaps one priest for three churches in a miles-wide area (Maine especially is an example of this) a priest isn't just a sacramentary-vomiting machine. His job is also to be a mentor, a confidante, a comforter, a theologian - and then add to that in the modern parish a business manager, a human resources department, a legal adept, a politician, a hate object for bigots -

Yeah. Quite a "crock," isn't it.

chuck b. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
goesh said...

Christopher, I can't deny the Admin duties you point out but the talk was of family and I believe the well being of Catholic families has little to do with their priest's involvment in their lives.... Junior is late getting home, call Father, the cat is lost, call Father, the car is broke down, call Father, I got a pay raise, call Father, Sissy got a 3.5 GPA, call Father, there is a big sale on cabbage, call Father,that's how real families work - I respect the right of priests to be celibate but I can't wind it around the concept of family and attempt to turn it into something special when so many more are equally busy and obligated and do well with their jobs and families.

Ralph L said...

In the 70's, the Lutheran minister across the street was setting up shelters for DC prostitutes...and beating his own sons.

Episcopacy is where the real wealth and power were accrued.
Trollope's Barchester Towers begins with wealthy Archdeacon Grantly waiting for his father the (even richer) Bishop to die before the Tory government, which he expects will appoint him to succeed, collapses. Funny and moving and very human, like the rest of the book. Pretty accurate church politics for early Victorian England.

rest of the Christian world disagree
Are you saying non-Catholics aren't Christian?

John said...

Christopher is right. Priests have extremely tough jobs. It is 24 7. Imagine giving the last rights and consoling grieving families like two or three times a week. They do weddings, funerals, counseling, confession, and by the way give mass and run the Parish. It is one of the most demanding jobs on earth.

Lexington Green said...

"The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry".

Priests and Deacons can. Bishops cannot marry. So, if you become an EO priest, and marry, your responsibilities top off as a priest. The EO Church only lets celibate men be bishops for the same reasons this Bishop mentions: Responsibility for two families is too much.

"The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry. The Episcopal clergy marry. No bad results from either system is reported."

Not exactly right. A problem in the East was that the clergy became a hereditary trade. The quality of priests was not usually high. They were often illiterate. In the West, it was meritocratic, since the clergy had not children of their own. Of course, there was favoritism from time to time -- the word nepotism comes from the Italian for nephew, which could have been an actual nephew or an illegitimate child disguised as a nephew -- but not like in a situation where people are scratching and biting to get advantages for their own children.

Very old institutions and customs have a rationale to them that should be studied and understood before trying to get rid of them.

This is a point made very clearly by Hayek in his last book.

Lexington Green said...

"The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry".

Priests and Deacons can. Bishops cannot marry. So, if you become an EO priest, and marry, your responsibilities top off as a priest. The EO Church only lets celibate men be bishops for the same reasons this Bishop mentions: Responsibility for two families is too much.

"The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry. The Episcopal clergy marry. No bad results from either system is reported."

Not exactly right. A problem in the East was that the clergy became a hereditary trade. The quality of priests was not usually high. They were often illiterate. In the West, it was meritocratic, since the clergy had not children of their own. Of course, there was favoritism from time to time -- the word nepotism comes from the Italian for nephew, which could have been an actual nephew or an illegitimate child disguised as a nephew -- but not like in a situation where people are scratching and biting to get advantages for their own children.

Very old institutions and customs have a rationale to them that should be studied and understood before trying to get rid of them.

This is a point made very clearly by Hayek in his last book.

ricpic said...

J.S. Bach had like 22 children and that didn't slow him down, but it was in the days before the insanity of "parenting," aside from having to whup his kids occasionally J.S. didn't have to concern himself with the minutae, that was Mrs. J.S's. thing, and a good thing too.

LarsPorsena said...

"...It may be related to a spiritual marriage of the Roman Catholic Priests to the Queen of Heaven whom they primarily worship.."

Somebody has been reading too many Jack Chick comics.

EDH said...

It's all explained by the movie Top Gun, or so Quentin Tarantino says.

No, I don't, fucking boy meets girl, I don't give a shit about that. Fuck boy meets girl, fuck motorcycle movie. No, what is really being said? What's really being said, that's what you're talking about. 'Cause the whole idea, man, is subversion. You want subversion on a massive level. You know what one of the greatest fucking scripts ever written in the history of Hollywood is? Top Gun.

[Duane: Oh, come on.]

