“Why celibacy is right for me”

A prominent Jesuit writes in the Washington Post: 

There has been much talk recently about priestly celibacy. Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s new Secretary of State, gave an interview to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, in which he discussed continuity and change in the Catholic Church. The interviewer raised the question of celibacy, and the archbishop replied that celibacy “is not a church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition,” dating to the early centuries of the church…

…Though I am a priest, I do not have a stake in the game really. I’m a Jesuit, and men in religious orders, like the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, and the like, profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and live together in community. Marriage vows would be incompatible with the vows that bind me to God and to the Jesuits with whom I live and work. The question posed to Parolin goes to diocesan clergy, those mostly serving at your local parish and living in a rectory.

In this reflection, I do not want to speak for them, or settle the question about whether priestly celibacy should be optional again. Instead, let me address the more personal question: Why do I choose celibate chastity as a Jesuit, now for 17 years?What I write here about living in celibate chastity I could also say about living in poverty and obedience, for all of the vows are intended to help me love in the way that God calls me to love. In other words, trying to live chastely, poorly, and obediently frees me to love and serve in ways that give me great joy.  This life is no better or worse than any other vocation (like marriage) or way of life, but it is mine.

I joined the Jesuits when I was 29 years old, so I lived as a single adult, on my own, for a number of years. In my 20s, I worked as a corporate lawyer and a high school teacher. I enjoyed this life, but even in committed, romantic relationships, there was something missing, some void that needed to be filled. I wanted to give even more to God and God’s people. As much as I loved one person, I wanted to love more broadly. Now 46 years old, I can say with confidence that I love best as a Jesuit priest.

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