As a celibate, non-sex-having, vocationally-engaged person, I was intrigued by and a bit apprehensive of an article by Jamie Manson entitled Celibacy: Neither healthy nor helpful for the future of vocations in National Catholic Reporter (March 11, 2010).
Although Manson states somewhat parenthentically that she is “not suggesting that celibacy is wrong or unhealthy” and that “for some individuals, this choice is very life-giving”, I get the distinct impression from the entire article that such a choice would be fundamentally against the very nature of “today’s young adults”. Hmmm.
At the old age of 38 and a member of that old-fashioned Generation X, you can take my two cents for what they’re worth. First I concur 100% with the universal call to holiness. There is no such thing as a “higher” calling. You can slap the label “consecrated” or “ordained” or whatever on the calling but it’s still not any better or worse than any other calling. However God calls you is what is most fulfilling for you. True, we still have many remnants of pre-Vatican II ideas and those continue to affect how people understand their own calling and that of others.
I feel badly that Manson and others continue to experience an undervaluing of their desire for a “healthy, loving, committed sexual relationship” and their desire to devote their lives “to the service of the gospel”. But I don’t think changing a recognition of the value of celibacy in consecrated life is going to change that. I think that the problem is that the church (magisterium and people of God) hasn’t yet fully committed to the idea of the universal call to holiness. Even Manson herself seems to feel that the only way that people can be recognized as seeking “a healthy, loving, committed sexual relationship” and “being fully and authentically committed to bringing the life of God into the world” is through consecrated life. Otherwise, why the concern about being “banned” from consecrated life?
I guess I’m confused a bit (which happens at the old age of 38) because I fundamentally agree with Manson about vocation and calling, but there are so many negative celibacy over- and undertones in the article that I’m left wondering (a) if she really understands celibacy (celibacy is a far richer concept and experience than simply not being involved in a sexual relationship) and (b) what she’s really trying to say. Is it that religious life, consecrated virginity, the eremetical life, and other forms of consecrated virginity should lift the celibacy requirement? Is it that there should be an additional form of consecrated life that recognizes the value of sexual relationships? Is it that the church still has a long way to go in truly promulgating the universal call to holiness? Is it that celibacy is fundamentally unnatural for young people today and into the future? Is it that celibacy’s only value is for the quirky few who find it life giving?
Well, those are a few thoughts from one quirky Gen X-er. What do you think?