Top Gun is fucking great. What is Top Gun? You think it's a story about a bunch of fighter pilots. [Duane: It's about a bunch of guys waving their dicks around.] It is a story about a man's struggle with his own homosexuality. It is! That is what Top Gun is about, man.

You've got Maverick, all right? He's on the edge, man. He's right on the fucking line, all right? And you've got Iceman, and all his crew. They're gay, they represent the gay man, all right? And they're saying, go, go the gay way, go the gay way. He could go both ways.

[Duane: What about Kelly McGillis?]

Kelly McGillis, she's heterosexuality. She's saying: no, no, no, no, no, no, go the normal way, play by the rules, go the normal way. They're saying no, go the gay way, be the gay way, go for the gay way, all right? That is what's going on throughout that whole movie...

He goes to her house, all right? It looks like they're going to have sex, you know, they're just kind of sitting back, he's takin' a shower and everything. They don't have sex. He gets on the motorcycle, drives away. She's like, "What the fuck, what the fuck is going on here?" Next scene, next scene you see her, she's in the elevator, she is dressed like a guy. She's got the cap on, she's got the aviator glasses, she's wearing the same jacket that the Iceman wears. She is, okay, this is how I gotta get this guy, this guy's going towards the gay way, I gotta bring him back, I gotta bring him back from the gay way, so I'm do that through subterfuge, I'm gonna dress like a man. All right? That is how she approaches it.

Okay, now let me just ask you--I'm gonna digress for two seconds here. I met this girl Amy here, she's like floating around here and everything. Now, she just got divorced, right?...

All right, but the REAL ending of the movie is when they fight the MIGs at the end, all right? Because he has passed over into the gay way. They are this gay fighting fucking force, all right? And they're beating the Russians, the gays are beating the Russians. And it's over, and they fucking land, and Iceman's been trying to get Maverick the entire time, and finally, he's got him, all right? And what is the last fucking line that they have together? They're all hugging and kissing and happy with each other, and Ice comes up to Maverick, and he says, "Man, you can ride my tail, anytime!" And what does Maverick say? "You can ride mine!" Swordfight! Swordfight! Fuckin' A, man!

bearing said...

"The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry".

Priests and Deacons can. Bishops cannot marry.


Priests and deacons can't marry either, in the Orthodox Church (and in the Eastern Catholic rites). A married man can become a deacon in the Roman and the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Church. A married man can become a priest in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Church. Occasionally a married man who is a priest in the Anglican Church and who converts to Catholicism can get special permission to become a Roman Catholic priest. But a man who has already received holy orders as deacon, priest, or bishop cannot contract marriage.

Marriage before ordination: sometimes.
Marriage after ordination: never.

Ralph L said...

Fornication: Priceless.

Christopher said...

My apologies, goesh - I read snark where none was meant. I'm afraid I have a hair-trigger when it comes to the RCC.

In any event, I see the point that you're making. I wouldn't necessarily agree that celibacy makes someone 'special,' (we could argue that the ordinary man and woman enjoying a happily married sex life devoted to each other are just as special); just that celibacy is a discipline, as is fidelity, and the fulfillment of each is 'special.'

traditionalguy said...

Lars Porsena...Sorry if I offended any Catholics. I honestly believed that most Catholics seek guidance from the Virgin Mary and other Saints when in need of help. I certainly respect their traditions, whatever the worship methods are.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I don't take the statement "I've never wanted to go to bed with anybody" to mean "I've never been attracted to anyone."

Rather, he's saying that it's not worth sacrificing his vocation for a fleeting pleasure, or breaking the vows he's made for a night of passion.

In other words, he's not into casual sex. It's only in the last few decades that his attitude has become 'weird' or 'sick.'

Scrutineer said...

Dust Bunny Queen - During feudal times and in earlier times Priests were not celibate. They could marry and have families ...

afaik, married men were allowed to become priests, but priests were never allowed to marry. And Eastern rite Catholic men who are married can be ordained.

traditionalguy - The Eastern Orthodox clergy marry. The Episcopal clergy marry.

I think Orthodox churches have the same rule as Eastern rite Catholics: Married men can join the clergy, but clergymen can't get married.

signed,
pedantic ex-Catholic

yashu said...

"I do not avoid women, Mandrake. But I do deny them my essence."

"As Balzac said, there goes another novel."

John Lynch said...

EDH- Epic

TMink said...

"I've never wanted to go to bed with anybody."

I take that as a straightforward denial of sexual attraction. Because, well, it is!

