Gay Celibacy, Step One

“Your kisses are worth more than that!” I could see a sort of desperation in her, a painful need to have these words break into my stony surface. She had put her hand on my arm as she said it, maybe hoping that through physical touch, she might also be able to reach something spiritually.

Her comment came in response to a joke I’d made about making out with strangers that weekend. I could’ve balked at her response. A part of me wanted to laugh coldly in her face, but I didn’t. She seemed so sincere. Continue reading “Gay Celibacy, Step One”

Catholic Young Adults Discuss Chastity

I recently attended a discussion with Catholic young adults on chastity (a follow-up from the first discussion on masculinity and femininity). The conversation began with a quote from Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility:

“Chastity is very often understood as a ‘blind’ inhibition of sensuality and of physical impulses such that the values of the ‘body’ and of sex are pushed down into the subconscious, where they await an opportunity to explode. This is an obviously erroneous conception of the virtue of chastity, which, if practiced only in this way, does indeed create the danger of such ‘explosions’. This (mistaken) view of chastity explains the common inference that it is is purely negative virtue. Chastity, in this view, is one long ‘no.’ Whereas it is above all the ‘yes’ of which certain ‘no’s’ are the consequence. The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex.’ This requires a special interior, spiritual effort, for affirmation of the value of the person can only be the product of the spirit, but this effort is above all positive and creative ‘from within,’ not negative and destructive.”

Our group first discussed how chastity, purity, and abstinence are often treated as synonymous, and how this can lead to toxic cultures among Christians. I distinguished them, first, by saying that abstinence is simply avoiding sexual activity, and probably the easiest to define. I then discussed purity as involving a kind of single-mindedness. We all act from a variety of mixed motivations, and the work of purity involves clearing away the motivations which are not oriented towards the love of others, moving towards “pure intentions.” Chastity, on the other hand, involves an integration. The Catechism identifies chastity as an integration of sexuality within the person, which itself involves the integration of man in body and soul, especially in his affectivity and capacity for procreativity. Continue reading “Catholic Young Adults Discuss Chastity”

Sex as Communication

We don’t often think of sex as a form of communication, even though it carries many of the elements and possibilities of conversation. We can use our bodies to convey something to another. We can lie with them or deceive. We can “say” something with sex that we don’t really mean, or we can use sex to say something that we later take back. We can be misunderstood in the way that we give ourselves physically to others, as if there are differences of language or words with multiple meanings. We can be more or less open with others. Continue reading “Sex as Communication”

Do we want gay Catholics to be chaste?

In my first post, I discussed two approaches to sexuality. The first approach, the “avoidant approach,” focuses on how to avoid concupiscence. It sets this avoidance as the grounding point for responding to human sexuality. The second approach, the “integrative approach,” focuses on bringing together one’s sexuality so that it can be lived out fully. While many Catholics promote the former, the Catechism’s presentation of chastity adopts the latter. Continue reading “Do we want gay Catholics to be chaste?”

Two Views on Chastity and Sin

In my previous post, I wrote about two approaches to human sexuality: the “avoidant approach” presented by many Catholics, and the “integrative approach” presented by the catechism.

Sin no more

These approaches are analogous to a discussion of sin in John 18:11. There, Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” A common reading of this passage teaches that Jesus commands her to no longer commit adultery, or any other active sin. But this reading misses more nuanced and compelling translations of the Greek text. Continue reading “Two Views on Chastity and Sin”

What we get wrong about chastity

Two years ago, Paul Blaschko wrote about issues during his time as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. For example, when Blaschko approached a priest on staff about beginning a group to discuss issues related to sexual formation, the priest “seemed confused by the request” and asked what these issues would include. Blaschko identified such topics as sexual identity, masturbation, and pornography. The priest simply responded, “I don’t think anyone who masturbates should be in seminary.” He further said that the disclosure of masturbation or habitual “impure thoughts” would represent a “serious formation issue.” After that conversation neither Blaschko nor his classmates brought up the idea again, wondering whether openness about these issues could lead to dismissal from seminary.  Continue reading “What we get wrong about chastity”

4 Elements of a Mature Adjustment to Celibacy

This piece was originally published at Spiritual Friendship on October 15, 2014.

I recently came across the work of Richard Sipe, a former Catholic priest who released an extensive longitudinal study of the sexual practices of Catholic clergy in 1990. Though the book largely focuses on failures to live out celibacy, Sipe points out what he found to be four essential elements of a “mature adjustment to celibacy”:

  • Productive work;
  • A well-defined prayer life;
  • A deep sense of community;
  • And a dedication to service.

These four elements strike me as important for a mature adjustment to Christian life, but they are particularly important for those living out committed celibacy. In a married life, these four elements often come out naturally in the care for one’s spouse and children. What Sipe’s study shows, however, is that celibacy is not a life that just comes easily and naturally to most. Rather, it requires attention to the order and rhythm of our daily lives.

For those of you committed to celibacy, what have you found helpful in ordering your lives and maturing in your commitment?

Fear and Celibacy

This piece was originally published at Spiritual Friendship on August 11, 2014.

I remember where I was sitting. I was at the end of a long conference table, with students at my sides and my professor at the very end opposite me. We were taking a class on John Henry Newman, and as my professor read aloud from a thick black book containing Newman’s Apologia, his words hit me like a train:

I am obliged to mention, though I do it with great reluctance, another deep imagination, which at this time, the autumn of 1816, took possession of me – there can be no mistake about the fact… that it was the will of God that I should lead a single life. This anticipation, which has held its ground almost continuously ever since… was more or less connected, in my mind, with the notion that my calling in life would require such a sacrifice as celibacy involved; as, for instance, missionary work among the heathen, to which I had a great drawing for some years.

There it was. At the age of fifteen, a teenager heard a call and responded with his heart, “fiat”, let it be. And with the rush of realization, I saw with a new clarity that celibacy is not primarily about sex (or a lack thereof). It’s about love and freedom and courage. Newman’s choice came first, not from a question of sexuality, but from a unique mission to which he found himself called. Continue reading “Fear and Celibacy”