Wednesday, March 14, 2012

He wants to be a priest

This one is for the ladies. (But you are of course welcome to chime in gentlemen :-)
Has anyone pulled this one on you?

I suppose this post really outght to be entitled 'In defence of Catholic priests' to pair off nicely with this post.
But somehow, I prefer to spin it differently this time.

I am friends with many Catholic priests, young and old. I guess it comes with the territory of being a Catholic.
Priests are people too :-)

But it is precisely this thinking on my part which could lead to all kinds of problems. I am reminded of a comment Bellita made in one of her posts ages ago, where she describes making cookies for her local Catholic priest. In this case it turns out he is diabetic and doesn't actually like/want the cookies for this reason...but I sympathise with Bellita's goodwill.

Many women, at least in traditional Catholic circles are brought up to keep in mind that they have a duty to their local clergy, not just to their immediate family. When I was small, it was not unusual to have priests over at my childhood home, for Sunday lunch or a little picnic especially as catechism classes for all the local children by the seminarians from the local 'priest school' were sometimes held at my house.
You could say I kinda grew up with priests (and nuns).

In many traditional societies, there is always a woman (young or old) whose (usually but not exclusively, unpaid) job is to look after the local priest - be a kind of housemaid for him. This is a noble job. This woman could be single or married, no matter.
Families take it in turns to host the priest, like my family did throughout my childhood.
Because otherwise, it can be a pretty lonely life for a priest, especially if he is posted to a remote place.
Yes I am aware that this arrangement went horribly wrong in many instances with the whole abuse scandal. It is not the focus of this post however.

Fast forward several years and I continue my habit of hanging around priests. It is quite the culture shock to see that one young priest I know is very good at keeping women at arms' length, quite literally. If you go to kiss him on the cheek, he will bow his head in such a way as to thwart you. I know this is automatic with him. I get it. I see it as a kind of 'b*tch shield' for priests :-)

It fascinates me. Because of course it makes me realise that priests are men too.
And these men are special in that they are called to remain celibate for life.
A nun would kiss or hug anyone, I notice. But then again a nun may not have quite the same problem as a priest.

A woman, whether she likes it or not is a 'distraction' to a man - whoever he is, priest or pauper, prince or philosopher.
Islam is obviously not oblivious to this :-)
But I am not sure shrouding women in total body cover is quite the best solution :-)
Although I think Danny would have preferred this option had it been available in the situation he describes here where he is distracted by a female patient's attire.
Whilst my priest friend is not made to suffer to this degree, at least not by me nor the women in his social circle, I understand his and other priests' predicament. At least I can imagine what it must be like for them.

I guess no-one is born a priest. I have not and will never ask, but I am sure all my priest friends would have romantic stories to tell from their pasts. It is known that Pope John Paul II had a girl he was in love with before he became a priest.
Which brings me nicely to the essence of this post.

How does a woman feel when her ex-boyfriend one day becomes the Pope?
I mean, how does one deal with the fact that your guy cheated on you with God?
I am being deliberately provocative here, of course. It's one thing to see God as the ultimate practitioner of Game, but it is another entirely to see him as a woman's rival for the affections of a man :-)

It is said that nuns are 'brides of Christ'.
But so are priests in a way. Not to see tham as 'feminine' in normal terms, but just in relation to God.

How hurtful is it for a woman to know that her man has been 'stolen' from her by God?
Is this situation livable?
I would dearly love to hear from any woman who has been in this situation. I am conscious of the fact that this might be a painful story to tell however.

But men can be 'taken away' from women in other ways, of course.

In some ways, it is 'personal'.
Like when you find out your husband is gay on your wedding night, or after ten years of marriage.
Like he died (in which case, we are back to God being 'the accused' in a way).
Like the guy you've been dating for six months turns out to be your long-lost brother.
Like your husband cheated on you and he is now making plans to leave you and stay with the other woman.

Or it could be 'general'.
Like the whole MGTOW movement :-)

OK, OK, I couldn't resist throwing that in...


The point is, how does a woman deal with her greatest fear - to be abandoned by a man, in whatever form that may take?

For that matter how does a man deal with his girlfriend leaving him to go become a nun? I am sure this is rarer than a man leaving for the priesthood.

