- Hardcover: 324 pages
- Publisher: Brunner-Routledge; 1st edition (September 1, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0876305850
- ISBN-13: 978-0876305850
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #845,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Secret World: Sexuality And The Search For Celibacy Hardcover – September 1, 1990
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He begins this 1990 book, "The potential value of this study lies in the questions that it addresses: What is celibacy? How is it really practiced by those who profess it? What is the process of celibacy? What is the structure of celibate achievement? In short, this is a search for a structural and dynamic model of an ancient practice that crosses cultural and religious boundaries... The time period spanned by this search is the quarter-century that has marked the 'sexual revolution.' ... there is also much to be learned about sexuality from sexual restraint and abstinence... What better examples of sexual control are there than those who publicly profess a life full of meaning yet devoid of sex---Roman Catholic priests?" (Pg. 3-4)
He explains, "Whereas confession can be accomplished in the dark and anonymously, spiritual direction and psychotherapy are two areas in which a priest can reveal his intimate life-style and deal openly and yet in a privileged manner with issues of sexuality. During the period of our study, priests increasingly talked more openly to friends or in small groups about their sexual struggles... Individual revelations and collections of data can make the penetration of the veil of secrecy possible and useful both to those who wish to understand sexuality better and to those who wish to live celibacy effectively." (Pg. 5) He admits that his study's "estimates of celibate practice and achievement are made on the basis of the life experience of 1500 men. 'They are the sick ones,' or 'They are the exceptions,' may be the first line of defense against the simple facts... I am confident that if we have erred at all, it is on the side of conservative percentages." (Pg. 9)
He reveals, "In my mid-thirties, I experienced a depression I could not shake or explain... Two years into analysis, I became convinced that celibacy was no longer a goal I wished to pursue. My religious superior was understanding of the struggle and helpful in directing me toward an ecclesiastical dispensation from the vow of celibacy. Soon after I made my internal resolve about my own celibate goal, I met a missionary nun psychiatrist. I consciously pursued the relationship. Three years later, after she too was dispensed from her vows, we were married in a Roman Catholic ceremony." (Pg. 14)
He suggests, "Celibacy cannot be kept in place without sublimation. If sexual activity is chosen by the celibate, some other mental mechanism must be employed to keep him psychically in place while he compromises the incompatibles---direct sexual activity and no sexual activity. Without such a mechanism, celibacy is a sham and a pretense, and does not really involve the attempt to channel sexual energy into nonsexual outlets. Periodic sexual abstinence is not celibacy." (Pg. 70)
He states, "About 20 percent of priests vowed to celibacy... are at any one time involved either in a more or less stable sexual relationship with a woman or, alternatively, with sequential women in an identifiable pattern of behavior. An additional 8 to 10 percent or priests are at a stage of heterosexual exploration that often involves incidental sexual contacts... A failed relationship can result in the priest's avoiding a subsequent relationship, but not necessarily sexual activity." (Pg. 74) Later, he adds, "Generally, 18 to 22 percent of clergy... are either involved in homosexual relationships, have a conflict about periodic sexual activity, feel compelled toward homosexual involvements, identify themselves as homosexual, or at least have serious questions about their sexual orientation or differentiation. Not all of these men act out any sexual behavior with others... Between 1978 and 1985, the reporting of homosexual behaviors increased significantly and ... almost coubled to between 38 and 42 percent... Between 1982 and 1985, several informants... estimated the homosexualities in their districts approached 50 percent." (Pg. 107)
He observes about the attitudes of seminary officials in the mid-1960s, "Limited homosexual experience in a candidate's background could be better tolerated than an experience of heterosexual intercourse; the logic was that if one had experienced coitus, one was not likely to complete the course of studies... The shame and guilt of an isolated homosexual encounter, plus the structure of the seminary schedule, were presumed to be positively motivational rather than a deterrent to celibacy." (Pg. 105)
He states, "Homosexual behavior does not coincide exactly with homosexual orientation... Approximately half of the priests who would describe themselves as homosexual either practice celibacy ... and generally have done so in the same proportion as priests who have a heterosexual orientation... A percentage of homosexually oriented men do not involve themselves with others, but nonetheless act out sexual fantasy, often via pornography and compulsive masturbation. Of the 6 percent of priests involved with children or minors, 4 percent have a homosexual orientation... but 3 percent are so clearly dominated by their paraphilias that the sexual orientation is secondary. We hold to the estimate that approximately 20 percent of all clergy have some homosexual orientation. Approximately 10 percent of clergy... involve themselves in homosexual activity. Four percent of clergy have a stable homosexual orientation and have more or less consistent relationship with little or no guilt attached to their behavior... Also within this homosexual group are those who are vocal and radically active and feel it is a part of their vocation to be honest about their sexual orientation and that sexual activity is their God-given right... This small but growing faction is truly part of the gay subculture that has been incorporated into clerical life." (Pg. 133-134) He adds, "We estimate that 80 percent of clergy masturbate at least occasionally." (Pg. 139)
At times both enlightening and disturbing, this fascinating and insightful will be "must reading" anyone wanting to know about the contemporary priesthood, homosexuality and Catholicism, the clergy sex abuse crisis, or related issues.