Vol 39 No 3
ENGAGING WITH CHANGE
STILL RELEVANT? Vatican II Forty Years On
ETHNIC MINISTRY IN AUSTRALIA: History, Present Realities and Future Options
THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE HEART: The EJ Cuskelly Memorial Lecture 2005
GOD SHOUTS TO US IN OUR PAIN
Dr Lawrence Cross, Australian Catholic University
TOPICAL COMMENT - TERRORISTS, MARTYRS AND SUICIDES: Consulting the Early
STATS AND STONES: Vinnies’ report from the trenches on the poverty wars
MERTON: A Modern Perspective
REVIEW: Jane Anderson, Priests in Love: Australian Catholic Clergy and
Their Intimate Friendships.
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS BY AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS
Review: Jane Anderson, Priests in Love: Australian Catholic Clergy and Their Intimate Friendships
Jane Anderson, Priests in Love: Australian
Catholic Clergy and Their Intimate Friendships. John Garratt Publishing,
2005, ISBN: 1920721177 R.R.P: $34.95
Priests in Love is not merely another attack upon an already beleaguered
clergy. It is, rather, a book in the tradition of the contemporary challenge
to mandatory celibacy for Latin rite clergy. Other authors in this tradition,
Richard Sipe and Donald Cozzens, have applauded it, as is evidenced from
their comments on the cover. The work is unique in that the author offers
Australian Catholic clergy the opportunity to speak in very personal terms
about their intimate romantic and sexual relationships, and the emotional
and moral dilemmas that ensue. The book is a qualitative study of the
hidden phenomenon of priests' relationships. It is sobering reading.
The work has two notable strengths.
The first is the considerable amount of original material. Fifty priests
have been interviewed. Each priest is permitted to speak in the first
person and their personal dilemmas are, thereby, stark and accessible.
There is a kind of relentlessness in the telling, one by one, of these
accounts of personal pain, loneliness and guilt. Even the reader who is
most sympathetic with the current ecclesial status quo cannot fail to
be halted by such a pile of first-hand evidence.
I was particularly moved by the accounts of compromise, of those priests
who failed to resolve their situations healthily, and continued to 'practice
a particular version of celibacy, one that upholds the public appearance
of singleness, whilst in his private life, he considers himself a part
of a loving and committed relationship' (p.86).
One is left with the impression that, for all the effort of the Vatican
to bulwark the discipline of celibacy, it is a practice fraught with difficulties
which must compromise both the integrity of priest and partner, and hence,
the efficacy of priestly ministry.
One is also left with the conviction that something must be done, beyond
the idealised rhetoric that usually accompanies official statements about
The second strength is the author's commentary, accompanying these mini-
autobiographies. It is never salacious, but pulls no punches in serving
up to the reader the implications of these stories. For instance, quoting
from the document I Will Give You Shepherds, issued by John Paul II in
1993, the author writes:
the pope asserts that a priest is require to love and be loved
with 'an affective maturity which is prudent, able to renounce anything
that is a threat to (his celibacy).
However, anything can include a priest's love for his friend, and the
friend as well. The pope reduces a priest's friend to an object, while
his affection for his friend is discredited and dismissed as a distraction
to his love of God (p.73).
I have worked with clergy for over twenty years, ten of those as the psychologist
at the Sydney Archdiocesan Seminary. The personal stories are vivid reminders
to me of the human cost paid by so many priests, who continue to try to
honour the canonical obligation of celibacy, but who have reached a point
in their own lives, where they have realised that celibacy as an ideal
and a reality are two different things, and that the desire for exclusive
human intimacy is not only desirable but necessary.
Priests in Love presents candid human evidence that the problems surrounding
the current practice of mandatory celibacy need to be addressed with the
best insights that both the human sciences and the theological tradition
An interesting companion piece to this work is the recently published.
A Passion for Priests by Clare Jenkins (Headline, London. 1995). This
work uses a similar format to Anderson's book to examine the experiences
of those hidden partners who share not only priests' lives but their dilemmas
with mandatory celibacy, as well.