I’m not an X-Men fan, so forgive me if I get this wrong, but Professor-X did something pretty superhuman once, when he was a young man.
Duh, right? Charles Xavier is a telepathic mutant, of course he can do superhuman things: read minds, erase memories, create dreams and illusions. But I bet you missed one in the film X-Men: First Class. I almost missed it too! Until I watched more carefully, more thoughtfully.
In the movie, Charles meets and becomes friends with a CIA agent, Moira MacTaggert. Throughout the story, the two grow closer and their alliance matures into friendship, and in the end, their friendship blossoms into a sweeter love. If you haven’t watched the film yet, sorry — deal with the spoiler!
So in one of the last scenes, Moira leans down to kiss the paralyzed Charles. And there it is! That’s when it happens! That’s when Professor-X rises to the challenge.
Professor-X chooses the discipline of celibacy.
Not because he doesn’t love Moira, not because he wants to be lonesome, not because he’s afraid of marriage and sacrifice and fidelity.
Nope. Professor-X chooses celibacy because he cares so much about Moira, because he’s responsible for way too many others to just marry and live a simple life with her, because he can’t live a simple life — period! — and because he wants to live a life of extreme sacrifice and fidelity for others (mutant or not).
Professor-X chooses what all solid Catholic priests choose. A priest, in a sense, is a man who cannot love just one, but desires to love many and to lay his life down for their lives. He wants to offer his maleness, his masculinity in a way that serves others, and not merely himself. He becomes a brother to all, a son to all, a father to all.
Celibacy allows a man to live simply, to have the ease of going off on a mission at a moment’s notice. He doesn’t have to worry about who to care for first, whose attention he should tend to first. The question: “My family, or everyone else?” doesn’t happen to him. Because in celibacy, “everyone else” IS HIS FAMILY.
And that’s what Professor-X realized. He needed to overcome his natural, good and human want to marry a woman and start a family with her. He and celibate priests choose to go beyond the call of nature and love more, and more, and more.
This goes for religious sisters and nuns also! They choose to be a sister to all, a daughter to all, a mother to all. It’s for the same superhuman reasons, and since it’s superhuman, not all persons desire it, and even less achieve it: the level of love involved and demanded is intense.
That leads us to this common misconception: “If priests aren’t allowed to marry, then they will act out their desires in horrible ways, like abusing children and others!”
But think about this: If a man marries so that his desires won’t come out in horrible and abusive ways… then I feel scared for his wife and kids! Marriage and love is not some sort of release valve for a lustful and abusive person! If that’s how the man is, then for the sake of humanity, keep him away until he grows up into a real man: someone who follows that love is sacrifice for the good of others, not for gaining selfish pleasures!
Any man who sees marriage as some release valve for his desires should never marry, and should never ever be a priest. He must master his lust first: he must let God’s grace transform his restless lust into restless and selfless service. He must rise to the superhuman challenge. Because women deserve better, don’t they? Because the Church deserves better, doesn’t she? Because all of us children deserve better, didn’t you know?
P.s. Even Professor-X’s name gives it away! “Charles FRANCIS XAVIER”? Come on… like what Catholic hasn’t at least heard of Saint Francis Xavier?!
P.p.s. The discipline of priestly celibacy goes even deeper than these practical reasons, but that conversation is for another time.
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