The Single Vocation:
Why It's A Lie
May 19, 2016
Msgr. Charles A. Pope of my archdiocese did the church a great service when, on May 26, 2015, he posted There a Vocation to the Single Life? I think Not and Here's Why (1) in an Archdiocese of Washington blog.
It was way past due for someone who has respect and an audience to question so-called "single vocations" which Catholics now accept as legitimate.
Some points that Msgr. Pope makes:
Unlike those who marry or who are ordained, single people make no "promises and vows," they do not live in community or under a rule. Actually, some single people do make "vows" and "promises," call themselves "consecrated" and even live in communities. Below I will explain why their "vocations" are still bogus.
For those who claim that a single vocation frees them to devote their lives to missionary work or teaching CCD, Msgr. Pope answers that the work itself, not the state, is the vocation.
But Monsignor clinches his argument by reminding his readers of the "nuptial meaning of the body," (right from Pope St. John Paul's Theology of The Body):
The nuptial meaning of the body is that within its physical structure is inscribed the truth that we are made for others. Our body says, "I was made for a spouse of the opposite sex to complete me and render me fertile." Speaking of a human being as single, and certainly speaking of there being a call to be single, would tend to violate this understanding of the human person.
Let's pause here and consider. If our bodies are made for spouses to complete, then being single is a defective state. Being single is a state that not everyone can help. It is not a sin, but being single, denying the body's nuptial meaning, is not something that can be sanctified.
So much for the simple "single vocation" which attempts to sanctify the denial of the body's nuptial meaning. Msgr. Pope then explains that priests and religious express nuptial meaning by "wedding the church." Priests are actually the grooms of the church. Sisters are the brides of Christ.
Does this mean that one can sanctify a single vocation by declaring oneself "a bride of Christ?" Unfortunately many in the church, encouraged by cults that I will describe below, encourage the idea that women can be brides of Christ or "consecrated" without living like sisters.
Going forward (and leaving Msgr. Pope behind) I will use "single vocation"/"consecrated (virginity)" interchangeably. Out of consideration for good, well-meaning people who are members, I will refer to cults as "parallel churches."
Let me interject here that single vocations/"consecrated virginity" are claimed mostly by women. There are men who claim them, but show me a guy who is convinced he has a single vocation and isn't heading for the seminary and I'll show you a guy who's a real dream date.
As for attempting to sanctify the single vocation by calling it "consecrated:"
1) The "consecration" may or may not actually be consecration. The Catechism of The Catholic Church (CCC) 923 says that virgins are "consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop." That is, the bishop consecrates them when they make vows before him and him alone. The aforementioned parallel churches have been known to play fast and loose with the terms "consecration" and "vows."
2) Even if the consecration by a bishop is legitimate, there is still a huge problem with people who claim to be "brides of Christ" as sisters do, or "grooms of the Church" as priests do, but who do not live out their so-called vocations as proper priests and sisters live out theirs.
Let us return to nuptial meaning and the "wedding" of priests and sisters. Wedding a spouse -- be that spouse a man, woman, Church, Christ -- requires complete donation of the self to be truthful, to be authentic. The sin of contraception is that it's a witholding a part of the self. It is a form of lying to the spouse.
How do authentic priests and nuns give completely of themselves?
The Roman Catholic priest gives his whole life to the church 24/7. He does not have his own wife and children as a separate compartment in his life. The sister, at least one who's a member of a traditional and healthy order, also gives her whole life to Christ, living in community with other sisters, wearing a habit, following a rule. She sacrifices many things. She doesn't own a condo and have a different outfit for every day of the month. She doesn't go on nights out with the girls.
An important part of self-donation is that priests, male religious and sisters identify themselves as being such by dress and/or by title, i.e., Father, Sister, Brother. While there are no canon law provisions or catechism instructions mandating such identification, there are likewise no canon law provisions or catechism instructions mandating concealment, disguising oneself as a layperson, or as one parallel church, Opus Dei, calls it: reticence.
