For victims of abuse: Pope Francis

In response to cases of abuse, especially to those committed by members of the Church, it’s not enough to ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is necessary, but it is not enough. Asking for forgiveness is good for the victims, but they are the ones who have to be “at the center” of everything. Their pain and their psychological wounds can begin to heal if they find answers —if there are concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again. The Church cannot try to hide the tragedy of abuse of any kind. Nor when the abuse takes place in families, in clubs, or in other types of institutions. The Church must serve as a model to help solve the issue and bring it to light in society and in families. The Church must offer safe spaces for victims to be heard, supported psychologically, and protected. Let us pray for those who have suffered because of the wrongs done to them from members of the Church; may they find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering.

Pro Minoribus

Pro Minoribus

The coordinator for Integrity of the Ministry has started a new publication for all the confreres to keep them up to date concerning integrity in their ministry, especially in safegarding the young and the vulnerable. This bimonthly publication is reserved to the Missionaries of Africa. Refrain from propagating it outside the Society. Here is the first issue.

Living celibacy with integrity (restricted to M.Afr.)

Living celibacy with integrity

Issues of Loneliness and Sexuality

By Richard J. Gilmartin, PhD

Martin Grenier, General Assistant overseeing the integrity of the ministry, has received permission from the Emmanuel Convalescent Foundation in Ontario to publish this very interesting booklet for the exclusive use of the Missionaries of Africa. I took the liberty of transcribing it from the PDF, as the copy we have is not very comfortable to read, and of translating it into French, asking Stéphane J., PHD, to proofread the translation so that confreres who are less comfortable in English may benefit from this very interesting content. You will find at the bottom of the document, the PDF of the English original. Enjoy reading it.

Philippe Docq


Few topics seem to provide for such enduring and diverse conversations as do those connected with sexuality. Particularly within religious frameworks, there is a long history of reflection, debate, and even argument. The invitation to voluntarily chosen celibacy has sparked its own fair share of discussion over the years and has again come into sharp focus in recent times.

Over the years, various commentators from evangelists to social scientists have examined, explained, exhorted, confirmed or condemned celibacy’s role as a gospel value. In recent years, it has become fashionable again to detail exactly how celibacy is lived by those who profess it – often with embarrassingly blunt conclusions. And so many in the Church find themselves returning in puzzlement to a very primitive question: what exactly are we talking about? What does a celibate commitment undertaken for religious or spiritual motives really mean?

It is to this question that the present reflection turns. Members of the Southdown staff were invited to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ministry to Priests Programme in Canada. At the Montreal Conference, Doctor Gilmartin was asked to consider this specific question in one of the major presentations. The text here represents an adaptation and reworking of that talk. While originally addressed to priests in Canada, I am confident that all women and men in ministry will find some stimulating and enlightening food for thought.

Doctor Gilmartin brings a unique wealth of personal and professional experience to his task. For over 25 years, he has journeyed with clergy and Religious as a therapist and educator. Before coming to the Southdown staff several years ago, he served for many years as a Director of the House of Affirmation in the United States and has lectured throughout the world on topics of preventive care for ministers. Much of his clinical training was completed in the New York City area and his doctoral degree in psychology was awarded from Kensington University in California.

It is a pleasure to reintroduce him to our readers and to provide another in our series of educational booklets designed to stimulate questions and provoke reaction on topics of concern to today’s ministers of the gospel.

John Allan Loftus, S.J., Ph. D.
Executive Director


As I was sitting down to pull together some thoughts on this topic, the thought came to me that we missed including shame in the title. The more I talk to clergy and religious on the issues of celibacy, loneliness, and sexuality as each relates to integrity, the more I realise that shame is the central theme. In fact, shame is a central theme whenever we talk about the issues around being a clergy-person today. Shame … the shame from all the accusations in the news concerning abuse by clergy … how this may relate to the declining numbers of younger people being attracted by the nobility of this profession … a personal response that may be touched in each of us when another of us faces an accusation of abusive behaviour that, “There but for the grace of God go I” … perhaps there are events in my own history that I desperately fear may surface sometime … perhaps feelings around representing a Church which is seen by many to have institutionalised its abuse of people. Although shame is not within the scope of this booklet, it is important that we recognise that it lurks in the background; it is also important that each of us get in touch with his/her own shame and, hopefully, gain some freedom from it.

“Celibacy … sexuality … loneliness … integrity”: these are a lot to address in a single booklet; each of them could be a booklet by itself. But let us put them all together and see what the mix becomes.

The first task is to free our minds from preconceptions. Recognising that the greatest barrier to truth is the illusion of knowledge, let us give up the illusion that “we already know”, and hunt for truth in a newer way of understanding.

I heard a story of an upper-middle-class couple who had one child, a girl, who was the centre of their life. As she grew through childhood and adolescence, she never gave them a reason not to be proud of her; she was popular with her age mates, participated in all those activities that you like children to be active in, and did superbly well in school. In her senior year at a private parochial secondary school, she was both class president and first in her class academically. She was accepted into the pre-med programme at a prestigious Ivy League college. Halfway through her second semester of college, she sent a letter home to her parents and it went like this:

“Dear Mum and Dad,

After my visit with you at Christmas time, I decided that I had to do something about myself, so I enrolled in a drug-treatment programme. In that programme I met the nicest boy and we plan to be married, hopefully before the baby arrives. But, don’t worry, he has a cousin who is living in a commune out in the desert and we have been invited to go and live with him.”

The second paragraph began:

“None of the above is true, but I am getting a D in Chemistry…”

The point of the story is something about perspective … seeing things from a broader scene. So too with the topics that we will be considering; let us keep perspective by holding on to a broader context.

Let us begin by seeing if we can reach a common understanding about what each of our terms mean. What does celibacy mean? What do integrity and loneliness mean? What is sexuality all about? First of all, celibacy.

