I just wanted to give you an email level pat on the back for a great web site. I am a “former” Catholic who stumbled on your website while my wife and I were discussing a former priest who was the instructor for a DePaul University course I had taken. Just to background, I married at 19 a girl a met in Catholic school and I would say I am what much of modern American Catholics are, confused. Your site reflects so many of the contradictions out there and how as a representative you spent time stuck trying to place yourself between conflicting strengths in life. I wanted to email to note how powerful I think this position is on celibacy. I think you have literally nailed the problem with the practice of celibacy and the placement of priests outside of the world most people live in. I would have to say my current state says I am not seeing hope in change in the church but it is nice to see someone so clearly articulate a reasonable statement on why some of these practices don’t make sense. You state:
Mandatory celibacy defines a priest primarily by sex and places an inordinate amount of attention on his sex life. When the typical lay person meets a priest, they perceive him first and foremost as a “celibate” and have an internal dialogue that goes something like this: “Is he really celibate? I wonder what he does with his sex drive. Is he gay? He must masturbate a lot. God, I hope he’s not a pedophile.” If he’s attractive, they think, “Father what-a-waste”, and, if not attractive, they think, “No wonder he went into the priesthood”. Those who think this occurs because our society is preoccupied with sex are mistaken. It’s always been this way. People are now just more willing to talk about it. The fact remains that, because “celibate” primarily defines a priest by his sex life, he is viewed and understood primarily by sex and for this he suffers now, more than ever. Priests are not “celibates”; they are “human beings”. (Taken from Celibacy and Sex)
Rather than over state something let me just say thank you for an informative site and I hope you guys are helping people make the most of the light that is leading their life and find happiness.
As a kid, I knew I was gay. I was a naive altar boy. My parents had died when I was quite young. Dad prior to my birth. Mom not long after my birth. My two older brothers recognized early that their kid brother was a "fag" and never hesitated to point this out to anyone longing for a good laugh at my expense. I grew to hate who I was even before I began feeling any drive for sex at all.
Shame, shame, and lots of humiliation ended with a strict Catholic German grandmother insisting on daily mass and complete and total avoidance of ever mentioning anything about sex.....whether straight or gay.
I "escaped" into a seminary where nobody cared if I felt attraction to men and I was just "one of the guys." The priest at the seminary almost daily condemned sex, masturbation, impure thoughts, wet dreams and anything else that seemed even remotely sexual. I thought....believe me or not....I honestly thought I was the only seminarian who masturbated and had to confess it. Confession was the most painful and most humiliating experience and admittedly I avoided it as much as I could even though I realized it meant I would go to hell.
With the pain one experiences when sweating blood from the brow, I got up the courage to go to a parish where nobody knew my name. I entered the confessional and told the priest that I had sinned and that I had longed for sex with men and had experienced sex with another man. The old parish priest became somewhat loud....at least for me it seemed like everyone in the church must have heard his scorn. He refused to give me pardon or "absolution." He told me "God hates homosexuals....that God would never forgive a queer..he actually used that word at me in the confessional. He told me I need to go see psychologists. I was 17 at the time and felt actually sick....so much so I left the confessional and the church and vomitted on the steps of the church on my way out. I resolved to commit suicide.
I cried sitting on the curb two blocks from the church. I quit the seminary that summer. I began college.
I attempted to kill myself by hanging but my college room mate found me. I was sent to a psych hospital for a month. Still I never heard anyone....ever......say I could be forgiven...or that being a "faggot," "queer," "sissy" would not mean I could die and go to heaven.
I gave up on religion entirely. I just ignored the church my whole life. I married.....convinced I had no choice. I fathered four kids... convinced it was my obligation. I worked three jobs almost my entire career and still do.....convinced to stop would be a pathway to sin and to hell. I studied...earned my doctorate while also working three jobs.
Now I am 72. I will die before much longer. I will die as a gay man. My wife now knows. My adult children now know. They do not "accept" it but they do not condemn me the way the church did either.
I hope you can spare other "faggot," "queer," "sinful sissies" the pain of growing up Catholic.
I was so glad to find your site. I have been working with priests in crisis / transitioning for over 5 years. As you well know there seems to be several phases: loneliness, questioning, fear of leaving the source of physical needs, and the "ceremony of leaving."
As a Presbyterian Elder and diplomate spiritual director, whose Catholic cousin was a priest who did not make the transition - it killed him. (See Celibacy and Suicide for the emotional turmoil celibacy cause some priests.) I have been working with those who are discerning their path. As a career coach, I assist them translate their skills to the secular world while recognizing that they still have a call upon their life. I have yet had a "client" feel that the call has left them - the Roman Church has left them.
