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Posted November 5, 2009

Demythologizing Celibacy: Practical Wisdom From Christian and Buddhist Monasticism
by William Skudlarek, OSB (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008)
115 pp., paperback, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-8146-2947-5.

With his deep appreciation of monastic spirituality, both Christian and Buddhist, Father William takes on an area that has often been avoided or treated superficially in studies of consecrated life. He begins by using the example of Thomas Merton's struggle with celibacy, about which he was able to write extensively, to show the thought, emotion, and development that go into a consciously celibate commitment.

For those who have a limited knowledge of Buddhism, there is a very detailed summary of the legislation surrounding Buddhist monasticism. He also gives a survey of the implied expectations of St. Benedict and the teachings of Cassian. From there, he moves to Catholic tradition and the contemporary Church positions on marriage, homosexuality and sexuality in general.

An important part of this book is the pastoral approach which the author takes to those teachings. It is clear that he wishes to place his subject solidly in the context that celibacy is a different, not a superior, path, and that the love of a man and woman is a reflection of Godly love; celibacy is not anti-sexual. There is also great compassion for the controversy surrounding homosexuality. The bottom line here is an affirmation of the possibility of all persons to choose celibacy, whatever their orientation, and to thrive in the loving support of a monastic community.