I have been working with Roman Catholic clergy/religious since 1968. This is not a few years trying to understand committed celibates; that is a lot of priests, sisters, brothers, bishops with whom I have discussed issues around celibacy, including what celibacy means, I find little common agreement about what that meaning is. Much of this comes from a confusion between chastity and celibacy. Chastity binds all of us regardless of the lifestyle we have undertaken. Whether married or unmarried, committed to another or celibate, the same commandments bind. I could go on about “celibate chastity” versus “married chastity”, but this “distinction” may create more problems than it resolves. So too with the concept of “perfect continence” as expressed in “celibate chastity” and “unmarried chastity”. Linking celibacy to chastity makes it more difficult to find a life-enhancing value in celibacy. Your vow or promise of celibacy is not about observing the Sixth and Ninth Commandments; you already have an obligation to do that long before you took the vow. Why should you vow to do something that you already have an obligation to do? You do not take a vow not to break any of the other commandments. What is so special about the Sixth and Ninth that necessitate a vow? I suggest to you that one does not vow chastity, but rather celibacy, which has little to do with being chaste.

What then does it mean to be celibate? A definition of celibacy upon which there is agreement is that celibacy means to remain unmarried, or better, to remain uncommitted to that basic societal unit that is called “A Couple.” Celibacy has much more to do with the Gospel message of being unworthy of The Kingdom if we put anything “before” the Lord; nothing must come between you and God. By vowing to remain unmarried, you radically express your total loyalty and commitment to God/Jesus. Not only does this fierce loyalty reject any interference, it even tries to eliminate all distraction from the totality of your commitment to the Lord. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Letter From Prison suggests something of this when he says that the ultimate motivator for the moral person is “exclusive allegiance to God”, i.e. the fully moral person is one “who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God”.

Additionally, when one makes the commitment to celibacy, he or she enters into a way of spirituality that differs from the spirituality of the non-celibate, be that non-celibate married or unmarried. A celibate is not simply a bachelor or spinster: Nor is celibacy connected to a state of virginity; nor can it be a way of avoiding love. It must be a way of loving, a loving that embraces both God and people. Celibacy must facilitate this loving, that is, become a spirituality, or else it is nothing more than a condition of employment or an institutional convenience.

I find it unhelpful to equate celibacy with chastity; it not only hinders us from understanding what is the value of a celibate commitment (a value that has led to a celibate commitment being part of every major world religion, except post-dispersal Judaism which places a greater moral significance on being a spouse and parent) but it also elevates chastity to a central position in a Christian moral tradition, far eclipsing love.

I want to avoid the romantic in trying to capture the meaning of celibacy. Also, I do not want to confuse the value of celibacy with the value of making it a requirement for priesthood. At this point, I leave it to the theologians and those experts in the spiritual life to take us further into the understanding of celibacy as a way of spirituality. Let us turn our attention to living it with integrity.

Defining Integrity

“Integrity” is an even more difficult word to define. In my practice of psychotherapy, I have worked with many who live their life in ways that I could not live mine, and some who live in ways that the common consensus would declare reprehensible, yet almost to a person they would claim that they lived with integrity. Most, if not all, of us want to be persons of integrity. This may be related to an observation that the late Bishop Fulton Sheen made when he said that if people did not live the way they think they should, they soon began thinking the way they were living. It is very difficult to own a lack of integrity in ourselves. This is what gives “denial” such a power as a psychic defence. Feeling that we possess integrity is basic to a sense of well-being.
What does “integrity” mean? It is a concept that is value-laden and subjective; each of us would define it differently. I can think of three different levels of meaning to “integrity” and it is helpful to look at each of these because they contain clues to how celibacy is lived with integrity.

One way of defining integrity sees it as a strict adherence to a code of behaviour. This way, celibacy becomes a very simple thing. All one has to do to live celibacy with integrity is to obey the law, be it the law of the Church, the law of the Chancery Office, the law that a Chapter or Council comes out with, or what the Rule or Constitution says to do. This is clear and neat. Deficiencies in this exercise of celibate integrity are what are getting such play in the news, and what the civil government is so concerned about. There are laws that define what constitutes sexually abusive or assaultive behaviour and if we choose to disregard or disobey these laws, we will be forced to face the consequences.

This does not just concern sexual relationships with children, or where physical or psychological coercion is used to obtain sex, but increasingly, the civil government is holding the Religious Professional to a standard of conduct that binds most other professionals. Some civil jurisdictions regard sexual relationships between a clergy person and anyone for whom he/she has a pastoral responsibility as essentially a violation of professional responsibility and, therefore, de facto sexual abuse. A person who breaks the law lacks integrity in the eyes of civil authorities; he/she violates a standard required to sustain justice and prevent victimisation.

Religiously, is this all there is to celibacy? Is all you have to do is to follow the rules of Church and State? Is this all you vowed, or promised, to do? I hope not! This too easily can be an escape from the responsibility of an adult sexual relationship, a sanctification of arrested or retarded sexual development, or seen as a condition of employment, i.e. you wanted to be a priest/brother/sister and they made you take this as part of the package. How is this life-giving? How does this make one a more loving person, an exemplar for others to follow, or even a better Christian? It does not.

A second definition of integrity is “a state of being unimpaired”’, that is, to be outwardly what one is inwardly, to be what one is supposed to be, to live without hidden agendas that deceive, to live honestly. This level of integrity says that what you see is what you get, I am what I am supposed to be.

As a cleric, or vowed religious, you assume a role of a public advocate of Gospel values, and the expectation is that you strive to live these values in your own life. This is especially important in an institution, such as the Roman Catholic Church, which lacks a system of accountability to the people whom you serve. With all due regard to human frailty, you are expected to live your life within the moral framework of the Church. But, again, is this all that celibacy means?

A third definition is one that I think is the more significant and, perhaps, more relevant to our topic. Here “integrity” is defined as completeness … unity … the condition of having no parts or elements wanting … being entire … being whole.