I am apart of a loose association of others who have experience assisting priests in conflict. Some have left to marry. Some have left for other diverse matters. One member is a spiritual director supervisor. Another is a licensed counselor. We see ourselves as a partof an "underground railroad."
No one should have to go this transition alone, or worse yet, that he is trapped in the system.
Peace and blessings on your work.
"Pretty Woman" from
The Apostles Wives’ Club
We are a circle of women whose lives were changed by a relationship with a Roman Catholic priest. Who Are We? Where are our voices? In Writing For Your Life, Deena Metzner wrote “Stories move in circles. They don’t go in straight lines. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen” There is so much power and healing when you tell and when you listen. What do you want to say?
A few days ago I spoke with an old friend. We speak one or twice a year because we live in different states and our lives are no longer linked by the activities we once shared. She is an interesting blend of a Catholic watching EWTN and adoring Mother Angelica and a seeker of miracles, and yet very accepting of others and their beliefs. She doesn’t push her believes off on anyone. She knew all about my situation and she had no problem with it. We prayed together and went to church together.
In our conversation, I told her about my blog, The Apostles Wives Club, and she was very interested. She then surprised me when she said, ” don’t you think there are some women who were just out to tempt priests?” She told me about the good looking middle aged priest in her parish whose secretary, a petite and pretty woman, wears the most revealing cloths around him. My friend then described how the woman comes to work in the shortest shorts and little tops. As I said, I was surprised, and I said I suppose there might be, but not likely. We did continue talking about the subject. I think I felt uncomfortable that she would have this idea and I didn’t know why she would admit it to me. Maybe I wanted to leave the subject as fast as I could.
Now that there is time and distance, I have thought more about it. I realize that there was so much implied and unsaid. I have heard this kind of talk before, but never got the total implication until now. Now the absurdity of my friend’s remark takes on an added dimensions. When someone makes this kind of remark, are they saying that all pretty women who dress in attractive cloths have impure motives if they wear them around a priest? Does she mean that priests are helpless to control themselves? Is she saying that the priest, who is essentially in this case this woman’s employer, doesn’t have the power to ask his employee to dress in business attire? Is she saying that an unattractive woman may not want to entice a priest? Is she saying that the priest may not be attracted to a woman if she is not pretty or if she dresses modestly? Is she saying that priests are only attracted to petite pretty women? Everything about this conversation now seems to cry out for discussion, but I missed my chance to explore this further with my friend. Maybe next time.
Where do people get the idea that a priests are helpless victims and pretty woman are seductress with impure motives?
I discovered your site yesterday and was very pleased to see the perspective from a Priests point of view. I admire your courage to speak out and share your experiences. Thank you for this. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and I believe a Man should be able to enter the Priesthood and make the decision as to whether or not he wishes to marry or remain celibate. I do not believe celibacy should be mandatory in order to be ordained in the Roman Catholic church.
I am happy to hear of the love that brought you and your wife together. I believe God had a hand in this union. I do believe God will ultimately place us on the paths we are intended if we only listen. We must gather the courage to truly listen and then follow even if it does not make any sense whatsoever to others. We must do this and it does make us vulnerable but true love fears nothing. I believe a lot of people are afraid to acknowledge this truth for fear of upsetting others and therefore remain unhappy...that's their choice.
I would just like to say BLESS YOU! This is a wonderful website with a wealth of information that I feel has been long over due. Thank you so much for putting this information together and making it so accessible.
Dear Father Henry,
I sympathize with you for loosing your place in the church even though you had spent half of your life serving them. But I wanted to tell you that the Vatican has recently been accepting married Anglicans [so far over 400 converts were ordained as Roman Catholic priests]. Now that you are married, perhaps you can try to convert to an Anglican, became a minister and then convert again to Catholicism and ask to become a priest again?
Thank you for your email.
Yes, I am aware of the many Anglican and other married pastors that have been allowed to become ordained Catholic priests. But Amy, do you see the absurdity of that? It is irrational to allow these married men to become ordained Catholic priests when thousands of priests who have married are not allowed to continue in ministry and have been given the boot. I no longer have any desire to be part of a church that propagates such injustice.
If there is anyone who can logically explain why the Church ordains married men from other denomination but refuses to ordain married Catholic men to the priesthood, please comment on the blog by clicking here.