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September 21st, 2013

interesting interview on RCC + celibacy

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

SoJo has an interesting interview with Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a married priest in the Catholic church. Longenecker was a married clergyman in another denomination before converting to Catholicisim and taking vows, which allows him under Catholic law to continue his marriage. It’s an unusual situation, and gives him an interesting perspective on how the church handles “sex stuff” – celibacy, the sex scandals, and the like. Do check it out if this topic interests you.


(I was born in the city where he’s ministering, and still have Catholic family living not too far from there who are practicing Catholics. I’ve never met him or heard anything of him before this interview, but it’s still a neat personal connection, at least for me.)

On the meat of the interview:

1) I don’t buy the argument that because Jesus was unmarried, priests should be unmarried as well. Jesus was a unique case, and there are many reasons why He would stay unmarried that wouldn’t apply to us. It also seems… arbitrary to zero in on that one characteristic. Why not encourage priests to have special training in carpentry, for instance? There are probably practical reasons to prefer a celibate priesthood, both historically and today, and I like what Fr. Longenecker says about it being a counterweight against the West’s obsession with sex. But that argument that Jesus was celibate so priests should be too never worked for me.

(P.S.: I’m not an expert on this, but do we really know Jesus was unmarried? The Bible doesn’t mention a wife, and extrabiblical evidence is iffy at best, but couldn’t it be kind of like Legolas or Gimli – just because a wife isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean she couldn’t exist and just be irrelevant to the narrative?)

2) I found fr. Longenecker’s comment about how the church was global to be very interesting. This is part of what I love about the RCC – so unified, so connected – but it also seems a bit like an Achilles heel. The world is so varied, and what will work in South Korea won’t always work in New York. It’s a shame the RCC has to take a one-size-fits-all approach, although I do think I understand the reasoning.

3) On paedophilia, I absolutely agree that celibacy doesn’t cause it. I haven’t read the stats on whether it’s more or less common in church circles. But I do know that paedophilia is a thought process very different from normal erotic attraction. Saying celibate people are more likely to rape children is just as offensive as saying gay men are a special risk to boys. My bigger concern in this area isn’t that some pedophiles were Catholic priests; it was that the RCC had – and in some cases still does – valued institutional reputation and protecting the priests over the well-being of the children placed in their care. That is what truly concerns me; the child, not the priest and certainly not the RCC generally, is the victim in these cases.

4) I wouldn’t be bothered nearly so much by celibacy if priests and nuns weren’t the only people making decisions for Catholic theology and policies. Celibacy can be beautiful, and enriching, I can see the beauty in that move. I mean, I’m celibate myself though I haven’t committed to making it a lifelong thing. But celibate people only represent a sliver of the human experience, and like with anything, there can be failures of imagination where you privilege your own experience and downplay or ignore or whatever the reality of married folks with families. If priests need to be celibate because of their calling, I can live with that. I can even celebrate it. But there’s a reason we value authors and thinkers from lots of different demographics.

Progressive Protestants, for example, are very concerned that we listen to theologians who are women, people of color, LGBT, from around the world, etc. It’s not just because we want to give everyone a chance to be influential; it’s that different kinds of people bring something to the table you wouldn’t think about without those voices. So if the only people debating church theology and social policy etc. are single men… that’s problematic, and not just because it’s excluding a good deal of the human population from those roles. This isn’t about equal opportunity or rights, it’s about the value of a theology that pulls from all of humanity, and that speaks to those different peoples’ concerns. Celibacy does seem to drive a wedge between the priesthood and the world experienced by your non-celibate church member. Now, if the RCC wants to make more room for non-celibate non-priests (and non-nuns) to hold positions of influence and authority, this concern vanishes. But until that happens, I am concerned by the way celibacy makes priests into something Other from most of the RCC faithful.

Just in case anyone was wondering: it is possible to get kicked out of Kmart, even if you're a 30+, generally reliable adult.

Bad day - out of proportion frustration with Christmas tree display and associated compulsory cheer - kicking at floor in frustration misfired and I accidentally knocked over several trees, dominoes style - jerk of an assistant manger half my age. You know, the usual.