This is the level that involves the challenge of celibacy: that is to live celibacy so that it completes your personhood, so that through your celibacy you become a whole person, not in spite of celibacy. It is in this sense that celibacy can become life-giving.

Who then is not living celibacy with integrity? Is it the priest who is having an ongoing heterosexual/homosexual relationship with another? He certainly fails in the first definition, and probably in the second, but how about the third? Take the person who, not only is not engaging in any erotic activity, but has achieved a state where he/she does not even have an erotic thought, feeling, or desire. In fact, this person has succeeded in eradicating all passion from their life and, as a result, has become an emotional isolate, bereft of all affective life: Has he or she lived celibacy with integrity? Such a person seems to be okay with our first definition, and possibly the second, but certainly is in violation of the third. Granted that both show some lack of integrity, but which is guilty of the greater lack? Should not we be just as concerned with those who violate integrity in the third sense as we are the first two? I hope all of us see celibacy as a way of loving, rather than a ‘way of avoiding love. Anything less than this would be inconsistent with our commitment as Christians, or to living-out Gospel values.

Striving for Wholeness

What then constitutes “celibacy with integrity”? How do we strive for wholeness within the context of celibacy?

Celibacy must be understood as distinct from chastity. That is not to minimise the importance of the latter, but it is a hindrance toward understanding the life-giving potential of celibacy to equate it with chastity. Also, to see celibacy in terms of availability in the ministry, completely misrepresents the reality of a marital commitment and how this can enhance a ministerial commitment. There is some value in seeing celibacy as related to spirituality, solitude, community, and self-donation. It may be helpful to reflect on why so few of world leaders are unmarried (equating marriage, for the sake of argument, with being coupled with another) and why so few of the highly creative in the modern era (e.g. philosophers, artists, composers) have been married (again, for the sake of argument, equating this with being solitary). Does this give us a hint as to the value in celibacy, its connection to solitude, and the need for solitude for creativity and for a type of spirituality. There has been no significant, broad-based, religious movement that did not recognise a place for the committed celibate within it.

Since it is “people” who are celibate, let me make a few comments about the concept of person. To understand what a person is in a holistic sense there are two perspectives that we must hold on to continuously; to lose sight of one or the other can lead us into prejudice, of which we are all too often guilty. First, any understanding of “person” must be rooted in biology/physiology. That is not to say that psychology, sociology, philosophy, theology, etc., are not important, but we need to ground our concept of personhood in a biological base. Nature gave us two basic physiologically based instincts: the first is to keep yourself alive (thus hunger, thirst, warmth, etc.) and the second is to send your genes into the future (thus sex). Moreover, these instincts were not designed to function in the relatively benign environment of North America, but in the jungles of South-East Asia, the deserts of Africa, the swamps of South America. We are animals that were designed by our Creator to give priority to survival, be it individual or species. This is what we are albeit not totally, but certainly foundationally.

Without losing sight of this, we also need to look at what we are called to be in order to understand our personhood. If we do lose sight of this, then our view of person is only partial and misleading. Here we rely on philosophy, theology, revelation, or whatever it is that informs us on this. I choose to stand in the knowledge of psychology, grounded in a biological understanding, and with my eyes on the expanded horizon of what our religion, our gospel, our church is telling us about what we can be. Hopefully, this will give me wisdom from which to speak of person, and those things that affect us as person.

Persons experience loneliness. We probably all know what it is to feel lonely, but what is loneliness? In all the survey-type studies done on Roman Catholic clergy/religious and issues affecting their lives, loneliness comes up over and over again as a significant factor influencing their happiness. Our experience tells us that it is not only a clerical issue; it affects the life of most North Americans. One need only examine themes in advertising to notice how often what is really being sold in the proffered product is relief from loneliness; if we drive this car, use that deodorant, wear these designer jeans, we will be loved, admired, respected by others who will then fill the void in our life and thereby give us relief from loneliness.

But the question remains: what is loneliness? Is it a disease or illness? Is there something wrong with us because we feel lonely? It is not a disease/illness, neither psychological nor physical, nor does it indicate any defect in us; it is not even an enemy to be avoided at all costs. Loneliness is actually a friend in the sense that physical pain is a friend. It is a signal, a warning sign that something is awry and we must pay attention and take action before greater harm is done. It is the capacity to feel physical pain that keeps us from destroying ourselves, and enables us to survive into adulthood; so too it is the capacity to feel psychic pain that enables us to live psychologically healthy lives. Loneliness is a psychic pain. As physical pain is a warning that something is wrong in our body, and we ignore the warning to our peril, so loneliness is a warning that something is wrong in how we are living our life and, too, we ignore it to our peril. In this sense, loneliness is a valued and trustworthy friend. I may choose to endure the pain, either the physical or the psychic kind, for the sake of some higher value, but the pain always says, “Pay Attention… Something is wrong… Take Action!”

When we feel loneliness, we are experiencing a disconnection in our life at a point where we should be connected. This is what the warning is all about. The message is to get connected again lest we do some serious harm to ourself. We must recognise the loneliness and where the disconnection is occurring before we can choose how to address it.

Dimensions of Loneliness

Loneliness is not simply not having another person around us, not being connected to another. It is more complex than that. We all have basic needs around belonging, being a part of something, being connected, but this is multidimensional.

There is a transcendent dimension to this belonging wherein we need to feel connected to something larger/greater than ourselves. Whether we label this something God, Being in General, the Force, matters little; even a cause that helps us transcend the narrow bonds of our personal existence can give us this transcendental connectedness. It can be anything which makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves, contributes to the meaning and purpose of our existence, and that we are living in harmony with. When we lack this connectedness, we feel loneliness. We also experience loneliness when we break this bond by behaving in a way that is inconsistent or conflicting with this connectedness, even though we may give this loneliness another name, such as alienation or guilt. Why we find it so difficult to experience a lack of integrity inside ourselves is because it makes us feel disconnected. This is loneliness.

