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Posted December 12, 2006

Book: The Struggle for Celibacy: The Culture of Catholic Seminary Life
Author: Paul Stanosz
The Crossroad Publishing Company. New York. 2006. Pp. 270

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Whether people defend or attack it, celibacy remains one of the most controversial and least understood aspects of Catholic priestly life. In this careful study, Fr. Paul Stanosz gives us a fresh approach to the issue. By interviewing seminarians and their instructors, he shows the variety of reasons that young men are drawn to priesthood and celibacy. He also makes us aware of the tremendous challenges such men face once they leave the supportive environment of their seminary community to begin their lives as diocesan priests.

An Excerpt from the Book:

I have argued that the culture of St. Mark’s [seminary] encouraged students to see themselves as separate from the laity, whom they believed they were called to serve with Jesus Christ as their model. The bodily regime of celibacy was reproduced, as seminarians were set apart by their strong, shared religious experience and the social network they developed at St. Mark’s. celibacy was a distinguishing feature of students’ identities and a symbol of their high vocation of service.

Historically, celibacy has contributed to Catholics viewing priests as extraordinary personages with special qualities. While it is frequently pointed out that priests at one time married and that celibacy is not of the “essence” of priesthood, celibacy’s force as an organizing symbol linking Christ, the sacraments, and its administrative structures has been profound. Since Christianity’s inception, the Church distinguished itself from “the world” by its sexual ethic. The requirement of clerical celibacy institutionalized this boundary with the world. A change in the policy also could alter the way the Church views itself in relation to the secular world.

I have suggested various ways that celibacy shapes the self-understanding of those who undertake the practice in seminaries, as well as how students and formators develop commitment to its practice. While the debate over mandatory celibacy continues, my research will contribute to understanding some of the ways that a change in the Church’s policy could alter how seminarians view themselves and priesthood. So significant is celibacy to priesthood that a modification in the Church’s policy would likely result in many changes in the way clergy exercise authority and interact with laity. The empirical findings of my research underscore how much is at stake in discussions of whether to continue mandatory celibacy of diocesan priests, as well as how much room there is for improvement in the training of seminarians to live celibate lives.

Table of Contents:

1. Priests, seminarians, and celibacy

2. Celibacy and contemporary Catholicism

3. Reproducing celibacy as a cultural process

4. Observing celibacy: methodology for a study

5. Conceiving celibacy

6. Commitment production at St. Mark’s seminary

7. Reproducing father

8. Remaking seminaries