Lou A. BORDISSO, OSJV. Sex, Celibacy, and Priesthood. Bloomington IN: iUniverse, 2011. pp. 100. $12.95 pb. ISBN 978-1-4260-3841. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012. pp. 193. ISBN: 978-1-57075-964-2.
Reviewed by James T. BRETZKE, S.J., Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Bordisso, a former bishop in the Old Catholic tradition, and Provincial General and co-founder of the ecumenical religious Order of Saint John Vianney, argues for alternative models of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests that “recognize both a traditional (sexual abstinence) and a contemporary (sexually active) definition of celibacy,” which should “embrace the reality that a significant number of priests are indeed sexually active” (pp. x-xi). After a brief introductory chapter outlining some of the research on clerical sexual activity conducted by Richard Sipe and Bordisso himself, the bulk of this short work is given over to extended anecdotal reports of a number of priest-respondents to Bordisso’s questionnaire on lived sexual experiences among the clergy. These reports are grouped by sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual) and present a spectrum of frank responses to the difficulties encountered in trying to remain continent. Some men continue the struggle, others have given up, and others have staked out a sort of middle ground of maintaining a committed, though private longer-term relationship with another individual. Echoing Sipe’s well-known position on the problems in structurally maintaining an enforced discipline of clerical celibacy in the Church, Bordisso’s operative thesis seems to be that since there are a significant number of individuals who have struggled and failed to live celibate lives the Church should simply recognize this reality and change her expectations of committed celibacy, which he then outlines in the book’s two very brief concluding chapters (pp. 60-71). Though I highly doubt Bordisso’s proposals are likely to be embraced by the Church, the accounts he does detail of men struggling with celibacy and affectivity would be of help to spiritual directors and those charged with seminary formation to come to more effective theological and psychological resources for supporting priests and seminarians in their vocations.


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