Secondly, there is a cultural dimension to loneliness. We are all part of a culture that provides a fundamental orientation to our lives. This is a system of values, beliefs, customs, manners, ways of doing things that becomes so basic to us that we take it for granted and tend to see it as the right way, or the only way, to be and to do. When we are away from our own culture and in one that is radically different, we experience a type of dislocation that is actually loneliness. When we become disconnected culturally, we feel lonely. This is why immigrants will tend to seek each other out and band together in neighbourhoods or clubs where they feel “more at home”, i.e. less lonely.

There is also a social dimension to loneliness. We all need to feel that we are socially acceptable, i.e. that we have a place in society, that we are valued by the social group, and that we “belong”. When the social group, be it society-at-large or some smaller social group like family, diocese, school, Order, finds you unacceptable, be it because of your sex, race, nationality, behaviour, thoughts, sexual orientation, age, or whatever, you experience loneliness. Discrimination produces loneliness, since it labels people as unacceptable, inferior, not belonging. We need to feel socially connected; a disconnection comes when that social group fringes or marginalises us. This is loneliness.

Lastly, there is an interpersonal dimension to loneliness. This is the loneliness that we feel when we are not part of another person’s life in a significant way, and that person is not a significant part of our life. When you ask yourself the question, “Who would really care if I did not wake-up tomorrow morning?” What answer would you get? I am sure the person who would have to cover your workload would care, as would anyone else who was inconvenienced by your demise, but who would really care in the sense that your absence was deeply and painfully felt? A popular and successful pastor of a large parish once said to me: “On any Sunday there are 40 families I could go to for dinner and every one of them would be happy to have me. But, you know, none of them would miss me if I didn’t come.” Who would miss you if you didn’t come?

We have a basic human need to be connected to another person; to, in a sense, belong to someone. Each of us has the responsibility to live his/her life in a way that sustains and nurtures this connection to others. This has nothing to do with chastity or celibacy; it has to do with intimacy. The majority of the clerical sex abusers that I have dealt with were not hungry for sex; they were hungry for intimacy. The same was also true of those celibates who behaved in ways that compromised the integrity. of their religious commitment; they jumped into doing intimate things with another, when what they were really searching for was intimacy with another. This has very little to do with sex. As Tolstoy has said, we search for intimacy not because it is necessary for happiness, but simply because it is necessary.

Permit me to make two points about intimacy. First, it is my belief that each of us needs intimacy in order to maintain emotional health. This is not to say that we do not also need solitude, but this is not a problem for most celibates; forming and sustaining intimate relationships often is. It is a given in mental health lore that good interpersonal relationships are the best prophylactic against mental illness. Karen Horney, one of the pioneers in non-orthodox psychoanalytic theory, saw all neuroses as, not the result of blocks in impulse expression, but as “the ultimate outcome of disturbances in interpersonal relationships … sexual or nonsexual”.

Let me take this one step further. We need to be in intimate – relationships with people of both sexes if we are to fully grow and develop as persons. This now touches more directly on the third definition of “integrity”. I, as a man, need to be in intimate relationships with men as well as women, and women need the same. This has nothing to do with whether you are married or celibate, gay or straight.

There can easily be a tension between the biologically based drive for genital expression to ensure the survival of the species, and the psychologically based need for intimacy, but you can have one without the other. Much of the present issue that we are experiencing around celibacy is much more an issue of intimacy than an issue of genital expression. If, in the process of ensuring the integrity of a celibate commitment you disavow physical closeness and emotional intimacy with another, you are in for trouble. But the trouble is not with celibacy, rather it is with overburdening celibacy.

Celibacy is always a way of loving, never a way of avoiding love, otherwise it is unchristian. If it is seen as demanding avoidance of loving involvement, then most will find it burdensome, if not intolerably difficult. Probably the only ones who will be happy with an avoidant celibacy are those for whom celibacy is a necessity because of their own disability around being able to form and sustain intimate relationships.

A second opinion that is basic to our discussion: not to be loved by someone is a very painful thing; if no one cares whether or not you awake tomorrow, if no one misses you when you are not there, it is sad. As painful as this is, however, it is not the worst; it is tragic if you fail to love someone else. We have no control over whether or not we are loved, but being a person who loves is within our control. We hear so much bemoaning, especially from children, around not being loved, but the more vital question is whom do I love, to whom am I a friend, to whom do I give priority in my life that arises out of my love for that person. When we talk about loving another, of being intimate with another, what we are talking about is being (and having) a friend. Friendship is the model, not marriage, and the important question is not who are my friends, but rather to whom am I a friend. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the best way to have a friend is to be a friend.

What does it mean to be a friend, to love someone, to be intimate? “Intimacy” is really a rather simple thing. It is perhaps where we express in a most unadulterated way Immanuel Kant’s categorical moral imperative of making another person always an end in him/herself, never a means. In friendship, love, intimacy, we can make the other person an almost exclusive end. The other is cared for in a non-exploitive way. If the friendship is reciprocated, then you experience the other’s caring as non-exploitive, and thus the safety so necessary to intimacy is established.
Love presupposes knowing, and being known by, another. ~ The word “intimacy” itself comes from the Latin verb “intimare” which means, literally, “to bring, or put, inside”.

Fundamental to being intimate with another is permitting the other to enter inside you, i.e. to know you as you are, warts and all. Without this knowing, no intimacy is possible. Without it, the other’s “I love you!” cannot penetrate because your response is likely to be “Yes, but, if you really knew me…” It is only when the other really knows you that his/her love has value. Thus, permitting ourselves to be known is fundamental to intimacy, and if there is to be reciprocity, then you must know the other.

So often we pursue admiration when what we really want is love. We can get others to admire us by getting them to see us as virtuous, beautiful, intelligent, capable, witty, or whatever it is that we feel others will admire us for. But admiration is not love. You can admire a statue, but you can only love another person and this presupposes that I see them as they really are, without deception or misrepresentation.

