DESIRE AND DENIAL: Celibacy and the Church by Gordon Thomas

DESIRE AND DENIAL: Celibacy and the Church

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The Vatican created widespread changes in the structure of the Catholic Church, but it had even more profound effects on the lives of its priests and nuns, so much so that the vows which for hundreds of years had been inviolable were dramatically undermined. This book investigates the change in attitude toward celibacy and chastity on the part of three priests and two nuns. In their personal struggles to be true to the Church and their own humanity, the once-hallowed rules of clerical behavior are challenged in a way not seen since Martin Luther. By concentrating on just five people, the book resembles a novel in its intensity. The most intimate sexual problems are probed with a frankness not usually associated with the religious life. Questions are raised about the validity of the ancient sanctions and prohibitions. Should celibacy be voluntary? Should priests and nuns be trained to be asexual? Is it normal, reasonable, or even in the best interests of the Church to make these demands? The early Church did not insist on them, and it wasn't until the monastic movement and virgin worship that abstinence became the vogue. One shares the torments of self-denial with these five; their faith and dedication are such that they must be literally drawn on the rack of their own normal desires before they seek other alternatives. Only when they are broken by the effort of doing God's work and dealing with their own sexuality do they rebel. Each does it differently. One older priest becomes resigned to his lot, but even he has secretly loved one woman all his life. The others are younger and more questioning, and it is against them that the Church has drawn the line, insisting on celibacy even as its ranks are diminished. For those who have been curious about the nature of the Catholic Church's training and its demands of its cadres, this book is an eye-opener. It would even be sensational were it not for its seriousness and sensitivity.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown