October 10, 2007

Is a celibate priest allowed to be in love with a woman?

He promises to keep the relationship chaste, and he's asked for "a dispensation to go out with her." The answer is no:
The Rev. Sante Sguotti can no longer work as pastor in his Monterosso parish and cannot hear confessions from the faithful, the diocese of Padua said in a statement....
Is the main problem that they don't believe he'll remain chaste — the woman had a baby that he helped name — or that we don't want to see him openly dating a woman? Or is it that a priest is supposed to be devoted to the whole congregation and not fixated on one individual?

42 comments:

Pogo said...

He took a vow that requires rejecting such behavior, foresaking all others for the church; essentially becoming a monk, relationship-wise.

No, priests cannot date.
And no, no touching, not under-the-blouse-but-over-the-bra, not even over the blouse.

See why?
Permit dating, and then you're having priests say things like I did not have sex with that woman."

hdhouse said...

pogo...don't you mean "i didn't have sex with that child"?

Pogo said...

Well, that's not really considered dating 'round these parts, and hopefully not where you live, but what do I know?

Point taken, however.
Few things have been more damaging to the church than that travesty. A friend of mine was thus abused, so I carry no water for that generation of priests.

Peter Palladas said...

He took a vow that requires rejecting such behavior, foresaking all others for the church; essentially becoming a monk, relationship-wise.

No, as a secular priest he did not take a 'vow' of celibacy, but he did promise to remain faithful to the Church discipline that forbids priests to have sexual relations.

In breaking that promise - as he clearly has done - he has broken the rules and also committed the sin of fornication and adultery.

One report says that the woman is already married, but separated, which ups the ante on the sin, and also that he has announced, not his love for, but engagement with the woman, which is a non-starter if she is indeed already and still married.

Had he been - as I once was - a monk, then he would have added the sin of sacrilege to the list, and that is some serious fromage. A full-on mortal sin with potentially hellish consequences.

One of the main reasons I quit - not that I thought I would commit sacrilege, but the thought I jolly well might had me in a complete tail-spin emotionally.

Not necessarily, though, a 'vow of celibacy' as such - many orders do not use that phrase - but a vow of obedience and conversion of manner, which amounts to the same thing.

The sin of course is not his falling in love. That happens all the time with priests, though on a ratio of about one to ten compared with the women who fall in love/lust with their priest.

The allure of the forbidden - a cliché but absolutely true. Never had so many offers before or since when I was a monk. Desperate paradox really, to be handled with care.

ricpic said...

He's married to Christ. Is that so hard for a secularist to understand?

Trooper York said...

Archbishop Vittorio Contini-Verchese: When your rose fell to the ground, I understood at last, the sadness you always wear like a holy mantle.
Ralph de Bricassart: Oh Vittorio, I have tried so hard to get her out of my heart.
Archbishop Vittorio Contini-Verchese: You think I don't know that?
Ralph de Bricassart: Then why?
Archbishop Vittorio Contini-Verchese: Ralph, our God has given us freewill. And with that freewill comes the burden of choice. It is time, far past time that you took up that burden, because until you do, you cannot go
(The Thorn Birds 1983)

Zeb Quinn said...

It'd be like a man already married to a woman deciding to date another woman because he was in love with her. No sex, just dating. Pleasured times. Shared intimacy. Basking in the glow of their love. Would that be okay with his wife? Would that be okay with his marriage vows?

The Exalted said...

uh i dont see where its so clear that he's broken his vow of chastity

but, as someone else said, his relationship is to be with god, not with a woman

Trooper York said...

Brother Timothy: [seeing Dunn not dancing at the school dance] What's your excuse?
Michael Dunn: I don't know. Waiting for inspiration.
Brother Timothy: Inspiration? Who from? The Holy Ghost? Come on, it's a cinch. You walk up to some girl, you look her in the eye, you say 'Excuse me, but do you want to dance?' It works every time.
Michael Dunn: [laughs] Yeah, what if it doesn't?
Brother Timothy: If it doesn't work, then you gotta start thinking about joining a relgious order.
Michael Dunn: [getting up] Maybe I'll see you later.
Brother Timothy: Maybe you better start dancin'!
(Heaven Help Us 1985)

Drew W said...

The story says Sguotti "wanted to be her boyfriend publicly while remaining chaste." I remember going out with girls like that.

ricpic said: "He's married to Christ. Is that so hard for a secularist to understand?" Nice to see the Catholic Church is finally coming around on same-sex marriage. (Here, I'll beat you to it: I'm going to Hell for that one. As the Episcopalian son of a Catholic mother, I feel somewhat free to make such a wisecrack, although some will surely disagree.)

I'm also fascinated by the reference made in the story to "Emmanuel Milingo, the renegade Zambian archbishop who was excommunicated last year after marrying a woman and launching a campaign for the Vatican to allow priests to marry." Am I the only one who sees a Samuel L. Jackson-starring miniseries in this? (Which I guess just leads us back to "The Thorn Birds.")

