[Selection from Conrad Baars, M.D.’ “I Will Give Them A New Heart”]
Spousal love of husband and wife is a progressive development of self-gift that will find its full achievement in the Parousia. Hence, celibacy is not a cause of psychic deficiency but of psychic perfection. The deficiency is the lack of affirmation that impedes achieving the state of celibacy for both matrimony and for the Kingdom. In that light, consider these remarks of Conrad Baars:
“More often than not the priest comes from a fine Catholic home, a strict one with little emotional love. Spurred on to develop his character, train his will, and grow intellectually, his emotional growth lags behind. Neither minor nor major seminary were capable of closing this ‘maturity gap’ through authentic affirmation, and trained – the word is used deliberately – him to function without the benefit of the emotional life. The consequences of this unbalanced formation have been largely disastrous. “In our clinical practices we have seen many priests with obvious identity problems. Priests who were uncertain in their attitude toward life, felt unloved, lonely and depressed, and whether they realized it or not, awkward in their interpersonal immaturity expressed in hetero-or homosexual activity was often encountered. Many experienced difficulties in matters of faith, or suffered from severe scrupulosity, while a growing number of them seriously considered leaving the priesthood. Virtually all of these priests were non-affirmed men, suffering from severe to moderate Emotional Deprivation Disorder, with or without associated obsessive-compulsive repressions, scrupulosity or chronic alcoholism. “Happily, many of them responded to our therapy by gradually maturing emotionally, acquiring a feeling of personal worth and dignity, and becoming more sure of themselves in their interpersonal relationships. Their sexual problems gradually disappeared without analytic scrutiny. Their faith and religious sentiments also benefited from their growing emotional maturity, and in the course of a few years they became happy priests capable of bringing joy and happiness to those entrusted to their pastoral care.
“Other priest who had married after leaving the priesthood sought help because of sexual impotence, depressive states and psychological conflicts and difficulties with their spouses. At times, both of them would have been only too happy if their marriage could have been dissolved. This is not surprising because in a non-affirmed priest, the search for affirmation is likely to express itself in an intense and virtually irresistible desire for tactile contacts, the very first expression of affirmation meaningful to his undeveloped emotional life. In choosing a partner he is therefore bound to make a serious mistake both in his thinking and in his feelings, and he will enter marriage devoid of the emotional capacity to establish a mutually meaningful and satisfying relationship.
“Related to this is the fact that many former priests seems to have found their partner among women either much older or younger than they, suggesting the possibility that either they enter into a relationship with an older woman in the hope that their need for affirmation will be gratified, or they prefer a younger woman with whom they can relate more comfortably on an equal level of relative emotional immaturity. “Our clinical observations over many years have convinced us that priests in general – and some to an extreme degree – possess an insufficiently developed or distorted emotional life, while at the same time they must be considered to belong to a group of men whom nature has endowed with superior intelligence and sensitivity. In some, the causes for their emotional underdevelopment go back to childhood and remain unrecognized during the seminary years. Others enjoyed a fairly normal childhood but became emotionally disturbed through misguided ascetical practices in the seminary. Whatever the causes, however, it is a fact that the majority of today’s priest with psychological trouble suffer from some degree of non-affirmation. A smaller, but not insignificant number of priests are seriously incapacitated by obsessive-compulsive repression. Many show the symptoms of both types of disorder, often combined, at least in North America with chronic alcoholism.
“These findings also explain why the Church as a whole finds herself in a crisis. Because of the priest’s special position as mediator between God and humankind, the effects of his non-affirmation on other people will be far more radical and widespread than in the case of the non-affirmed single or married layperson. A priest without identity without a firm sense of self-worth, cannot reveal to others their personal worth. Because he cannot affirm, he cannot love others in a way which strengthens both them and the Church.
“Moreover, as a non-affirmed priest depends for his sense of personal worth on the people around him, he lives in constant anticipation of what they expect from him, is fearful of displeasing them, afraid to assert himself or to defend the truths of his faith except on a purely intellectual level. Desirous of being loved by all, he may remain silent when it is his duty to point out the errors contained in other faiths, new schools of thought, popular movements or modern systems of education. Instead of being a source of strength and joy to the people he chose to serve, the non-affirmed priest may be said to be at the mercy whether for good or evil, – of all with whom he comes in contact.
“Priests who remain happy in their work possess an innate sensitive appreciation of the sense goods of this world under the ready direction of intellect and will, and likewise, an emotional appreciation of spiritual goods. In other words, they are able to direct themselves quite easily at the objectum prout substat rationi. This necessary capacity to deny themselves certain sense goods without becoming unhappy does not seem to have been given sufficient consideration in the selection of candidates for the priesthood. In priests so disposed, the need for concrete goods will increasingly give way to a growing delight in the spiritual, with and ensuing greater expansion of mind and spirit and an ever growing happiness.”5