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.