BBC News Series About Celibacy

BBC News Magazine last week ran an essay asking, Is it even possible to live a celibate life? The author quotes people with varying perspectives.

Forcing priests to suppress their urges or hide their sexual behaviour has warped people, believes Elizabeth Abbott, author of A History of Celibacy: “For thousands of years it’s failed. It brings out horrible things.”

[Ex-priest] Jimmy O’Brien says the next pope must look at the issue of celibacy. He has been married for 23 years and believes he made the right choice.

“Having experienced the contentment of family life I’d say I have more to offer the Church now than I did back then.”

But [Father Steven] Wang argues that people misunderstand celibacy. It ensures a unique relationship with God and one’s parishioners, he says.

“It’s not about repression. It’s about learning to love in a certain way.”

This week the Magazine followed up with a collection of reader responses. Some of these people are not really celibate, they’ve simply alternated no-sex and mucho-sex periods in their lives and are currently happy in their no-sex phase. That’s not the same thing.

I mostly agree with the Elizabeth Abbott position. And I reject the notion that permanently refraining from sex makes one more spiritual and moral. If anything, that sounds like a spiritually and morally empty existence, just as living without friendship or laughter or art would be empty. Then again, I’m an atheist to whom all this “deeper relationship with God” talk sounds like superstitious hogwash.