Jul 1, 2010

An insider's view of the decade when celibates became crazy with sex.

I was in the seminary then so I will give you an insider’s view. I was blessed to be in a religious society that emphasized chastity. St. John Bosco says, “If the Jesuits are renowned for their obedience and the Franciscans for poverty, then I want the Salesians to be specially observant of chastity.” And the Salesians of St. John Bosco got most of their vocations from their schools and minor seminaries; like apples from a tree, you get them fresh not rotten. Furthermore, I remember how rigorous our screening was. We had batteries psychological tests. More than that, the Salesians followed the practice of a “Rendiconto” – manifestation. There we met with the director and opened up everything in all candor. And these directors are highly trained and skilled in behavioral sciences. So, if there were issues then, they caught it.

My observations come from my encounters with other orders. I studied and ministered in places that were attended by non-Salesians and even lay-people and women – who most likely wanted to be ordained “when the Church is ready for them.”

Vatican II ushered new thoughts about sexuality and the body. A new theological paradigm no longer focused on the body and soul but rather consider a unified entity – a person. So, things associated with the body e.g. sexual drives are not automatically sinful; rather, they’re normal. So, people were more open about these matters. Some brothers talked about nude beaches in CA. Others mooned boys during summer camp. And the list goes on. There’s even an internationally known theologian who taught that impure actions are not sinful. They still are sinful and the theologian no longer teaches in a Catholic university.

I remember getting teased because I blushed at off-colored jokes. ( It would be nice to meet those guys now and show them my 5 kids. They should have been 8, but we had 3 miscarriages. )

In addition to that, relations with the opposite sex was also loosened up. Some orders allow their candidates to take a year off and date before continuing into theological studies. The Salesians had a practical training where the candidates worked full-time in schools, youth centers or parishes. That’s how we mingled with women. And this continued while people studied theology. I told my director about my strong attraction to women. So, I got assigned to moderate a choir of high-school girls and the Legion of Mary. But I kept my vows all that time. Others however pushed the envelope and had this “third-way” where celibates had a girlfriend. I assumed that it was kind of Platonic relationship. But I distinctly remember an exam question from my Moral theology class that goes: “If you saw a fellow seminarian come out from a single woman’s apartment early in the morning, what would you do?”

I don’t know about homosexual relationships. But, I didn’t see that. It appears that there were confreres who became particular friends. Particular friendship is more sentimental or romantic – thus carnal. We were taught to be friends with all or with none. However, there were still likes and dislikes just as jocks hanged out with other jocks et. al.

There were affirmation therapy to fix emotional scars from childhood. This is very touchy-feely so a lot of hugging.

There was art therapy.  There was an oil painting in our center made by a confrere.  It was abstract but not enough to hide the images of a couple copulating.

Bottom line, the sex abuses came out in the context of a conceptual upheaval and a cyclone of new ideas. Some folks discarded the old-school methods and disciplines and engaged in risky behavior.  There are plenty of lessons here but if I can emphasize one thing, it will be transparency.  Not the kind that we see from Obama these days, but one that is honest and open.  Afterall, one cannot hide anything from God.

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