Before I get the obvious retort, might I pre-empt by sympathising with those men whose wives suddenly become 'nuns' whilst still in the marriage, for no apparent reason.
I guess this situation is not funny either.

 Pope JP II - rest in peace

Ladies: How would you feel if this was your ex-fiancĂ© or ex-boyfriend...

This priest (Fr Alberto Cutie) of course did it the other way round :-)
I know what y'all are thinking: With looks like that and a surname like that, what was he thinking going into the priesthood in the first place? :-)

Related question for you ladies: does it ever get 'distracting' to have a young attractive priest at church? Or does it actually help the faith along nicely?
I ask because one of my aunts jokingly says that she only goes to church because the priest is 'cute'. And she is married! Ha ha :-)


just visiting said...

When I was 12, I read the Thorn Birds. Your post brings that to mind.

I wasn't brought up Catholic, but I remember helping my grandmother make meals every Wednesday for the minister and walking over to the manse.

I've never lost a man to God, but....
Again, at twelve , I developed a huge crush on my best friend's brother. He was older,a comic geek,artistic and wrote stories that I was honored that he would let me read. So of course, I did all of these things too,lol.

In high school, I was determined that he would no longer see me in the bratty kid sister category. Geek chick wasn't doing it, so, joined student council, the basketball team,year book committee
and became co-captain of the cheer leading team. The football team, basketball teams and cheerleaders would fund raise by selling tickets to their hall parties, which I didn't attend. They figured I was acting too cool for school...or something lol,

If they only knew. Saturdays were spent in J----'s basement with some other kids playing dungeons and dragon's. 2 years of this, and I still couldn't tell you how to play, because I was there for one reason only. To stare adoringly at the smartest boy that could possibly exist. (You want to talk pedestals?)

I couldn't believe my luck when I was allowed to go on a camping trip with this bunch, and share a tent exclusively with the object of my affection. (No, I wasn't going to do anything sexual, but, I was going to get things out in the open.)Well, that didn't work out.

My mother and his mother were friends. One of the reasons I'd been allowed to go on a camping trip with an older teen age boy,(Whom I was obviously crazy about) was because he'd already "come out" to his mother. I can laugh now, but back then, devastating.

Spacetraveller said...

@ JV,

Wow, this takes me back!
I do remember The Thorn birds - I don't think I ever read the book, but I remember the series with Richard Chamberlain.
Did you mention crushes? (cough, cough) :-)

But I am afraid The Thorn birds is so much milder than another 'priest film' I know...

Have you ever seen 'The crime of Father Amaro'?
It's a Spanish film with English subtitles.
Extremely sad film...

But in sympathy with the situation you describe in your comment, I once went to see a film called 'Priest' with some priests and nuns from my parish.
None of us knew what it was actually about.
Turns out it was about a Catholic priest who finds out he is gay and has a torrid affair with a man in his parish.
Embarrassingly graphic film. Didn't know which way to look half the time.
That's the last time I went to the cinema with anyone who wears a habit or a cassock :-)

BeijaFlor said...

"I mean, how does one deal with the fact that your guy cheated on you with God?"

Oh, WOW!!! That is beyond classic, it is (with apologies to Dante Alighieri) Divine Comedy!

And ... save for the religion involved, and the level reached by the guy ... it coulda been me.

I went to what passes for seminary, in the religion to which I was born, while 95% of my high-school classmates went on to college. I studied to become a "spiritual counselor" of my church, but I stopped before getting ordained as a minister because I needed to support my mother.

If the religion had been Roman Catholic, I believe I'd have done "just fine" as Father BeijaFlor. Sometimes, I wish it had been and I had done so....

Spacetraveller said...

@ BeijaFlor,

I about 'entitlement' on women's think we have a right to compete with GOD for a man's affections...
Welcome to Planet Woman, BeijaFlor :-)

I must say, Fr BeijaFlor has a nice ring to it :-)

Anonymous said...


I tried signing in but was unable to, so I'm anon, also known as "PVW."

I was raised Catholic as well, went to Catholic school, saw the Thornbirds when I was in junior high and read the book as well. I too once thought of becoming a nun. My family wasn't as involved in getting to know the priests; we were in a large urban parish. There were women who worked in the rectory, cooking and cleaning, perhaps?

I can't say that I have had the same experiences of a boyfriend wanting to become a priest; although I do know of some who if they didn't pursue the route they took, of becoming traditional-minded family men, would have become priests. Who knows, they might become deacons now.

