By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, 8 MARCH 2010 (ZENIT)
Priestly celibacy is not
psychologically dangerous, and in fact, sexual behavior based on
"anything goes" is what is truly destructive to the personality.
This is the affirmation made by Dr. Aquilino Polaino Lorente, a
physician and psychiatrist who teaches courses on
psychopathology at the University of St. Paul in Madrid.
best known for his work in children's and family psychology
was a speaker at the two-day conference held last week at Rome's
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
The conference, "Priestly Celibacy: Theology and Life," was
sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy as an event for the
Year for Priests.
ZENIT spoke with Polaino about his view that a correct
understanding of sexuality leads to a correct understanding of
celibacy for the Kingdom of God.
ZENIT: Is priestly celibacy psychologically dangerous?
Polaino: It's not dangerous at all because perhaps it blends
very well with what is the realistic anthropological structure
of the human condition. Celibacy has its difficulties of course
given that human nature is somewhat deteriorated and fallen and
all the dimensions must be integrated.
It seems to me that open sexual behavior is more dangerous, not
normative in that anything goes; I believe that has consequences
that are more destructive of the personality than celibacy well
lived in its fullness, without ruptures or breaks.
ZENIT: What does a priest need in order to be faithful to his
vow of celibacy all the days of his life?
Polaino: The tradition of the Church has a multitude of counsels
that can be put into practice and that are effective, for
example, protecting one's heart and sight. What is not seen is
not felt. Not that one must be looking at the ground; one can
see without looking. This ensures the cleanliness of the heart
and also the living of the first commandment which is to love
God above all things. Flies do not enter a pressure cooker. A
satisfied heart does not entertain stinginess or fragmentation.
ZENIT: Do you think that the hedonist culture of this new
century, so widespread in the media, influences the fact that
some priests are not faithful to their vow of celibacy?
Polaino: It's possible, because priests also have the frailty of
the human condition. I think we must focus more on the huge
number of priests faithful to their vocation. The exceptional
also happens in priestly life but it is exceptional. Although
periodically it might be very appropriate to address the
exception, we cannot be blind to the immense majority of priests
who are loyal, who live their vocation to the fullest, who are
happy, to whom the world owes happiness. This must be
ZENIT: Can a correct view of sexuality give a correct view of
the celibate life?
Polaino: Yes. I believe sexuality today is a very confused
function, it is a faculty about which there are more errors than
points of agreement with what human nature is. And perhaps it is
a program to teach and impart in all ages because as it is one
of the fundamental pivots of human life, if it is not well
looked after, if people are not well formed, what they will
experience is the reigning confusion. This affects seminarians
as well as young people and engaged couples about to be married.
Today that education is an education for life. It is a subject
that at times is badly taught because errors are taught and that
means to confuse even more, instead of explaining the subject
with a scientific rigor that is founded on human nature.
ZENIT: What does it mean that a priest is called to be a
Polaino: I believe that is one of the topics that has been least
reflected upon. Spiritual paternity must also be lived by
biological parents and many of them have never heard anything
about this. Spiritual paternity is, in a certain way, to live
all the works of mercy, to console the sad, to ransom the
captive, to be hospitable, to affirm the other in his worth, to
avoid creating problems for him and to encourage and motivate
him so that he will grow personally, to stimulate the appearance
of values that he already has because they came to him with his
nature but perhaps he has been unable to identify them or make
them grow. I think this world is an orphan of that spiritual
paternity and maternity, and I think it is a dimension that the
priest already lives without realizing it.
ZENIT: Can the celibate life make this spiritual paternity more
Polaino: Necessarily yes because there is more time and more
availability. If the final objective is union with God,
spiritual paternity takes on greater meaning because it is the
best image of the divine paternity in the contemporary world;
hence [the celibate person] is like a mediator and to the degree
that he lives the divine filiation, he will also lives spiritual
paternity very well.
[Translation by ZENIT]