He may have misspoke, he may have meant something else, but what he said is that he has not had serious sexual attraction to anyone.


I, on the other hand, have. What I am interested in sexually and the limits God commands on my sexual experience are at odds. I can live with it, and I do, but I could not get any help with problems of sexuality from someone who never had sexual desire.

Maybe the good Father referred those questions to people who experience normal sexual desire but are celibate due to their vows. If not, then he was talking out of his hat. Or collar.

Now perhaps the priesthood is a perfect place for an asexual person, I do not see that as a problem in most situations.

But it does appear that people are bending over backwards to say that he did not say what he said.

How come?

Trey

Will Cate said...

How exactly does St. Paul reconcile his words on celibacy with "go forth and multiply?" Always wondered about that.

My wife is about to enter Seminary, and in a few years shall (God willing) be ordained as an Episcopal Priest. We love each other, and our church....

Henry Buck said...

"They are unable to "speak the language" of their flock because they are essentially living in separate worlds."

Without agreeing that priests can't "speak the language of the flock" - I think the statement above is misguided. Priests are, in a very significant sense, living in another world. Their mission is to help prepare the faithful for that other world.

Will said...

I honestly believed that most Catholics seek guidance from the Virgin Mary and other Saints when in need of help. I certainly respect their traditions, whatever the worship methods are.
I'll take that at face value, although the original comment was phrased in a particularly insulting way.
Catholics (and the Orthodox, too) pray to Mary and the other Saints for intercession. In other words, we pray that they might pray to God on our behalf. This is not the same thing as worshiping the Saints. Catholic worship is always properly directed toward God.

William said...

I was raised as a Catholic. There were many good men among the priests. But that was a different generation. I think everyone now understands that sexuality is part of our nature. The trick is not to suppress it, but to express it in an honorable way.....I would be suspicious of someone who claims not to feel any sexual impulses. He would more likely be someone with a profound need to deny his sexual desires. The Catholic hierarchy has never examined why its teachings have attracted so many pedophiles and so many others who were willing to cover for pedophiles. The anti-sex bias of the Church has attracted some extremely dicey characters into the fold. The Church should treat lust the way it treats gluttony and avarice. It's a vice but not the keystone vice.

Cabbage said...

I think Orthodox churches have the same rule as Eastern rite Catholics: Married men can join the clergy, but clergymen can't get married.

Correct.

At the same time, I should point out that I know of a few widower clergy who have remarried. One fellow was a deacon and taught at a well-regarded (and very conservative) seminary: he decided to re-marry after his wife's death, but had to give up his orders. Quite acceptable.

kentuckyliz said...

I know a former atheist, married and divorced man who is a father to adult, grown children, who became a priest.

Not having sex does not equal not possessing sexuality. A lot of people make that mistake.

I have no beef with a celibate clergy; I prefer to go to confession with a celibate priest and would never go to confession with a sexually active priest.

If a priest wants too be married, there are places for them.

A married priesthood doesn't solve all problems. Then you get adulterer priests and divorced priests etc. My sibs have had to put up with scandal after scandal with their married, not so married, and remarried, and dating priests. Yuck. You can have it.

Again, remember not all celibate people are clergy. Far more common than you realize.

traditionalguy can stuff it. queen of heaven worship my ass. you can't say something so ignant and backpedal. I bet you call a chicken butt the pope's nose, too.

Juba Doobai! said...

That's basic Christian doctrine he's spouting, Ann. See Paul the Apostle's writings. The single man serving God is focused entirely on God. The married man's primary duty is to his wife and family BEFORE God. Thus, if continuing to serve God hurts his family in that he doesn't/can't devote the time to them that he should, then it is his duty as a husband and father to leave the ministry and do what is best for his family.

Paul recommends celibacy for those who can be celibate, and marriage for those with sexual desire. Better to marry than to burn.

So, it looks like Keith, Cardinal O'Brien is content with celibacy, as am I, not a Catholic though. However, the Roman Church's error is that it applies celibacy to ALL men and does not leave it up to them to choose marriage or celibacy. That is where Rome departs from the Scripture and tradition of the historical Christian Church.

Henry Buck said...

"I think everyone now understands that sexuality is part of our nature."

Boy, talk about the hubris of the modern!

jag said...

The Roman Church does not force celibacy on anyone. The formation for priesthood takes years (4 of college, 4 of graduate theology studies). During that eight year process, candidates are free to walk away from the demands asked of priestly life. It's a free decision.

And, how can anyone say celibacy is not scirptural when Jesus himself never married?