Slowly, Priest Realized Celibacy Was A ‘Destructive’ Force


Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines. You can listen to the story at the link below.

In 1968, Thomas Groome was ordained as a priest. Even then, he wondered about the requirement that priests remain celibate.

"I was in an old Irish seminary back in the late '60s, early '70s," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "At that time, we thought everything was going to change," because the church had recently made changes to the mass.

But in the years following, the rule didn't change, and Groome became more and more conflicted about his own celibacy. He slowly started to realize it wasn't nurturing him and giving him life.

"In fact, it probably was becoming destructive of me," he says. "And I think that's one of the dangers of obligatory celibacy, that it can lead to self-destructive and outer-destructive behavior. It's a hazardous lifestyle."

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  1. The whole idea of celibate priests is quite peculiar. Rabbis in Jesus time were married. If someone is going to act as marriage counselor they should know something about it. Catholics beat people over the head to breed more Catholics, then demand the most ardent ones not breed.

    Being a priest is an unpleasant, pinched life. How does the church get recruits? by offering respectability and immunity from the sexual laws. From time immemorial you could be gay or child molestor and the church would protect you. The church’s ability to deliver on that promise is waning, and with it recruitment of new priests. Further, gays no longer need that protection.

    So what is the church to do?

    1. try to wind back the clock. Make sure gays need protection by fanning discrimination and condemnation and redouble efforts to protect child rapists.
    2. go for a whole new set of candidates, young married families who will be horrified at what goes on and go on a witch hunt against the old guard of priests.

    Happily, I think they are doomed no matter what they do.

  2. It seems to me that our sexuality can be counted as a basic human right. If seen this way, it stands to reason that no organization should have the leeway to have a ban on the practice of adult consensual sex. I would welcome a UN ban of any organization that demands that people forfeit their human rights, including their sexual rights.

  3. Celibacy is a self imposed misplaced notion of Catholic superiority ….Well we all know where that’s got us …..Normal people never took the right to marry away from priests – they did that themselves…but it would save some of our children from becoming targets of the -‘celibate men’….
    Priests are sexually repressed and dis-functional as a consequence and certainly not in any position to be advising normal people on their sex lives….they creep me out on so many levels….

  4. Catholic celibacy is an excellent example of the amazing human capability for self deception and rationalization. There is nothing in the bible that implies priests need to be celibate. (There really isn’t anything that justifies having priests in the first place for that matter). The RCC went for centuries with priests who had wives and mistresses (actually the second one never went away). The rule for celibacy came about because the nobles were pissed off that the priests and bishops were ending up owning more and more of the land and property, no wife means no heirs. It was just about a political trade off. The endless rationalizations and dogmatic interpretations for why it has to be so came later.

  5. In reply to #3 by brianhunt62:

    no organization should have the leeway to have a ban on the practice of adult consensual sex. I would welcome a UN ban of any organization that demands that people forfeit their human rights, including their sexual rights.

    Not sure if that was serious or supposed to be a joke but if you are serious it’s a ridiculous claim. No one forces people to become priests so there is no human rights issue, if men don’t want to be celibate they just don’t have to become priests or if they decide they don’t want to be celibate anymore they can just leave the priesthood as many end up doing.

    I do agree though that celibacy is unhealthy for most healthy adult men and women. One issue that comes up a lot is people protesting that “celibacy doesn’t cause pedophilia” which to me is a lot like the people who claim global warming doesn’t cause record breaking hurricanes and tornadoes. In both cases it is technically true but it masks the more important truth, in both cases one thing sets up an environment where the other is far, far more likely to occur. So of course being celibate doesn’t cause pedophilia but taking a man who has issues with his sexuality and putting him in an environment where he must be celibate and where he must think of adult women and their bodies (e.g. menstruation) as inherently evil will quite probably make it much more likely he will end up going to deviant sexual practices — especially those that take advantage of the weakest and most vulnerable.

  6. It seems that as a boy this unfortunate chap was so completely consumed by the Catholic Church that leaving the Priesthood was for him “excruciating”.

    That says a great deal to me, in that now, as an adult, he feels compelled to consult a spiritual adviser before making a decision.

    He’s been manipulated into a terrible position of dependency.

    His hard drive is so cluttered that he’s going to have to “take a hammer to it” and get a new one; fortunately for me my hard drive never had such stuff put on it in the first place; it’s blank.

    Thanks mum and dad!

  7. There are often stories on this site about priests etc. who have lost their faith, and their journey to realising that they have been mistaken. When the “aha” moment comes, I suspect that most priests etc. will be left thinking “I’ve been mistaken about many things, but I’ve basically led a good life and been nice to people”.

    If you have been a celibate priest, that must add a whole extra dimension to the “aha” moment – “b*gger, on the basis of this misunderstanding I’ve deprived myself of sex for my entire adult life”. Just imagine.

  8. Here are some thoughts:1. Marriage is one of the sacraments. Odd that the church’s representatives do not take part. 2. If the priests are not married or have children the church inherits all possessions upon death.

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