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It is simply a life choice: a difficult one, to be sure, but not unlike decisions incumbent upon all of us. That shock enabled him to tell the story of how he got involved, what was going on with him at the time, and how he allowed it to persist even as his career was blossoming and exposure became more threatening. to develop a more realistic approach to whatever intimacy needs he had while remaining within the bounds of a celibate priesthood if he so chose.

More common is the case of Father D., a successful priest and administrator who finally revealed ongoing involvements with two women that lasted for more than a decade. This is more typical of what is seen in treatment centers: men who yield to their passions but are unable or unwilling to leave the priesthood they love and on which they depend. But mostly it's a matter of juggling two incompatible things.

In all this male camaraderie, pair bonding is not unheard of, and hooking up privately is not unknown.

Most people would not and do not volunteer to live in such a world, but men who would be priests do precisely that.

There are lots of reasons for this: a pious upbringing where priests are revered, or a desire to serve, to be special, to stand apart from others, to help humanity. There are other, less benign ones, which a man contemplating the priesthood may not even himself consciously recognize at ordination. Sometimes conflicts over sexual attraction or orientation, childlike shame over any sexual impulse, even limited ability to relate to people outside a structured role. This makes for life in a kind of fishbowl where everyone outside is watching.

I am a psychologist, and I have spent much of the past three decades dealing with those kinds of problems.

The kinds that compel priests' superiors to send them off for treatment at a facility dedicated to priests.

(Sarah Turbin) After all, a priest's parishioners mostly have families to which they return, primary attachments in the context of which they can bitch and moan and feel generally safe in so doing. Christian values might be called "feminine" (patience, forbearance, gentleness), but the purveyors of those values are expected to carry on often intense work in a solitary way with minimal support. Confusion about sexual matters only makes him more vulnerable.

It is easy to feel outrage at a priest who crosses professional or personal boundaries; the prospect of priests who abuse children is nauseating.

For the rest, I am sure there are many good men who have navigated the choppy waters of physical attraction with relative aplomb if not ease. I began to wonder why, if so many of them were so unhappy, they didn't just leave.

Over 30 years I learned that the answer is more complicated than it looks — especially when the source of unhappiness is love.

For Catholic priests, love plays a major professional role.

They talk endlessly about the love of God, love for God, God's love of man, love of neighbor, even love of self, albeit this last one at times disparagingly.

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  • I've spent 30 years counseling priests who fall in love. Here's what I.

    Oct 5, 2016. If this experience leads to a decision to leave the priesthood and marry, as it often does, there is no psychological problem. It is simply a life choice a difficult. Curiously, not much attention is paid to handling love and physical attraction in the long years of priests' training. For the most part, priestly training.…

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