All we really need for intimacy is to permit ourselves to be known and to have that received by the other in a non-judgemental way. If we feel the other evaluating us, then we pullback and withhold ourselves, thereby blocking the formation of intimacy. In permitting ourselves to be known we risk rejection, ridicule, or otherwise negative reactions, thus placing ourselves in a vulnerable position. Encountering the other’s non-judgemental acceptance permits the intimacy to flower. This is the ground for real friendship.

When you have allowed this friendship to conceive and develop, you have a commitment to each other; this brings with it expectations for and from each other. You give a piece of yourself away as a hostage to the other and he/she has a claim on you, as you do on him/her. Does this mean lifelong? No, but that does not diminish the depth of the commitment. In the movie “Missing” there is a scene where one of those who volunteered to go to Chile to aid in the fight for justice was confronted by one of the Chilean revolutionaries for their lack of commitment to the Chilean people. He told the American: “As long as you walk around with your return airline ticket in your back pocket, you are not really committed to the welfare of our people.” Not that he had to vow to stay in Chile for the rest of his life, but the fact that he refused to give up the security of the ticket in his pocket, negated the completeness of his commitment. Perhaps the completeness of all our commitments has more to do with openendedness than life-longness; where we “tear-up” the securities we keep in case this commitment does not work. It is in this sense of commitment that we enter into friendship. We do not know where the pursuit of that fundamental commitment that was made at the time of our baptism is going to take us tomorrow, but that does not make us any the less committed to the persons and values of our life today.

The sense of God given to us in the revelation of the Judeo-Christian tradition is of a God Who invites us into intimacy. The imagery used to describe God’s relationship with humans is that of intimacy, e.g. a mother with her child, a lover with his beloved, a father with children he protects, a vine toward its branches, etc. God and I are Intimate Friends, and I give expression to that in my intimate friendships with others.

The Experience of Sexuality

Where does our sexuality/genitality fit in? If living celibacy with integrity demands that we have intimate relationships in our lives, possibly with both sexes, how do we cope with these erotic impulses? Most of us want to live our lives in honesty; as “ordained” people, you are viewed by the larger community as advocates of Gospel values. No one wants to live the dishonesty of advocating a standard of sexual morality that is not lived out in their own lives. Not to do so is hypocrisy, and we are living in a time that has little patience with hypocrisy.

Let us first acknowledge that sex is not the only way that you can make a hypocrisy of your public commitment to Gospel values. It is probably not even the most significant one. Certainly, in the pursuit of affluence we mock the Gospel advocacy of poverty; the unnecessary use, or abuse, of power mocks the following of One who renounced all use of power. Would that we were as concerned with “sins of affluence” and “sins of abusing others with power” as we are with “sexual sins”, for then we would truly be a revolutionary’ force in the world.

With that as a given, we still want to live our sexuality with integrity. It needs to be understood that there is a natural tension between biological drives and psychological needs, which arises as soon as you attempt to curtail biological expression. Freud made us all too well aware of this. Much of our present difficulties arose because we tried to keep sexual integrity by distancing ourselves from “occasions of sin” (remote as well as proximate) without regard to the psychological needs that were being sacrificed. Is there a better way?

As a psychotherapist I find a major portion of my work is in helping people to own themselves, or better, to stop disowning pieces of themselves. Each of us is unique and idiosyncratic; it is imperative that you be that self and stop trying to be something other than what you are. If you disown a piece of yourself, this piece is apt to come back to haunt you and the weapon it has to use against you is depression. The selves that are most likely to be disowned are those aspects of you that do not meet the criteria of good, strong, healthy, masculine or feminine, loveable, and similarly imposed expectations of oughtness or shouldness that arise within our culture. Frequently it is our self that is angry, or our self that is sexual, that is denied and disowned. What makes self-ownership difficult is a concept of “normalcy” which does not consider the idiosyncratic nature of each person.

In the area of human sexuality, we need to get rid of the notion of “normal”, not only because it is unhelpful, but because it is basically unknown. We know very little about what is “normal” when it comes to human sexuality; we know what is illegal, unethical, possibly even immoral, but we do not know what is “abnormal”. (Any sexual act that is compulsive, or idea that is obsessional, is regarded as pathological, but more because of the compulsivity or obsession, rather than the act itself.) Our understanding of human sexuality is so interwoven with social, cultural, religious, and historical values that we are unable to abstract an understanding separate from these values; the only “normal” that we Can guess at is a relative one. What we do know is that each person’s sexuality is unique and idiosyncratic. Also, there is not a lot we can do about changing it since our “sexual maps” are pretty well set for us very early in life. What we can do is to own our own sexuality and bring our behaviour in line with our society, our morality, and our life-commitment expectations. But this begins with our self-owning.

If we disown our sexuality in the attempt to “be normal”’ or, more likely, “appear normal” then there is going to be trouble. There is probably no area of human behaviour that is so surrounded with “shoulds” and “oughts” as is the human sexual expression, and the attempt to live up to these shoulds and oughts, not just in behaviour but in thoughts and desires as well, is frequently the source of much human difficulty or suffering. Trying to be or appear “normal” is one of the most pernicious tyrannies that our society imposes on us.

Each of us is unique in our sexuality, and different from anyone else. Also, our sexuality is not a rigid category, but rather a blend of many different feelings and desires. Some of the pieces in this blend are probably labelled “perversions” by someone(s). Probably, each of us carries within him/herself the pieces (or potentialities) for the full array of the way people have of achieving an orgasm. Each of us has the potential to do anything. All this is blended together to make up our unique sexual “map” or “plan”.

Most of us live in conformity to what we are-expected to be in our sexual expression, and each of us also has a “dark side”.

None of us can look at our brothers and sisters who are being accused of sexually abusive behaviour and not say: “There but for the grace of God…” Within each of our own “sexual stews” are the potentialities for the behaviours that others are being punished for. Be thankful for the grace that your behaviour does conform.

