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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Who's Qualified to Talk About Marriage and Sex?

The oft-repeated claim that priests cannot effectively advise people about sex and marriage is false.

Consider this: If you had a brain tumor, would you look for a cure from someone who has one and is dying of it, . . . or from someone who has studied neuromedicine thoroughly and has cured hundreds of patients?

If you have automobile trouble, do you consult a friend whose car has broken down, or take it to a qualified mechanic?

Likewise, If you had a marriage or sexual problem, would you really rather talk with someone who has never formally studied the matter but has had three failed marriages, or aborted a couple of children, or can't stand their spouse, . . . or with someone who has never been married but has studied marriage and sex issues and had literally thousands of counseling talks with people bringing him or her a wide variety of moral dilemmas to consider?

Certainly, there are psychological counselors who have been married and can provide good advice, and people who have problems that don't weigh on their conscience and don't have deep moral implications can do very well by consulting them. But for people whose religious faith places a moral content on their sexual relationships, consulting a qualified minister seems to me their best option and a very good one indeed.

I know whom I would choose—and I am not a Catholic and don't believe in requiring celibacy of ministers. The preference for someone who has studied something formally over someone who has practical experience but failed at the matter is simply common sense, and it is what we choose in any other realm. In this centrally important area, it makes all the more sense to go to the experts, regardless of their level of personal experience.


Tlaloc said...

If you had a tumor would you go to a doctor who has empirically studied the matter or a "christian scientist" who will give you faith based healing?

Yeah I thought as much.

Since a priest only studies sex and marriage from the limited view point of the moral traditions of ancient superstition I think I'll trust the empiricists. Thanks.

James F. Elliott said...

"The oft-repeated claim that priests cannot effectively advise people about sex and marriage is false."

Who repeats that? I've never heard it, ever. Are you making this up? Priests have been marriage counselors since the Church decided to start regulating noble marriages in the Middle Ages. That's like saying a single friend can't give advice about a relationship.

D said...

Hearing a diverse opinion, perhaps fitting to a doctrinal system, and then making an informed decision is good...

Kathy Hutchins said...

Who repeats that? I've never heard it, ever. Are you making this up?

No, he's not. It's a popular refrain among liberal Catholics and is used by opponents of the celibate priesthood. You heard a lot of it at the height of the priest sex-abuse furor, neglecting the inconvenient fact that most of the offenders seemed to be interested in teenaged boys, not wives.

Fortunately I have never needed marriage counseling, but the wisest things I have ever heard said about marriage were said by the priest who prepared me for reception into the Church and performed the regulariziation of our civil marriage. There are many similarities between the commitment spouses make to each other and the commitment a priest vows to God; they are both vocations in the specifically Catholic sense of the state of life to which one is called as best suited to serve God. There are duties of marriage the priest is not faced with, but on the other had he has to visit the sick, bury the dead, and call bingo numbers on Saturday night.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm sure there are those rare geese whose compatibility is such that splitting up is never seriously considered.

(Haven't met any yet.)

Unless one's marriage vows are to something more perfect than another human being, I don't see how any of 'em can be expected to go the distance.

Jay D. Homnick said...

The argument that one who has not been married cannot advise others about marriage is an obvious fallacy. This is because even a married person has the experience of one spouse, and that hardly provides sufficient material to extrapolate from to all other marriages.

For example, my ex-wife was neater than me, but my brother-in-law is much neater than my sister. In that sample, you have zero information by which to predict male and female behavior (although you might have some basis for predicting Homnick behavior).