Trooper York said...

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life
(The Circle of Life 1994)

knoxwhirled said...

pogo...don't you mean "i didn't have sex with that child"?

LOL!

knoxwhirled said...

... lest anyone think I take child abuse lightly, I don't. Every member of the Catholic hierarchy involved in those events should have been summarily dismissed, if not worse.

I wonder how Cardinal Law feels about it? Oh yeah, he's busy, kicking back in the vatican. harsh punishment for someone who tossed kids into the belly of the beast.

Sissy Willis said...

I don't suppose anyone has asked the woman how she feels about it . . .

Icepick said...

Drew W: Nice to see the Catholic Church is finally coming around on same-sex marriage.

Dang, you beat me to it!

Pogo said...

Peter,
I much appreciate your learned response. I avoided saying "vow of celibacy" because I knew it not to be true. But clearly I was less than instructive with my explanation.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Clerical celibacy was part of a reform movement addressing several real problems near the end of the first millennium -- the control of the church by the rich and powerful through the sale of church offices and the related potential for passing on offices to children.

For nine centuries before Leo IX's reforms, priests married and had children. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9 about his right to take a believing wife along with him in his ministry.

Of course the Roman Catholic church is free to make its own rules, but I wonder if clerical celibacy has outlived its intended purposes and created problems of its own.

Trooper York said...

Father Peter Lonergan, Narrator: Well, I can't say it's true, and I won't say it's not, but there's been talk
(The Quiet Man)

John Rohan said...

I see a couple of problems here:

On a technicality, the priest may be right. Vows of celibacy don't say that he can't be friends with a woman. Yes, he claimed he "loves" her, but after all, priests are supposed to love everyone.

Certainly, he's allowed to have a male friend, so why not a female one? Speaking of that, that goes into a disturbing double standard. If he were gay, he could spend all day with his "boyfriend" and no one would think anything of it.

There is one more problem too. There ARE married Catholic priests. Episcopalian, and other married priests have been allowed to convert. So what this guy should do is change his religion, get married, then apply to become a Catholic priest again...

Steven said...

Jesus said looking upon a woman with lust is adultery, and hating someone is murder. There's a general principle here that's pretty easy to extend to this case.

And let's note that married men can become priests, but priests are always forbidden to marry, even in the non-Latin rites.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I wonder if clerical celibacy has outlived its intended purposes and created problems of its own.

Pastor_Jeff: Have the protestant denominations solved the problems of PKs? Clerical celibacy is a practice, a discipline, a gift to the church. It is not dogma. But for the vast majority of clerics, celibacy is not a problem.

Trooper York said...

The Reverend John Fuzz was a pastor of a small congregation in a little Pennsylvania town. One day, walking down Main St., he noticed a female member of his congregation sitting in the town bar, drinking beer. The reverend thought this was sinful and not something a member of his congregation should do. He walked through the open door of the bar and sat down next to the woman. "Mrs. Fitzgerald," the reverend said sternly. "This is no place for a member of my congregation. Why don't you let me take you home?"

"Sure," she said with a slur, obviously very drunk. When Mrs. Fitzgerald stood up from the bar, she began to weave back and forth. The reverend realized that she had had too much to drink grabbed her arms to steady her. When he did, they both lost their balance and tumbled to the floor. After rolling around for a few seconds, the reverend wound up laying on top of Mrs. Fitzgerald, her skirt hiked up to her waist.

The bartender looked over the bar and said, "Here, here buddy, we won't have any of that carrying around in this bar!"

The reverend looked up at the bartender and said, "But you don't understand, I'm Pastor Fuzz."

The bartender nodded and said, "Hell then, if you're that far in, you might as well finish up."

michael farris said...

"but priests are always forbidden to marry, even in the non-Latin rites."

but IINM orthodox priests are allowed to be married (if they were married before ordination) and the expectation for parish priests was to be married (to better fit in with their parrishes).

michael farris said...

"Have the protestant denominations solved the problems of PKs?"

What are PKs?

jane said...

LOL. To what i'm not saying.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Michael Farris: Preacher's kids.

Richard Fagin said...

I've heard about the "vast right wing conspriacy" from the former First Lady, as well as some wailing about how hard he tried to stop terrorism from the former President when midly challenged by a reporter.

I'm not sure I ever heard Presdent Bush complain about his treatment by the press.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Ruth Anne - Ha! Good one. I didn't know we had a problem. I'll ask my wife.

Then again, if there is a problem, at least it's not one invented this millennium. You are in favor of tradition, right?

Nataraj Hauser said...

And let's note that married men can become priests, but priests are always forbidden to marry, even in the non-Latin rites.

Catholic priests can't be married unless they converted from, for example, the Anglican church. A Catholic deacon can be married, but he cannot become a priest while married. If his wife dies, he can take full ordination. He also cannot remarry, and so might as well become a priest at that point. My brother-in-law (sister's husband) is a deacon, married with two kids.