I was curious, though, about the handsome young priest in my parish who taught catechism. So many of the girls had big-time crushes.

The nuns, they were older women in their 50s who did not engender the same sentiment among the young men, although there was a young female Sunday school teacher who fit the mold of the boys' crush. But she was not a nun she later married, though.

Nowadays I'm Protestant, and the ministers in my denomination are permitted to marry, so the hot young minister often has an equally attractive young wife. She is the one taking care of his needs, so to speak. Tee hee...

That is what happened to Cutie; he became an Episcopal priest. Isn't he married now?

Spacetraveller said...

So good to see you here, PVW!
AS you know, you are my Titus 2 mentor :-)

Welcome to The Sanctuary!

Thanks for sharing your experiences...

I must say, I knew a young nun who was so attractive, she was single-handedly attracting teenage boys to Mass. She wasn't yet a 'full' nun, and I happen to know that her Mother Superior was 'worried' about her. Even though she was fully dedicated to becoming a nun. I guess they thought she was just too attractive, and that some persistent man might succeed in luring her away from her vocation...Kinda like Maria von Trapp in 'The sound of music'.
I don't know if she ever made it to full 'nunhood'.
Somehow I hope not! (Sorry God). She was also very sweet, feminine and maternal (taught catechism, was a nursery teacher, always had a smile on her face)...everything a marrying type of guy would want.

Yes I believe Cutie is married now.

Can I ask you something? Growing up, did you ever receive the following advice:
NEVER EVER marry an ex-Catholic priest?

I did. Not sure of the logic behind this, but I guess it is something to do with the fact that a man has previously broken a commitment he made. It might also be the same logic behind why Catholics are 'forbidden' to marry a divorcé(e).
Or, perhaps the sentiment is, 'once a priest, always a priest'. And he will preach to you like you a member of the congregation for the rest of your married lives :-)
Can you think of any other reasons behind this advice?

Anonymous said...

Hi, Spacetraveler!

Didn't realize it was you here.

I'm glad I stopped by; I'm glad as well to inspire you as a Titus 2 mentor.

I must say I hope the young woman you spoke of didn't become a nun--she should have married a nice man and raise a happy family, but it is also nice to know she got the young men in, insofar as she provided a model of the type of young woman they should be dating....

I never got the message not to marry an ex-Catholic priest, but I think your rationales are good ones, that if he broke his vow, might he break others? Might he treat you like a member of his congregation?

I think it would depend too, on how he made the transition into leaving the priesthood.

Perhaps the perception might be that priests who left did like Cutie and supposedly break their vows while still a priest--Cutie was found with a girlfriend on vacation. This perception might be erased, though if he did it honorably, ie., leave and then date?

The transgression seems to be doubled if he did the former, breaking vows and sinning (fornicating, such a lovely old fashioned word)!

Or too, there might be perceptions that she was a jezebel that lured a good man away from his ministry; others might see it that way, and don't be surprised if he might see it that way too on occasion, in the ups-and-downs of marriage.

Other reasons to oppose, one's marriage can become too political. Remember that these sort of cases tend to bring up the eternal issue of whether priests should marry, giving more fodder to the oponents of celibacy to make their arguments.

Something that occurred to me, these priests who break their vows, date and even have sex with women, do they urge their girlfriends to practice birth control? I wouldn't be surprised, they have broken a major vow, sinned and so what else??? I think of this when I hear of stories of former priests who had children out of wedlock....Hmmm.

I must admit, though, that if I ever became single again, ie., if the husband died, I'd be checking out the priests in my Episcopal diocese!

I find that Protestant ministers have less of the type of pressure placed upon Catholic priests; they are seen as people just like everyone else who merely have a call to ordained ministry.



Spacetraveller said...

@ PVW,

I see what you mean about priests and contraception. I guess it's the domino effect of 'falling', huh? You break one law and you end up breaking them all...
In the film 'The crime of Fr Amaro' which I mentioned above in answer to JV's comment, Fr Amaro and a 16 year old girl in his parish get 'friendly'. (Interestingly, that girl's mother is also 'friendly' with the older priest, the superior of Fr Amaro for 20 years - and in fact I think it is alluded to in the film - can't quite remember - that the girl could well be the daughter of the older priest!)
When she inevitably gets pregnant, he takes her to an abortion clinic. Unfortunately something ges wrong and she bleeds to death...
And he officiates at her funeral...

