On Celibacy

On Celibacy

There was a good letter to the editor in the Boston Herald today. It was responding to an opinion piece from a guy whose mother had a disastrous affair with a priest that ruined her life and her family’s lives. The opinion piece attacked celibacy as the evil cause for the personal tragedy.

Today, Dennis Mahon of Brighton, Mass., responds:

    I cannot follow Sterling Rome’s logic (“Mother’s affair with priest leaves family in despair,’ Dec. 29). His argument that celibacy is harmful, and that the suppression of the “human need for physical love” led to the scandal that grips the church, is essentially an argument that blames the rule for the actions of the violator. By that logic, if someone commits an act of crime, it is not the fault of the individual, but of the law against that prohibits such act. Such logic is not only intellectually insulting, but anarchistic.

    Furthermore, by [Sterling] Rome’s own admission, the majority of priests do, in fact, honor their vows and remain celibate; why then does he declare that “the church is fighting a losing battle against human nature” when the majority of the clergy are apparently winning it? Perhaps the problem isn’t so much the clergy’s struggle against human nature, but the laity’s willingness to acquiesce to it.

Bravo! Well put, Mr. Mahon. The impulse to blame the Church for the inability of some priests to remain celibate or to blame the Church for teen pregnancy or to blame the Church for AIDS in Africa is part of the societal impulse today to blame others for own frailties, our own misdeeds. It’s a lot easier to blame someone else for what we don’t like to confront in our own lives.

It used to be that people would say, “The Devil made me do it.” Now they say, “The Church made me do it.” No longer is it our succumbing to the temptations of evil, but it is “unjust” rules which hold us to an unattainable standard. In effect, it denies the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome fallen human nature. Is this what is meant by “blasphemy of the Spirit?”

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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