I agree that the celibacy requirement is past its usefullness, but the current pope won't consider changing it (nor did his two predecessors). It's taking its toll on the number of men willing to be ordained and the Church is struggling to cover all parishes. Many priests now are circuit-riders, covering more than one parish. It will be a key-log issue for the Church before too long.

former law student said...

Palladas: Diocesan priests take a vow of chastity and a vow of obedience. I'm surprised you didn't know this. As for boy-girl relationships, some times they can end badly:
(07-01) 21:42 PDT TILLAMOOK -- A two-week search for a missing Union City woman and a Jesuit priest who was traveling with her on a five-state road trip across the Northwest ended Sunday with the grim discovery of their bodies inside the wreckage of their car in rural Oregon.

Cheryl Gibbs, 61, a longtime supervisor in the Alameda County coroner's office, and David Schwartz, 52, a priest from Garden Grove (Orange County), appear to have run off the road about 60 miles west of Portland, according to Don Taylor, a Tillamook County deputy sheriff.
...
Gibbs and Schwartz had been close friends and traveling companions for years, but not romantically involved, according to his family.

Trooper York said...

Mrs. Breen: You've obviously never been neck deep in Nuns.
(The Bells of St. Mary's 1945)

Ruth Anne Adams said...

PJ: I believe it's been a problem since Protestantism...how many years is that now? Not quite a thousand years yet, I believe. And you know I believe in tradition. How else did one get the current Canon of the New Testament, but from a few hundred years' tradition, memorialized near the time of the Council of Nicea.

Pastor_Jeff said...

My joke was based on the earlier tradition/existence of PKs since the time of the apostles.

I'll take that 2,000 year-old tradition over Leo's newer one.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Don't begrudge us the point where tradition is on the side of the Protestants!

Ruth Anne Adams said...

PJ: That was a joke? Oops.

And don't begrudge us Catholics the ability to take what once was [married priests] and let it become something better [as Paul suggests].

Maybe you were just the cat I kicked but I am sick to death of non-Catholics thinking that they have anything to say about the rites, rituals, traditions, practices of the faith that they rejected hundreds of years ago.

darkbhudda said...

Celibacy means not getting married.
Chastity means not having sex.
Big difference people.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

darkbuddha:
In Church rule, "celibacy" means abstaining from all sexual activity; "chastity" means abstaining from unlawful sexual intercourse. Married people can be celibate; married people have an obligation to be chaste within their station in life.

Kev said...

He's married to Christ. Is that so hard for a secularist to understand?

I have a friend who's a priest, and he has a big cross ring on the finger where a wedding ring would normally go. He pretty much expressed the above sentiment as the reason why he wore it there; I thought that was pretty cool...

Galvanized said...

I believe it's the latter. Just because the relationship isn't consummated doesn't mean that it's not fulfilling enough for the two of them to constitute a spousal-type relationship, and thus may as well be considered a marriage.

Personally, I'm for priests being allowed to marry. I think repression is effective only in measured spurts, much like fasting, for artists and spiritualists. But as a lifestyle, it seems that it would lead to despondency or, worse, depression for many. If those same men can find fulfillment and satiety in other areas of their lives secularly, outside Church -- sensually with food, entertainment, music; emotionally with friendly relationships -- then why would the physical be so different so long as it's not extramarital?

xchiarax said...

Celibacy is about not having a relationship, not just about abstaining from sex. In Roman Catholicism it is forbidden to have sex outwith marriage anyway, so as the priest is not married, he shouldn't be involved in a sexual relationship with the woman.

However, I have known priests who have fallen in love with a woman. Your heart is meant to be totally devoted to God, such is the nature of their vocation. Many times they have chosen to leave the priesthood for a woman.

Rex said...

Secular clergy live in this world, but the monastic character that evolved in the Western churches showed that the priests take on the view of living in the next world, as do Eastern monks. Once the character of the diaconate - "having been the husband of but one woman" as scripture says - the assumption of remarriage after widower-ship, or marriage in the first instance, is no longer available. Cases of Ekonomia aside, the soul has changed, and with it the responsibilities to serve the world, or become a servant of the world.

This also explains why the secular clergy come from married men, and heiromonks are such a rarity. The importance is, however, not on married or unmarried clergy - let alone dating- but more to serve your particular Church in such a way as to be the most available vessel of the blood of Christ to His people. I believe the priest originally in question should not review his life, but how he affects the lives of those around him.

All in my humble, hopefully driven, opinion.

g.mills said...

I think the catholic church made these celibacy rules for the priest who hated women. Lets face it these vows which young healthy men have taken were man-made to suite the old guard within the church.Do you really believe they can cut out their own hearts and never fall in love. The old men in the catholic church need a wake-up call. This is 2011.