How to be Voluntarily Celibate for Fifteen Years Without Taking any Vow

I’ve been celibate now for over 15 years.  The first two or three years were difficult despite the fact I was, for once in my life, following my heart or gut.  That is, my decision to become celibate wasn’t an intellectual one.

When it’s your gut doing the decision making, you don’t always know what caused the thing to decide one way rather than another.  Yet, I’m pretty sure my gut decided on celibacy at least partly in response to a string of miserable “loves” that began in high school and lasted through my 37th year.

As I imagine it, my gut took a long hard look at that string of miserable “loves” and decided: “no more!”  It had had enough.

Of course, I don’t know if it really happened that way.  It’s still a mystery to me how my gut makes decisions.  But, to nevertheless be fair and acknowledge  my gut’s competence, these past 15 years have been on balance the happiest years of my life.  Thus, my gut seems to have made the right decision, because I’ve been significantly happier during my celibate years than I was during the years in which I took lovers.  Not every decision made in life works out so well.

I don’t know how much longer I will remain celibate.  But I do know I seem highly likely to remain celibate until my gut decides — if it ever decides — to take a lover.   That is, it does not seem likely to me that I will make an intellectual decision to end my celibacy.  If I ever do, I fear such a decision, because it would be intellectually based, must be unwise.

I think perhaps you can understand by now that vows of celibacy, as distinguished from gut decisions,  are not my thing.  They just aren’t something I can support.

I know many people think taking a vow of celibacy is noble.  And doesn’t the world seem full of religious people who take vows of celibacy?  Maybe I should haul down my flag, and get in line with what appears to be the majority of religious folks on this issue?

Yet, I believe, based on my limited experience, that the desire or decision to practice celibacy should arise from the gut, the heart, the subconscious — whatever you want to call it.  And specifically, the decision should not be a creature of the consciousness that we impose on ourselves.

It seems to me a decision that is a creature of the consciousness can easily become a monster.  Such a decision requires the imposition of celibacy.  Which is to say, it requires the repression of the gut, heart, or subconscious.  And by now, everyone in the world and their dogs should know exactly where that is all-too-likely to get you.

I could be wrong, but it is my impression the Catholic Church has seldom in its history been much of a moral guide.  It seems it has always claimed for itself a greater role as a moral guide than it has been willing to put into practice.

So perhaps it is mere justice the Church has inadvertently reinvented itself as the world’s largest, most visible, and best known example of what all too often happens to people (e.g. priests) who repress their sexuality with vows of celibacy.

If their example of moral insanity is not providing the world with moral guidance in this matter, if it is not causing the world to have second thoughts about imposing celibacy, then it is only because the world is not properly listening — is not, for whatever reason, seeing the obvious.

When I read in the news that ten thousand children are the number of children estimated to have been raped by the priests of Belgium, or that thousands of children are estimated to have been raped by the priests of Germany, or that fourteen thousand are estimated to have been raped by the priests of Australia — when I read of the numbers — the numbers that come from every country where there are priests —  I think to myself that the case against imposed celibacy could not possibly be based on firmer ground than it is.

So, I will say it again: A decision to become celibate that is made by the consciousness, and that is therefore a creature of the consciousness, can easily become a monster.

I have been happily celibate for above 15 years, yet I cannot imagine myself nearly so happy if I had imposed the decision on myself.  The moral insanity of the priests should be a lesson to the world.

It should also be a lesson to the Catholic hierarchy — a lesson that very soon results in a sane policy of allowing priests to marry.

This post has to some large extent been inspired by those of you who have been finding my blog by googling “dealing with celibacy”, “how to be celibate”, “staying celibate”, and similar phrases.  It’s my guess that some of you either are priests, or are thinking about becoming priests, and you are now wrestling with the various issues spawned by imposed celibacy.

If my guess is right, then I hope this post has been of some help in your struggles.  Should you want my advice in this matter, it is free for the asking.  There is more to being happily celibate than I am able to discuss here.  Simply email me at paul [underscore] sunstone [at] q [dot] com.   You and anything you have to say or ask will remain confidential.

12 thoughts on “How to be Voluntarily Celibate for Fifteen Years Without Taking any Vow

  1. I’ve often wondered how one goes about practicing celibacy, but that’s a wander off the comment trail. (Sorry.)

    One of my best friends here has been celibate for about as long as you have, and for much the same reason. She is forever trying to convince me of the peace and inner joy reached through that jettisoning of the dance card featuring the Horizontal Bop, and although I clearly see her point … especially after yet another relationship shatter … the celibate state is beyond me, no matter how much practice I might be able to demystify long enough to employ.

    It would be much easier for me to forgo food. In fact, I have no problem going long stretches when all I can bother to eat is a couple of scrambled eggs and the occasional sandwich … what I would consider the equivalent of masturbation … with little to no need for a fabulous meal. When it comes to sex, however, gourmet dining is required on a regular basis.

    It would certainly simplify my life considerably if my gut sent me in that direction, but, so far, my other parts seem to be making the call.

    Like

  2. I think the important thing, Sandra, is that those “other parts” make the call, instead of your consciousness. You seem to be doing that.

    So, the way I see it, you and I are both playing the game rather well, and we are on the same team, so to speak, despite our playing different positions on that team — despite one of us is celibate and the other is anything but.

    The people who are doing things different than us are the people who decide purely with their heads, rather than with their gonads or guts.

    On a side note, given how much I used to enjoy sex, and given how much I used to love the challenge of pushing my skills at sex to their limits, it surprised me that I took to celibacy — especially after the first two or three years. Had you asked me back in the day I was sexually active if I would ever love being celibate, I would not have believed I could.

    I am glad you are following your instincts. You strike me as too wise not to do so.