In the Cutie case, I think so many people, including a lot of Catholics couldn't care less about his scandal. Because 'at least he wasn't abusing kids'. So in many ways he was small fry as far as people were concerned, for the Church faced a bigger problem...

Charming Disarray said...

Ack! Once a priest, always a priest.

(Sorry, I'm super hard-core about this. :D)

I haven't had this happen to me in a big way but I will admit to feeling a tiny twinge of resentment when I hear guys talking ever-so-casually about joining the seminary. It's often converts who do this, and the ones who talk the most about it are the ones who never end up going. I think my reaction to it is a combination of wounded female vanity (of course, hee hee) but also is a bit more complicated because I feel like we Catholic women get told ALL THE FLIPPIN TIME that men have virtually no control over how attracted they are to women. At least, in my circles this got hammered home to the point where I was afraid to wear anything that even looked nice--okay, exaggerating slightly, but you see what I mean. And then all of a sudden out of nowhere a guy who has previously been a virtual slave to his passions and can't bear to be around a woman who shows her ankles is now going to so very easily take up a life of celibacy?

What is that??

Spacetraveller said...

@ CD,


Yup, I know what you mean.
You're like, "YOU are going to be a priest? Yeah right..." :-)

Although to be fair, I guess it is similar to a woman talking a lot about wanting to be a nun and never quite so much as making it to the convent gate.
Um, like me :-)

It's a 'growth' thing, I guess.
Besides the seminaries are clued up to this, I'm sure. They can spot the capricious ones a mile away. Wouldn't surprise me if they take bets on who would leave the earliest, LOL.

And they can get quite fussy.
One of my Mum's friends got rejected from nun school because she had severe asthma (in fact she later died of this shortly after). Another one got rejected from the seminary because his parents weren't married (we're talking 1950's... his parents were the hippy types and didn't feel the need to get married before having all 5 kids...until one of them got rejected from priest school.
The parents were so sweet though - they actually got married in their old age just so their son could become a priest, but the seminary still refused him. That man went on to have a very unhappy marriage later. He really really wanted to be a priest.


Anonymous said...

Charming Disarray:

It seems to me that you are onto something here, both you and SpaceTraveler, it is the zeal of the convert.

That is the thing with Catholicism; for one who is interested in being super-devout in any real and significant fashion, the call to ordination is the ultimate expression of that...

So these men might toy with the idea, but it is not really to be taken seriously.

But it does talk to something far greater, which should be taken seriously.

That is why I really have a problem with this Roman Catholic take on what is required of those who pursue ordination into the priesthood; it can require on the part of men that type of hyper sensitivity which is really about them and their possibilities and limitations rather than women.

It is as though women's very existence is the problem; and this dates back at least to Augustine, if anything!

It requires a rejection of women and for some, the vilification of their femininity and attractiveness.

Which explains, I think, Spacetraveler, the lack of response among many of the laity with respect to Fr. Cutie and his girlfriend.

Yes, he did something wrong, but in the scheme of things, is it comparable to the more serious and egregious wrong of those who would molest children?

Please, for the number of Catholics who dislike clerical celibacy, they probably said, "good for him!" He is married, he is raising a family, he is still a cleric, only a Protestant one.

I'm reminded of the Protestant opposite. I remember a story, I believe it was of a Protestant minister who was giving thanks at an invocation, perhaps for Nascar.

He gave praise for all sorts of things, including for his hot wife as an example of God's creation! I laughed because it was so funny, a celebration of an earthy awareness of God's beauty and glory which he obviously thoroughly enjoys in his marital relationship.

Praise the Lord, is all I can say, as a former Catholic-turned Protestant.



Spacetraveller said...

@ PVW,

"It is as though women's very existence is the problem; and this dates back at least to Augustine, if anything!
It requires a rejection of women and for some, the vilification of their femininity and attractiveness."

Wow, I never thought of this before.
But now you mention it, I can see how it can be a great 'coping mechanism' by a priest who is desperately trying to 'keep it together' to avoid getting tempted.

And you know what? The priest I am specifically referring to in the post is none other than an Augustinian! Hmm, maybe I should read up on St Augustine. I might learn something. Could you tell me a little about St Augustine and his attitude towards women? Pretty please, with sugar and spice on top?

