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How To Define Catholic Celibacy And Chastity And Save The Church A Billion Dollars

Aristotle warned us centuries ago that vaguely defined words defeat reason. At best they result in the inability to communicate...and at worst...they create chaos.

Catholic Celibacy is an example. The lack of adequate definition...and understanding of this idea...is the direct cause of over a billion dollars paid to make reparation for the effects of child sexual abuse cases by catholic ministers.

But such payment does not really correct the chaos of ruined lives of the sex abuse victims...or restore the now chaotic moral authority of the church...does it?

It's not billions of dollars that will restore the church to its true path of holiness...but simple teaching based on rational definition of what a celibate life is about...and how it relates to human sexuality. Such teaching provides the necessary sexual boundaries for celibate ministers.

Because Aristotle's rules for defining anything are still used in science...philosophy...and law today...we can do no better than to rely on him to help define celibacy...in order to understand it in a useful way.

Many in the church say celibacy is "witnessing for the kingdom". But that is not a rational definition for two reasons.

  1. ...it is a mystical description not a rational definition...which is very different
  2. ...it can have a variety of meanings for different people which makes it incommunicable.

When something is incommunicable...you cannot teach it...or learn it. It's that simple.

So...let's try Aristotle's simple rational way of defining important ideas...which you can read at the url below...

Celibacy...is a life choice to remain single...in order to make the practice of chastity more perfect.

But what is chastity?

Chastity is a skill...that keeps a person from exercising the sexual function (cf. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

So celibacy is a choice not to get married...and chastity is the ongoing working ability to refrain from sexual behavior.

By defining them rationally...we see immediately that celibacy and chastity are quite different.

While virtually all of the clerical sex offenders remained celibate...unmarried...they did not display any ability to steer clear of sexual behavior.

So with these definitions we can remove ourselves from all discussions about "enforced celibacy" as the cause of sexual malpractice in ministry. Marriage does not prevent sexual misbehavior.

The solution to any problem begins in the mind...by defining things.

So defining our terms leads us to chastity as the problem area.

Skills (some call them virtues) require practice. And therein lies the difficulty...and the irrationality...that leads to chaos...and a billion dollars worth of mistakes.

How exactly do you practice not doing something?

Is there something like A Manual of 25 Non-Sexual Positions For Chaste Ministers?

How do you not do something...over and over? What are the steps that you must take not to be sexual with someone who thinks you are wildly attractive...stunning even?

Clearly chastity is not defined usefully...in a rational...communicable...learnable way.

So instead of saying chastity is not doing sexual actions...let's say that chastity is the practice of actually doing something.

But what?

That's the missing link...the intimate relationship between chastity and sexual energy...which cannot be vowed away. There can be no such thing as chastity without sexuality...can there?

So...chastity is...a skill...at actively managing sexual energy in a celibate consecrated life.

And to manage sexual energy...you must experience it...and be aware of it. Two things that the usual teaching about chastity tells a minister...who is vowed to chastity...not to do.

But there is a world of moral difference between a minister experiencing his or her sexual energy...and acting out to violate moral and sexual boundaries...isn't there?

Now we can actually think...because we have brought the crucial element into our definition...sexual energy. We can discuss just how to manage sexual energy in ways to fulfill a vow of chastity.

If this work had been done...celibate ministers would not have crossed sexual boundaries to the detriment of so many people...including themselves.

Thomas Drummond, Ph.D. is trained in clinical, developmental and neuropsychology. He has worked with the problems of clergy and religious of the catholic church for more than 20 years. The solution to most of their problems was not diagnosis...but definition of proper boundaries in their relationships with people. Learn more about the need for rational definitions of ministry at http://www.boundaries-for-effective-ministry.org/aristotlequote.html

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