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Living Celibacy: Healthy Pathways for Priests.

LIVING CELIBACY: HEALTHY PATHWAYS FOR PRIESTS. By Gerdenio Sonny Manuel, S.J. New York, Paulist, 2012. Pp. iii + 156. $14.95.

Manuel, priest and psychologist, knows whereof he writes. Books on celibacy are not hard to find these days. But finding helpful, insightful, honest books on celibacy is another matter. Manuel's book is a true find for both priests and vowed religious. Grounded on a mature spirituality and an equally mature anthropology of human sexuality, this book takes the reader into the heart of healthy celibate living.

M.'s masterful use of the case study method contributes greatly to the existential tone and content of the volume. His case studies have the ring of verisimilitude. No small achievement. Along with chapters on human desire, intimacy, community, and boundary issues, M. tackles the stressors that fall upon all celibates at one time or another and follows up with realistic coping strategies. Along the way, he looks at the clergy sexual-abuse scandals and related boundary violations with the eyes of an experienced clinician who does not confuse piety and moralisms with authentic spiritual maturity. His reflection questions are specific and astute and should be helpful to his celibate readers.

M. does indeed offer priests and vowed religious healthy pathways for living celibacy. I have only two reservations about this book. If, from a theological perspective, we understand consecrated celibacy as a charism, then some space needs to be given to priests who believe they are called to ordained ministry but do not believe they have received the charism of celibacy. This, I suspect, represents a rather large number of diocesan priests. Healthy celibate living takes on different hues, different challenges, for priests who claim the charism of celibacy and for priests who do not claim this charism. M. does not go here.

Finally, healthy conversations about celibacy's challenges are often constricted by the church's teaching that all deliberate sexual desires and behaviors outside of marriage are seriously sinful. The moral pall hanging over the head of lapses in celibate living remains unaddressed in M.'s otherwise fine book.


John Carroll University, Cleveland

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Author:Cozzens, Donald
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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