If you feel your sexuality to be problematic or if it is a source of anxiety, worry, wonder, or if you feel yourself in conflict with legal/moral/ethical principles, then you should seek help about it. Talk to somebody about it; if professional help is needed, get it. Remember, there are very few sexual problems, but there are many human problems that express themselves through our sexuality. That “sexual map” we discussed is probably unchangeable, but you can do something to lessen compulsivities, to better deal with obsessions, to cope with the destructive power that sexuality can exercise. Most likely this involves confronting other, non-sexual issues in your life that are being expressed in sexual behaviour, such as angers, hurts, feelings of insignificance, needs for power and dominance, fears of relationships, the effects of your own victimisation. Any of these can be at the root of what is behaviourally expressed as sexual.

Perhaps of greatest significance in problematic sexual behaviour are feelings of loneliness and affective isolation arising out of the way you are trying to live your life. But the good news is something can be done about it; you do not’ have to be at the mercy of your injurious or destructive behaviours. Help is available toward achieving a better integration.

I want to close this paper with a prayer. It is not my prayer, but that of Paul Tillich, given on the occasion of his 60th birthday celebration at Columbia University. I am sure many of you are familiar with the work of Tillich, who is regarded by many as one of the finest theological thinkers of the 20th century. I am not sure how familiar you are with the tragic dimension of his personal life, his nervous breakdowns, his divorce, his struggle with his own sexual behaviours, and his obsessive fear of his own damnation. It is perhaps in reflection on his own personal struggles at this significant milestone in his life that he spoke/prayed on the role of grace in our lives. It is a message that I would like to leave with you.

“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we feel we have violated another life, a life which we have loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own ‘being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.’ Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!”

Original publication

A ministry of care (PE nr 1114)

Some of our confreres, especially in remote areas, might not have the chance to read the Petit Echo, either because of postal delivery failure, or because they only have an Internet access on their cellphone. Whenever I read particularly essential articles, I will post them as ordinary posts on the website, which should be easier to read from a cellphone. Don’t miss those. 
Ph. Docq

Integrity of Ministry : A Ministry of Care

Peter Joseph Cassidy , M.Afr. (in PE nr 1114)

Since ministry began as we know it today, we have been challenged to regularly evaluate our approach to it. During my formative days (midnineties), the term Integrity of Ministry did not exist nor was the reality mentioned but one felt that there was an unspoken word in relation to integrity of self and ministry and if it had been embraced then, it would have complimented our approach to ministry and self-care in all its aspects today. Thankfully today that attitude has changed and now our formation programme incorporates this reality and hopefully better prepares our confreres for their daily missionary journeys and associated challenges.

Since I took my Oath in December 1996 like most of us, we have held different and varied roles in the Society. Some of these roles we were prepared for and others by the nature of our calling we acquired without much or no preparation. Looking back over my years of ministry, I can honestly say that Integrity of Ministry has been the most challenging to the point of anger and frustration. From the moment of my first appointment until the present day, I have been confronted personally and I also had to confront others in their approach to self-awareness and to the ministry which has not been an easy task. The greatest challenge, when confronting self and others, is the image we portray and how we let our family and people we serve down. At times we take for granted our role in life and forget the role and image we portray to those we serve. There is a certain sense of arrogance attached to our calling, born out of history whereby people were fearful to confront us but this attitude has changed and people whom we serve are ready to confront, challenge and expose us if we step out of our role today.

My time in Ireland and now my return to South Africa have made it clear that our people want us to be truthful and honest to our calling.

The number of workshops I attended and now through the giving of workshops in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg in relation to Safeguarding, I am constantly taken aback by the number of people attending such workshops. It suggests a cry from the people that we serve that they want us to respond to our calling with integrity. It also suggests that they are concerned about us and want to protect us to the point that they are ready to help, not cover up but help us if we go down a difficult path in our ministry and in our life.

We need to be proactive rather than reactive and develop a positive approached to Professional Supervision. I remember in our European Provincial Council I asked about supervision and I was told that we have it in Spiritual direction, respectively, Supervision is different from Spiritual Direction. As we are aware, prevention is better than cure and I believe that there is a need for supervision whereby our needs and concerns are shadowed by a professional who recognises an emotional downward spiral. This is the case in chaplaincy where one has to prove within a civil realm how often you attend supervision and like any professional counsellor today they have to do the same. Our ministry today has changed but the challenges still remain, are we humble enough to seek professional care for ourselves?

As Missionaries of Africa, we have spent a lot be it in time and finance in ‘curing’ confreres, but one has to ask would it not have been more productive to invest and encourage Professional Supervision whereby we would have a mirror to look into our lives and embrace our self-care. All of us who call ourselves missionaries are confronted daily by the horrific personal stories of the people we serve, which at times mirrors our own stories. Once these stories are not cared for, they can bring you into a ‘dark’ place which in turn will affect you and your ministry. Our people want us to be true and honest in our activities and this can only be embraced if we are true and honest to ourselves.

This same reality needs to be embraced in our Missionary of Africa communities whereby we also need to be strong to confront and care for our fellow confreres if we see them going down a difficult path. We tend to turn to our superiors first, taking the easy option rather than caring and confronting the issue and confrere at hand. Our communities need to be a ‘place of safety’ whereby we are cared for and felt cared for. At times our communities have been a place of pain and lacking in care.

We need to develop communities which care for one another’s needs, not policing the community but using the skills we have acquired when dealing with the people we serve and enacting them in our immediate community. Living in a community where the issues are not spoken about (elephant in the corner) is very difficult and draws energy from oneself, the community and our ministry.

Supervision is a means of self-care and was mentioned in the last Chapter but it has remained there. Let all of us be humble enough to seek care by means of supervision before it is not too late and build on a ministry which is integral to the image of God.

