Celibacy and Priesthood: Contra Dwight Longenecker

Celibacy and Priesthood: Contra Dwight Longenecker August 20, 2018

Father Dwight Longenecker is at it again. He has written an extremely uncharitable and smug article wherein he quotes Father James Martin, refuses to understand what he’s saying, supplies a straw man substitution, and lectures celibate men on celibacy. It has to be read to be believed.

Longenecker is cross that Father Martin wants people to recognize that there are “good, celibate gay priests” who ought not to be scapegoated for sexual abuse. He doesn’t actually try to find out what Father Martin means by “celibate gay priest” but goes ahead and fills that in with his own imagination– which is rich for a man who keeps claiming his fellow priest is guilty of logical straw men.

“In most people’s minds “gay” is a all about the LGBTQ agenda. It’s about rainbow flags, gay parades and it is certainly not about celibacy,” explains Father Longenecker. And maybe that’s true for his own mind. As for me, I accept that “gay” is what people with homosexual attractions use to refer to themselves whether they’re sexually active or not. It does not necessarily apply any kind of agenda other than refusing to be in denial about the fact that they have these attractions. At this point someone is going to get into the combox and tell me that “Same-sex attracted” is a better name than “gay” and give me a link to the Courage Program or a supremely creepy Joseph Sciambra video, but the fact is that “Same-sex attracted” is a clinical phrase made up by people who don’t experience homosexual attractions to label people who do, while “gay ” is what gay people call themselves. That is why I find it a better term. Father Martin can get on here and tell me what he means by it if he likes and that will solve the mystery. But what Father Lonegnecker says simply isn’t the case except outside of a very narrow circle.

“Therefore, what does a “celibate gay priest” look like?” asks Father Longenecker, and then he makes up the most ridiculous caricature to answer his own question, right down to the “Gay Day” and “Elton John Singalong” the parish would throw such a priest’s honor.  He even has an insulting pet name for such priests: Father Fabulous. Give me a Father Fabulous over a pompous self-absorbed priest like Longenecker any day. At least Father Fabulous sounds like he’s having a good time. But the only thing the term “celibate gay priest” necessarily means is that a priest who has experienced sexual attraction to other men and isn’t in denial about this, and is living a life of celibacy. Since Father Longenecker doesn’t bother to understand Father Martin’s statement, we’ll never know what was actually meant. But I don’t think it’s a Father Fabulous.

Father Longenecker then claims, in the absence of evidence, that Father Martin must think “celibate” means “not married” instead of perfect continence and chastity. I can’t imagine anybody ignorant enough to think that celibacy means being unmarried while having sex on the side. Father Longenecker then goes on to lecture us on the meaning of perfect continence and chastity, how a priest must never have sex, and it’s really a little too much to take.

I see nothing that prevents a person who has experienced sexual attraction to members of the same sex from being celibate, chaste and perfectly continent. It seems to me that it would require the same self-control as a heterosexual person striving for chastity and perfect continence. A gay celibate priest would have to control himself the same as a heterosexual celibate priest who finds himself physically attracted to the female cantor at the parish, or a similar situation. And this chastity is not reserved to the priesthood, of course. A gay celibate priest would have to control himself the exact same way that a married man would have to, if he was fasting from sex for the sake of the wife’s health or if he was tempted to have an affair with his neighbor’s wife, or even if he very much wanted sex and his wife told him “no.” Father Longenecker no doubt understands the unique struggles of a married man, because he’s married.

Oh yes, Father Longenecker is married. This isn’t a big secret; he’s very open about it. He kept his wife when he converted to Catholicism and became a Catholic priest. And I’m not saying he shouldn’t have. In fact I’m fine with the idea of the Latin Catholic Church permitting married priests more widely. The Eastern Churches have never abrogated the apostolic practice of ordaining married men. Maybe someday the Latin Catholic Church will do as they do and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a much better arrangement. I can also see the wisdom of leaving things as they are, but in any case there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with ordaining a married man.

But the fact remains, Father Longecker is a married Latin Catholic priest. He has a wife. He has someone he’s allowed to have sex with (if she consents). I assume that he’s chaste according to his station in life, and good for him. But he has never had to be celibate as a priest. The rules of priestly celibacy that he quotes and praises for his brother Latin Catholic priests do not apply to him and won’t until his wife passes away. And here he is lecturing other priests about how they’re required to be celibate with perfect continence. He even quoted the passage of Canon Law which requires that Latin Catholic priests be perfectly continent, that they may “dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.” 

What he’s doing is akin to sitting at a table full of men who have taken a vow to fast and enjoying a full English breakfast complete with bacon, eggs, black pudding and sausage, while lecturing the fasting men on how they must continue fasting because of their vow. And on top of it, he’s making fun of someone who tried to be merciful to men who might experience a unique struggle in their fasting, and discrimination because of that struggle.

It’s unbecoming in the extreme.

This is worse than the time Father Longenecker decided that the Works of Mercy were pelagianism rather than an integral part of Christianity taken straight from the Gospel. The man needs a remedial course in the basic teachings of Catholicism.

Maybe his wife can help him along.

(image via Pixabay) 



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