I too have often wondered why catholic priests have to be celibate. Because I know that this was not always so. There was a time they were allowed to get married.

But I put my thoughts to rest in the full trust that 'The Church' knows what it is doing, and that it wasn't worth worrying my pretty little head over it :-)

But this might be a clue as to why the Church insists on celibacy:

This from the nun I mention in the post 'In defence of Catholic nuns':

"When you have a family, your energies are directed towards that small group of people. Which is a good thing, you are supposed to.

When you are called to celibate priesthood or the religious life you are called to love on a wider basis. Everyone is now your family."

I find that beautiful. For me though, it was around that time that I began to think...'hmm, maybe this religious life might not be for me afterall!'

So I never packed my bags and headed for the convent.

But I am sure for the right girl listening to that little speech, it would have been the impetus to do just that.

Anonymous said...


Good points that priests weren't required to be celibate throughout time; if anything, with the Reformation and the Protestants' attempts to "correct" for the corruptions in early church practices developed by the institutional church structure, they rejected the celibacy requirement.

Some believe the requirement came from a pure matter of economics, ie., not having to pay for a priest's family, etc., or drawing upon the example of Jesus not being married, the Church wanted to return to that earlier example?

As for Augustine, here is an interesting discussion of him:

It is interesting what you mentioned about nuns; it is true, everyone is your family when you are a celibate religious, but the time will come when the people you minister to will move on or you will be called upon to move on by your superior.

Where does family and community come from then? Arguably family and community comes for them in the form of the communicants in their orders.

Speaking of nuns, I know an Episcopal priest who once attended a Catholic seminary; I don't know whether she once considered becoming a nun. I know she wanted ordination; she hit a brick wall with that.

So she had to take a degree in Anglican studies at an Episcopal seminary in order to get on track. I think she was ordained into the priesthood earlier this year....

When I was of high school age, I used to have arguments with my parents, but what if I want ordination? I used to chat with them about the important example a married female priest might provide in a congregation, and a fair number of the female priests I have known have been phenomenal!

So I can't say that I have considered the possibility of becoming a nun since junior high when I was in Catholic school...


Spacetraveller said...

@ PVW,

Wow, thanks for the article on St Augustine. I did not know he had a wife and son. I only knew of his mother's wish for his conversion to Christianity.

About the concept of 'everyone being your family' for nuns and priests, the whole idea is that when it is time to move on, you are not attached to the old community. You simply see the next community as your new family.

That's what turned me off religious life.
I could never detach myself quite so easily. It must be one of the hardest things to do for sure...

Anonymous said...

As I type, you have 25,626 page views, so this question can't be that uncommon. All priest are men and plenty of them date before they make that final decision.

But I can only answer for myself.

I dated a man for years that I loved very much. We were sexually active. He was a new catholic. I was on my way toward being agnostic.
I was attracted to him for many reasons which included his desire to look beyond the here and now, his interest in theology, his intelligence and his quick wit. But no matter how close we got, I always felt he was holding back, as if he knew our time would end, had to end.
So, of course, it did. Hurt and confused, I attempted to move on. Shortly after I married someone else, I saw him again, in public, and sensed he still felt something for me. With no intention of hurting my spouse, I put the thoughts away.

Within a year of that last meeting, my ex was enrolled in seminary. It was quite a shock to me to see an internet photo of him in his clergy collar. There are so many questions I want to ask, so much confusion left still. I think, perhaps, I was part of his journey to the priesthood. He was trying to figure things out back then. But it feels strange, as if he had been keeping this secret from me all that time.

I might be angry. I might still be hurt. I'm not sure. But there you have it.

Spacetraveller said...

Aww, Anonymous,

I really feel your pain.
It is almost tangible in your words...

It must indeed feel hurtful that you just didn't know what was going through his mind before, when you were with him...
Infuriating that you don't get your questions answered.

But well done for not hurting your husband. That must have taken great courage.

I wonder what kind of priest he will become?
If he doesn't seem to have resolved his feelings for you (as you might not have for him), it all sounds desperately 'unfinished' somehow.

Wow, tough one.
Thanks for sharing your story here. But I imagine it must have been painful to revisit it.
May your pain turn to happiness and peace!