Integrity of the Ministry and its Consequences in the Apostolate (PE nr 1114)

Some of our confreres, especially in remote areas, might not have the chance to read the Petit Echo, either because of postal delivery failure, or because they only have an Internet access on their cellphone. Whenever I read particularly essential articles, I will post them as ordinary posts on the website, which should be easier to read from a cellphone. Don’t miss those. 
Ph. Docq

Integrity of the Ministry and its Consequences in the Apostolate

Peter Ekutt, M.Afr. (in PE nr 1114)

Sincerity and humility

Following recent reports of many instances of sexual abuse by priests and consecrated persons, Pope Francis wrote a strong letter to all the faithful people of God. This letter in fact is a cry. It is a cry expressing the embarrassment and the pain of the Pope and of the whole Church, in the face of the scandals of sexual abuse and other abuses and their wounds. This cry unites with that of the victims who remained traumatised their whole life. As missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) we are all shaken, as are other congregations and Christian communities. At this point, the most important issue for us is not about who is behind these scandals, but more importantly, what these scandals reveal about our way of being as missionaries. As missionaries of Africa, perhaps this cry can help us draw lessons from the past so that we can become more attentive to the integrity of our ministry. This question invites us today to take a candid and less stereotypical look at this crisis, at people and cultures. No age limit, no pastoral experience, no culture is immune to this evil. Everyone, regardless of age and missionary experience, is exposed to it.

Sharing during a session with religious men, women and diocesan priests of Mahagi diocese

Field experience

I had the opportunity of animating a session for some religious men, women and diocesan priests. I started the session by asking the participants to brainstorm on their thoughts about ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘abuse of power’. The expressions of their faces convinced me they were not comfortable with these questions: it appeared unusual and required an exceptional amount of courage to face them. It is not surprising that stigmatisation, mistrust, a culture of silence and taboo surround these subjects to some extent, depending on the setting. In general, I see that there is also a certain degree of mystification around these subjects. Fear of filing a complaint, of stigmatisation and of justice, not to mention family ties, prevent people from speaking out and disclosing the cases they are familiar with, however well known they may be.

Regarding our communities, some confreres accept the fact that there are cases of sexual abuse as well as vulnerable adults, but to dismiss the issue they resort to stereotypical phrases such as ‘but it is rare in Africa’, ‘it does not happen in our sector or in our community’, ‘homosexuality is less harmful than paedophilia, “sleeping with a 17-year-old girl is not paedophilia because she came to me”. When it comes to signing the code of conduct in our society, some people feel that it is a trap. I know of some areas where the confrère in charge of the apostolate does not dare to communicate the information to the confrères. Instead he waits for problems erupting before he starts quoting the main policies and rules. This explains in part the distrust of the confreres in this apostolate. We are seen as policemen on the lookout for infractions to incriminate. Therefore, a blockage on the subject!

The Society of Missionaries of Africa continues its pilgrimage 150 years after its foundation, amidst sorrows and joys, successes and difficulties, however, internal difficulties are still the most painful and destructive. The scandal of sexual abuse, abuse of power, addictive abuse and breach of trust is making the whole body of the Society suffer. Therefore, we try, not to seek out the victims, but rather to raise the awareness of confreres about what Pope Benedict XVI called “the open wound in the body of the Church” in general, and within our Society in particular.

Fr. Peter Ekkut (in boubou) during a session with Missionary of Africa candidates studying philosophy in Kimbondo (Kinshasa)

Learning to combine discipline and humility

Our approaches may have their limits, we do not deny it. However, Truth is persistent. In fact, in the courtroom, the accused include not only political actors and economic operators, but also teachers, youth group leaders, parents and clergymen. We often underestimate the prevalence of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, but in practice, we have to admit that there are painful records and cases where the Society had to pay a heavy price. This article therefore seeks to provoke a reflection on the integrity of our ministry. The fact of being a Christian – especially a consecrated one – says Pope Francis, ‘does not mean that we behave like a circle of privileged people who believe they have God in their pocket’.

It is important, therefore, to reflect on the severity of the rules to be adopted in all our establishments, in order to prevent similar occurrences and to follow the logic of Pope Francis who calls for a ‘never again’ in our communities, sectors and provinces. It is also important that the Society be committed to the respect of the rights of both the victim and the accused; that it ensures that the truth goes with charity, both towards the victims and towards the accused, leading them on the path of healing and reconciliation both with each other and with society.

During a campaign to raise awareness among young people in Mahagi's schools on "sexual assault".

“Prudence” is the key word.

‘Tt is not enough for Caesar’s wife to be innocent, she must also appear to be innocent,’ according to Plutarch, was the answer of the great Caesar concerning the repudiation of his wife Pompeia, suspected without concrete proof of extramarital relations with Clodius. The moral lesson of this story is that all public officials must not only be honest, but must also avoid any behaviour that could call into question their integrity; in the Christian context, we call this PRUDENCE.

To live this prudence in the protection of minors and vulnerable people, it is important that missionaries respect the limits of the private spaces of our missionary communities in Africa. Several formation houses, fortunately, these days, insist on the prohibition of receiving visitors in our private spaces, namely our bedrooms and team rooms. This decision of the Formators or communities of the houses of formation is to be welcomed and encouraged; it shows the seriousness of our commitment and formation of future missionaries of Africa in the spirit of Cardinal Lavigerie who never ceased to emphasise this prudence in his letters to the first confreres.

Our world has changed, and this is true for everyone, including the clergy who were once considered as living saints on earth. I see here an urgent call to all: To learn to combine discipline and humility, both at the individual and community levels.

Integrity and Mission, a Topical Issue (Petit Echo 1114)

Some of our confreres, especially in remote areas, might not have the chance to read the Petit Echo, either because of postal delivery failure, or because they only have an Internet access on their cellphone. Whenever I read particularly essential articles, I will post them as ordinary posts on the website, which should be easier to read from a cellphone. Don’t miss those. 
Ph. Docq

Integrity and Mission, a Topical Issue

Stéphane Joulain, M.Afr. (in PE nr 1114)

In the early 1960s, our Society stopped issuing what was known as the Directory. The documents therein foresaw the different aspects of missionary life. There were very clear guidelines on how to relate to others: men, women and children, laity and religious. There were indications as to where to receive visitors that the missionaries welcomed: in the offices, but never in the rooms, etc. From the beginning of its foundation, the Society was aware of the limits of human nature and the risks that these limits could pose to the work of the mission. However, the winds of freedom of the sixties and seventies “blew” these documents away. Individual conscience became the sole guide for discerning the morality and integrity of the missionary’s action.