    Like

  3. I’m not so sure that ‘wise’ has much to do with my sex life. ‘Fun’ and ‘stupid’ would fit better in the context.

    Funny you mention deciding with the head. The last relationship I was in, a few years in duration, was the first I ended by letting my head rule my heart. First time in my life I’d done that, and I ain’t no kid. I’m still not feeling so good about it, but I do know it was the right choice. Now I have to stick with it … so to speak.

    Like

  4. That’s interesting, Sandra. In my own experience, the time to consult one’s head is after the decision has been made on another level. Then it’s time to double-check the decision using the conscious mind. That way, you get two perspectives on it.

    The process rather reminds me of how the ancient Persians were said to make important decisions. It’s reported they would first discuss the affair sober, and next discuss it all over again, but this time drunk. Thus, they would agree to something only if it had passed both tests.

    Strange as it might sound, Sandra, I believe they had a superior system there.

    Like

  5. Momma always said, “You’re never totally useless if you can serve as a bad example.” This time Momma was right. Certainly the Catholic Church’s use of celibacy in the priesthood fits this homily. How many teenage suicides have resulted in the conflict between the head and the heart or gut? The head tells them (by some dogma) that being homosexual is bad, so homosexuals must be bad people. The heart or gut tells them they are homosexual, but they don’t want to be seen as bad, so the impulse to resolve that conflict in the wrong manner, i.e., suicide. The first love affair goes bad, so the head tells them to move on, but the heart tells them to change that other person or eradicate the self. Bad conflict resolution skills, but to be expected in youth.

    Like

  6. Astute, as usual, Leguru. I am glad you brought up how the conflict described in my post applies also to homosexual youth. Let’s hope it broadens and enriches the discussion!

    “Bad conflict resolution skills, but to be expected in youth.”

    Well said, and tragically true! Back in the days when I spent a lot of time with kids, I noticed very few adults took an interest in them. Those that did were not always the most savory characters. So, I used to wonder, “Does anyone help kids cope with their natural tendency to make bad decisions anymore.” So far as I could see, in my tiny corner of the planet, there was no one there for them.

    I hope that has changed by now.

    Like

  7. Sandra #1: “One of my best friends here has been celibate for about as long as you have, and for much the same reason. She is forever trying to convince me of the peace and inner joy reached through that jettisoning of the dance card featuring the Horizontal Bop….”

    Galway Kinnell wrote a poem about living for a long time alone. I don’t have a copy of it and have not been able to read it in its entirety, but the one excerpt that I have read speaks directly to me because it could, in my opinion, be talking about living for a long time without a sexual partner too. Here’s that excerpt, Sandra:

    When one has lived a long time alone,
    one refrains from swatting the fly
    and lets him go, and one hesitates to strike
    the mosquito, though more than willing to slap
    the flesh under her, and one lifts the toad
    from the pit too deep to hop out of
    and carries him to the grass, without minding
    the poisoned urine he slicks his body with,
    and one envelops, in a towel, the swift
    who fell down the chimney and knocks herself
    against window glass and releases her outside
    and watches her fly free, a life line flung at reality,
    when one has lived a long time alone.

    I don’t know if I agree with your friend that celibacy has any major advantages over non-celibacy, Sandra. I don’t know what actually and truly causes the thoughts and feelings Galway describes. Celibacy? Living alone? Something else?

    Who knows?

    Like

  8. *sighs*

    No, no, no, no, no. A thousand times no.

    This allusion to the idea that childhood sexual abuse is due to sexual repression is just untrue. You cannot take someone who is “normal” and turn them into a predator of children by just enforcing sexual repression. Now, if you already have the cycles of a sex offender, if you already have the potential of abusing children, you could be ‘pushed’ towards it by having increased stressors (including mandatory celibacy). But, I cannot stand for these excuses.

    I could not have sex for a hundred years, and still not wake up finding myself deciding to molest a child. Hopefully, everyone else who is reading this can agree with that (if you don’t, please seek help – I’d be happy to help you find the appropriate therapy; seriously).

    Once I stop being so upset regarding this part of the post, I could probably comment on the rest.

    Like

  9. That’s lovely, Paul.

    Truth be told, I have never lived alone, not once in my 59 years of life. For many years I had no live-in partner, but I’ve always had children in the house, single-parenting little ones through most of my 20s and some of my 30s, now doing it again as I finish out my 50s. The closest I come is in times like this … a 10-day stretch each month when my TODAY 8-year-old and my 5-year-old are with their father.

    I don’t know about the urine-covered frog, but the rest of the poem rings true, nonetheless. I save many a birdie, so I’m wondering if prompting to do such when alone is a guy thing.

    Like

  10. Astasia #9: “This allusion to the idea that childhood sexual abuse is due to sexual repression is just untrue.”

    My dear and admired friend, if you are saying that sexual repression does not always lead to sexually abusing children, then I both agree with you and thank you for helping to clarify that point.

    If on the other hand, you are saying that sexual repression never leads to sexually abusing children — that is, if you are saying it is never a significant factor or influence in what causes people to sexually abuse children — then I think you might be jumping ahead of the science. So far as I know, the causal factors of child sexual abuse are not yet conclusively known.

    I myself would — and do — argue that a certain kind of sexual repression can play a role in causing child sexual abuse. True, I am to some large extent speculating since the science is inconclusive. But you too would be speculating if at this point you asserted that sexual repression never leads to child sexual abuse. We simply don’t yet know.

    Like

  11. Sandra #10:

    It always surprises me when I hear someone has never lived alone. Even though it might be understandable, it still surprises me. I must be assuming that most people live alone at one time or another. Otherwise I would not be surprised.

    Like

I'd love to hear from you. Comments make my day. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s