A comment on one of my earlier posts characterized popular opinion on the abuse crisis, starting with one basic and mind-boggling statement: Lifelong celibacy is impossible.
It's true that this pretty much sums up our culture's belief. It's just taken for granted, despite 2,000 years' worth of evidence to the contrary, and the present witness of tens of thousands who are right in the midst of doing the impossible. When you think about it, that blithe, almost dismissive (can you just see the shrug that goes with it?) statement is an insult to those faithful many. It is as if to say, "You don't count. We don't even see you."
Nor, evidently, do they remember some of the giants of history, or even of our own era, who lived this vow faithfully and even heroically. John Paul II, for one: athletic, vigorous, manly in every way. What about the example of Cardinal Bernardin? I remember how remarkable the timing was when CNN broke "the story" of accusations against the Cardinal: it just happened to coincide with the network's own "special report" about scandals in the priesthood. (This was in 1993.) "By the grace of God, I have always lived a chaste and celibate life," he said calmly at the press conference.
There are so many examples of life-long and life-giving celibacy that it boggles the mind that people could claim that it is impossible.
And yet, they are right. Jesus himself (another famous celibate!) admitted it: "With men it is impossible, but not for God. With God all things are possible" (Mk. 10:27). Ask any faithful celibate of past or present, and he (or she would tell you that it did not and does not happen automatically. It is, as Cardinal Bernardin said, "by the grace of God" and human cooperation in discipline and effort.
Is that the real problem?