This lack of understanding of human nature by a Church that nevertheless proclaimed herself through the voice of Paul VI as an “expert in humanity”, led to many evils. Even if they were not new, these evils were dramatic for many. The risk, in suppressing any form of discipline or legislation, is that the individual finds himself before the dictate of his ego and of his search for power. If the individual has not internalised a framework that restrains his all powerfulness, then the abuses is a genuine risk. The provision of an external inhibiting framework, which is a reminder of the fundamental law of respect for the integrity of one’s neighbour, is then indispensable. Otherwise, the risk becomes so high that the focus will no longer be on the proclamation of the Good News of the Risen Christ, but on the proclamation of the superiority of the missionary over the rest of the faithful.

Fortunately, the vast majority of missionaries are men of faith and morals, entirely given to the mission of Christ, with their limitations, of course, but with generosity and love for their neighbour. However, some joined our Society without much integrity, and have succeeded in taking advantage of their neighbours. These are the mercenaries for whom “the sheep do not really count”, of whom Christ speaks (John 10:13), they are not missionaries.

It had therefore become important to have clear guidelines in our Society to protect those we serve. For this reason, in 2008 our Society provided guidelines for working with the most vulnerable in our ministry. These instruments were revised on a regular basis until we published our current Policy (2015) on the Prevention of Abuse as well as different tools from the Vademecum of Government for the Provinces and the Vademecum for Initial Formation. At the provincial and sector levels, various more contextualised instruments were developed.

Some, often the confreres who have difficulty with their search for power and self-affirmation, have interpreted these guidelines as limiting their freedom. However, these policies are not there to limit freedom, but to protect the weakest.

Certain toxic comments then began to circulate, for example claiming that one could no longer touch children, not even to bless them; saying that a witch hunt was being conducted; that the Coordinator of Integrity of Ministry (CIM) was the new inquisitor; that the Canon Law and our Oath would be sufficient, etc. Such comments were all fantasies that reflect the difficulty of integrating new parameters of missionary work and the difficulty for some to compromise their search for power. It also reflects another difficulty; that of integrating obedience together with chastity.

Let us be very clear here, it has never been forbidden to ‘chastely touch’ children in order to bless them. In Africa, it is common at the end of Mass, to see the little ones come to the priest to receive blessings, it is a beautiful evangelical experience, and there is no question of forbidding it. It is not what happens in public that is the problem; it is what happens behind closed doors, far from the inhibiting gaze of others that needs to be controlled. It is important to respond to the invitation of the Universal Church and the successors of the Apostle Peter, of giving justice to those who have suffered from the behaviour of some of our confreres and have had to live for decades, sometimes their whole life with dramatic consequences, while the confrere who committed such abuse continues to enjoy all the benefits of our small Society.

CIM is not an inquisitor. The only persons who can exercise the power of governance in our Society regarding this kind of matter are the Superior General and the Provincials. They are the only ones authorised to undertake any canonical procedures that may be required. The CIM acts simply as a counsellor and can at times evoke the framework of the law.

Finally, neither Canon Law nor our oath are sufficient instruments to ensure effective prevention and maximum protection of the most vulnerable. It is for this reason that the Vatican, and in particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, decided to come up with a policy to make the Church safer. All the dioceses of the world, religious congregations and institutes of consecrated life have also been invited to do so. We should rejoice that since 2008 we have such instruments in our Society. The oath does not speak of protecting the most vulnerable, perhaps it should. This is a legitimate concern. In the past, the oath did not include the formula of commitment to celibacy but it was later added.Why not introduce a formula in which we would commit ourselves to respect the physical, moral and spiritual integrity of the peoples we serve?

Mahagi Sisters
After a session by Fr. Peter Ekkut to the Mahagi Sisters on the protection of children and vulnerable people.

Our founder was very much aware of the risks of a missionary apostolate without a specified structure. I did mention this in a previous issue of the PE. Our archivist at the Generalate recently shared with me another interesting text from our Venerable Founder. While he was stranded in Carthage because of a cholera epidemic (past circumstances which seem more familiar to us today), he wrote in 1885 to missionaries who were making their annual retreat. In between various encouragement in the face of external criticism, he pointed out a worrying situation of internal deviation which existed already at the time:

‘So it is to you, my dear Children that I am speaking today. The wickedness and boldness of your enemies are beyond your control and you must be resigned to suffer them. But what depends on you is to avoid anything that could in your life as missionaries, be displeasing to God’s heart, stop the flow of His blessings and thus bring about a downfall even more painful and irretrievable than the one that could come from outside (…) for the most serious reasons and out of fear of misfortunes that will be forever deplorable, I find myself obliged to put an end to the too frequent and too close relationships that existed almost everywhere between the sisters and the missionaries. I leave it to your Father Superior to give you in this regard the clarifications and details which prudence prevents me from entrusting to paper. I will limit myself to saying that from several quarters at the same time, from persons who are very serious and least suspect of partiality, I have received observations and complaints about these multiple relationships and the calumnies which resulted from them. Having therefore weighed all these considerations before God, I have also decided to separate completely, at least for a time and until the congregations have grown older, the government of the sisters and that of the missionaries, as regards both their general and particular direction.’ (Cardinal Lavigerie Anthology of texts, Volume V, pp. 92-104).

Our founder was a visionary and a man of sure moral integrity; he knew all the damage that some behaviour may cause: damage to people, damage to the proclamation of the Good News. May we draw from his example our determination and the integrity necessary for our mission.