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Priests and Marriage Advice
My friend Deborah Gyapong is an Anglican/Catholic living in Ottawa who also writes. She's a spitfire, she's wise, and I really enjoy her company.

She had a post a while ago looking at a controversy regarding whether or not Catholic priests and popes can give advice on sex. She goes into the whole controversy in her post, but what I really loved was how she ended:

But the selfless giving and love of a chaste priest is also something that married couples --especially men---need to look at and take as an example. Because a celibate priest sacrifices his sexual love for the sake of His Bride, the Church, the love that he offers does not use the other as an object--that is if the priest is living this out properly. A wife yearns to be loved by her husband for who she is, to be honored and cherished. She hopes her husband might exercise self-sacrifice and willingness to put his sexual desires under discipline for her sake, and not to have him expect her to dance around in some stupid bustier and garter belt, kama sutra-ing around the house for his use and pleasure. Or on the other hand, for a wife to turn her husband into an object or a performer for her gratification and to be self-sacrificing in understanding that it's not all about her either.

There is something extremely beautiful about an obviously heterosexual man who could easily have experienced the goods of a beautiful wife and many loving children who sacrifices that good for the sake of the Church. And the Church, in her earthly institutional form often seems a critical, nagging, rebellious, unthankful and unattractive spouse for these men at times, I imagine. Yet for those men who are able to cultivate serenity and express the love of Christ because they see the image of God in the disguises of the sinners in their midst, well, that love transforms lives.

That kind of priest I would think might have a great deal to say about human sexuality, but it would never devolve to positions or techniques. Instead it would focus on Jesus and a call to holiness and to loving the way Christ loves us. Most wives would be so grateful to have their husbands love them that way. Christ's love puts everything in its proper place and always puts the dignity of the whole human person at the forefront.

I do not come from a tradition of celibate ministers, so it's not something that I immediately identify with. But at the same time, I do think there is a beauty and a purity in what Deborah is saying.

I think, as Protestants, we too lightly denigrate the Catholic church and forget some of the wonderful richness of theology that is there, especially about the body. In fact, some of what the last Pope wrote on the body was far more insightful than much of what I've seen coming out of our own tradition.

My husband and I started watching the mini-series The Tudors recently, and had to stop because it was just too sexually graphic, though I thought it was extremely well done. But the whole thing left me sad. Catholics and Protestants both had their valid points, and both were also wrong. The Catholic church was corrupt at the time; the Protestants should not have persecuted Catholics the way they did, though (nor should Catholics have persecuted Protestants). It's just a stain on both of our houses, I believe.

But I still think there is something admirable in the idea of a celibate priesthood, for exactly the reasons Deborah stated. To make it mandatory, it seems to me, leads to the kind of corruption we saw in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and partly (but not entirely) to some of the abuse scandals more recently (there are other reasons for that, but I won't go into that here). Yet this idea of being wedded to Jesus is a beautiful one. And maybe, if we understood the beauty of celibacy more, we'd understand the real point of pure sexuality and loving someone, gracefully, body and soul. Instead we see it too often as a selfish thing, as a purely physical thing, as a solely gratifying thing. And that truly is a shame.

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At 11:16 AM , Blogger Michael and Annalea said…

Hi Sheila,

Great post! Your friend really got to the heart of this in marriage regarding a husbands role towards his wife when she said, "Most wives would be so grateful to have their husbands love them that way."

This is the message that is at the heart of our ministry: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Most wives WOULD be so greatful if their Christian husbands lived this out with them that the respect their husbands are demanding and that the church is pushing for would come forth as a natural response and not a forced one.

God calls a husband to go first and give Christlike love to his wife before he calls a wife to respect her husband. Him doing this will take care of so many issues that come up (sex, respect, team work, house work, family, etc.) between them.



At 2:05 PM , Blogger Cassandra Frear said…

This post and the one before it, about walking, gave an interesting perspective. My husband and I often take walks together. That has been an important part of our relationship for some years now.I would agree with you that it helps the marriage, as does an attitude of unconditional love in all things.


At 6:31 PM , Blogger Kimberly said…

My husband and I have been blessed in the course of our 25 year marriage to be ministered to by several holy priests and sisters.

During a particularly difficult time, our dear priest said to me you have to get up everyday, and choose to love your husband, choose to serve your husband. That advice helped renew my marriage.

God Bless him for that...

When many people advise you to take the easy way out, to be "happy", my priest urged me to stay in the trenches and fight..


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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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