In an interview with the French daily, La Croix, Father Luc Crepy, rector of the Seminary of Orleans in France, underscored that a priest's choice of celibacy does not deny his sexuality, but contributes to an intense freedom to serve God and the faithful.
During the interview, which was then published by L’Osservatore Romano, Father Crepy made several distinctions. “First of all, it must be noted that sexuality is not limited to the genital dimension, and thus the emotional life is much vaster than the sexual life, although the latter is of obvious importance.”
“In the seminary, we are concerned not only with this particular dimension of the future priest, as important as it is,” he said, “but also with promoting the comprehensive development of the future priest, keeping in mind full breadth of human formation.”
Father Crepy went on to explain several concrete measures that were implemented in accord with John Paul II’s pastoral letter, “Pastores Dabo Vobis.” These measures include attention to community life, reflection on sexuality and development for future pastoral life. “The purpose is to unify one’s own life, to bring together all of its dimensions,” he said.
After commenting that the priest freely renounces having sexual relations, just as a husband renounces other women and loves only his own wife, Father Crepy underscored that “in order for everything to have meaning it is necessary to learn how to renounce.”
“One does not enter the seminary only for the purpose of remaining celibate,” he continued, noting that “celibacy has a broader meaning of service to the Church and love for Christ.”
“How does celibacy fit into a global life plan?” he asked. “If it is seen as shackles on one’s feet, then it will not work. The question that needs to be asked is this: In the desire to be a priest, how does celibacy and the renouncing what it implies take on meaning and become part of the priestly life?”
“Just because one is a priest does not mean one does not have sexuality,” Father Crepy stressed. “It is a life-style choice and a way to give meaning to one’s sexuality in a life that transcends it without denying it. What is at stake is the living out of one’s sexuality in a liberating way: in the choice of celibacy, there is a dimension of freedom.”
“But, let’s be careful,” he added. “Sexuality, whether regarding priests or married couples, is a balance that must always be maintained throughout one’s entire life.”
In addressing the challenges priests face in living their sexuality appropriately, Father Crepy pointed out that “each age revisits the issue of sexuality. It is not a purely intimate and personal matter, as is often believed. It is influenced by the culture. It is true that in a highly eroticized society, which values genital expression to the detriment of a broader sexuality, this is not evident. People want things right away, and this goes against long-term sexual harmony.”
“I believe that sexuality is one of the most interesting but most difficult areas in which we must exercise our freedom,” he said.
Father Crepy pointed to several aids to help priests, such as meeting together regularly, receiving spiritual direction from a more experienced priest and meeting with their bishops, in order to avoid the loneliness that can be a difficult experience for some.
“A meeting between the bishop and every young priest a year after his ordination can be helpful, as well as constant attention from the vicar general. All of this is undoubtedly necessary so that young priests, amidst the difficulties inherent in the first years of the priesthood, are not alone,” he said.