success stories

Posted October 10, 2003

Formation for Embracing the Celibate State

Father Gerald Coleman, SS


“As bishops, vocation directors and seminary personnel, we must be clear about the formational demand of chastity and celibacy, and in fact we must be more demanding than perhaps ever before.”

Sulpician Father Gerald Coleman, president and rector of St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, said in an address Oct. 4 to the Midwestern Association of Theological Schools.

“The future priest is required to be ready (prepared) to live as a single person forever and to do this joyfully in service of God and his fellow men and women. Being unmarried is only part of the picture, however, as he is also obligated to live a life free from sins against chastity. It is a rather startling fact that many priests in the recent sexual abuse scandals did not perceive their activities as offenses and sins against their commitment to celibacy.”

Candidates for the priesthood “should have attained in some measure ‘growth in the four pillars or integrated dimensions of formation’” that “Pastores Dabo Vobis” identifies” human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral, and “if a seminarian is to integrate these characteristics, his formators must make sure taht he does not think of the four pillars as unconnected columns.”

The candidate’s celibacy preparation must begin before he is accepted to a formation program. After admission, the principle of gradualism is the guiding light . . . Seminary formators must foster a consistent move through the four pillars so that a seminarian gradually but resolutely incorporates the values of chaste celibacy through instruction, personal reflection, community life, advising and mentoring, spiritual direction, psychological counseling, and a deep commitment to prayer and the celebration of the eucharist.”

Asking what a healthy looks like, Coleman mentioned eight characteristics. For example, this person “does not affiliate with groups that promote a lifestyle or behavior incompatible with a chaste celibate commitment”; he “does not expect others to declare or disclose their sexual orientation nor does he have any compulsion in this regard.”

Quotes from Text:

“Intellectual training is not sufficient in preparing a seminarian to live celibately. Personal and deepening formation and integration must accompany academic understanding, especially when this commitment carries the enjoinder to live celibately with a ‘joyous heart.”

“Intensive workshops and seminars are also helpful, but only if they enhance and focus the whole formation program, and not act as its substitute.”

“Of course, challenge and encouragement must also be truthful and discerning: Some men cannot live celibately and must be led to the judgment to leave a priestly formation program.”