I'll laugh at this someday...

ETA: In case it wasn't clear, I am amused by this. Sort of. I mean, it was frustrating at the time and embarassing, but at least I get a good story out of it. Definitely there was an undercurrent of the sardonic to the whole experience.


grad school updateage

I've been talking quite a bit on what I call my "emo filter" (for friends I've known a particularly long time, where I share personal things not fit for public sharing) about something I've been going through in RL. I'm not looking for sympathy or anything, but since this is likely be a big part of my life for a while, I did want to own up to it publicly.

On Monday of this last week I had my second attempt at what's called a proposal defense - basically, where I'm examined on a plan for the proposal I intend to write, where the professors on my committee ask me questions about the project. It's the last major step before writing and defending the actual defense. I didn't pass the exam and it means I'm not able to continue on as a grad student, and am starting to look for a full-time job. Most of my experience is as a college instructor and tutor, and as someone in charge of administering university special programs. So I'll start looking at area universities on the administrative side of things, and also at private educational services that do college counseling, tutoring, etc.

I've already noticed one job I might be a good fit for. Fordham's CSTEP program is looking for a counselor (job description under Administrative menu). I've got a BS in math, an MA in an unrelated field (but an MA is an MA, I guess), and years of teaching + tutoring experience, some of them tutoring at-risk students in the maths + lab sciences (back when I was an undergrad). So this may be up my alley. And in some ways it's very nice to have a clean break from a tough situation along with the thrill of finding something new.

But really, this is just... depressing. Enraging. Numbing. People on that emo-filter I mentioned have seen me going through what I can only describe as a sped-up grieving process. Here's how I put things when I described the situation at FB:

This is as life-altering and, well, just about everything as you'd expect, but I think I'm handling it as well as I can. It should go without saying that I'm disappointed, both with myself and the lost opportunity. But I've really learned a lot in my years at Fordham (and Cleveland State, where I did my M.A.), so while I won't be going on into academia, I definitely think I'm a better person for the experience. I'm more sure of myself, more able to express my thoughts on things that interest me, and know a bit more about those things to boot. Socrates was a stone-cutter, after all.

This morning I sat down and worked out a first version of a resume so I can take it to my university's career services next week. That, combined with a series of things that just didn't go quite right and built up in the back of my mind, probably explains why I reacted the way I did at the store. Something about all the reminders of the magical season about to descend on us was just the straw that broke the camel's back. But really, I am doing much better than I was earlier this week and am even getting a bit excited to see what I'll get up to next. The road goes ever on, as a wise professor once said.

If you know me, you know I take the stiff-upper-lip thing to new extremes. Part of that is just having been put in the situation once too many times of things going majorly pear-shaped and ending up comforting the people I deliver the bad news to. Because if I don't convince them I'm okay then I'll have to deal with ham-fisted attempts to comfort me which I'm usually not comfortable with, for a slew of reasons good and bad. It strikes me as deeply sardonic that I engage in preemptive cliches as a defense mechanism. There's something so... *me*, on many levels.

I won't claim to be great, by a long shot. But I've received two nights of decent sleep, only one of them with chemical assistance. I've told most people what's going on so I don't have to face the choice of lie or infodump with each conversation. I have a job that looks like it might be interesting. And a friend made me promise to do nothing more than watch Sherlock for the rest of the nigh, to give myself a break. Sounds like a plan.




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December 2020



  • 5 Dec 2020, 12:53
    PM me your address. I have a card set aside for you, but need name and address to get it going.

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • 5 Dec 2020, 12:04
    What a lovely idea!
  • 4 Dec 2020, 17:56
    Mmmm, ginger snapses!
  • 4 Dec 2020, 17:37
    I don't send out cards anymore, but I was drooling over all the pop-up ones Amazon had and wondering if it might not be time to resume the tradition (I decided no).

    Not much help in the Hallmark…
  • 25 Nov 2020, 14:52
    That's great! Happy Thanksgiving to you and thanks for the marching, musical cats. LOL

    - Erulisse (one L)
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