Why are habit and title important? For very simple, human reasons. They are outward signs of the commitment, including to those who bear them. Equally important, they are signs that the priest or sister is off-limits for courtship, already a spouse ("Don't fall in love with this person!"). Habit and title are an important prevention of scandal and heartache.
Imagine a man being attracted to one of these "consecrated women" he meets at work, at Mass or even in a bar (because she's out in the world "working for the sanctification of the world from within"). She gives no indication that she doesn't consider herself available. She interacts with laypeople like any layperson. After some pleasant conversations, maybe even some flirting, which only strengthen his attraction, the man asks the woman to go out with him. She responds by whipping out celibacy like a Glock, telling him she has a single vocation or is "consecrated."
In fact, she may not even be so straightforward. People who live in cultures of deception and concealment are loathe to be clear about themselves. In the man's eyes, her playing the celibacy card or her vague hints are a rejection, a feeble, insulting attempt at a polite excuse on the level of "I can't go out. I do laundry and rotate my mattress on Saturday nights."
The man would be right in angrily demanding, "Then why aren't you a nun in a convent?"
Don't think that rejection and broken hearts are inconsequential. Aa. They're only men. Who cares? Some men hurt and kill women because of rejection. A beloved one snatched away can "launch a thousand ships."
In times and places of persecution, priests and sisters were forced to conceal their identities, but there are surely good historical reasons, borne of human experience, that identifying oneself as a priest, sister or brother by dress and title has been commonplace for centuries.
Another sign of total self-donation is poverty, just as the religious garb and the title are a sign of the commitment. Unlike sisters and priests in most orders, diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty. However custom (going back as far a St. Augustine), decency and their effectiveness as ministers dictate that they do not have as many possessions (or as much fun) as laypeople.
It is no surpise that poverty is also absent from the single vocation. Consecrated women own real estate. They make themselves attractive (and are in fact, encouraged to do so by apostolates they belong to). They enjoy travels and lots of nights out drinking wine and margaritas with the girls.
Looking through Church History, you will find that whenever poverty is absent from religious life, scandal and trouble result.
If ever there was a contraceptive witholding from a spouse, these "consecrated" women perpetrate it. They live a lie, the contraceptive lie. They say, "All for you, Jesus! Oh, except for happy hour. Except for shopping with the girls. Except for my tennis game. Except for my time with my nieces and nephews," and so on.
To claim that defective states, contraceptive lies, are something intended by God is blasphemous.
These women and their parallel churches justify the lay lifestyles (everything but a husband) by claiming that they are evangelizing in the world. They may be convinced by those who exploit them and firmly believe that they are the brides of Christ. But they are really the brides of the Great Deceiver.
Single Vocation Origins
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 914-933 describes several types of consecrated life and states that "bishops strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life." Unfortunately, in the 20th century, popes from Pius XII to Benedict XVI thought that challenges of the modern world required that the church experiment with new ways of evangelization.
Also, as it has become clear in recent years, the contents of church documents can be lobbied by powerful (and monied) interests who want their legitimacy carved in the marble of church documents. Additionally, church documents are not unknown to contain personal opinions and happy talk.
The CCC's paragraphs on consecrated life create loopholes ringed by vagueness. Looking through them, the broad-minded can infer that not only single vocations but nuns living in their own condos and being corporate CEOs are "new gifts." And let's not forget deaconnesses.
Which brings me to the origins of the "single vocation." There have been single saints and bizarre notions and denigrations of marriage in church history, but if the "single vocation" ever existed as a concept in the past, it was forgotten until recently. Its appearance has occurred with two phenomena that began in the 20th century.
The first phenomenon is the decline of marriage, even among Catholics. Single women now outnumber married women. For whatever reasons -- and I think some of them are irrational and really skewed from reality -- more and more women are terrified of men, terrified of marriage, terrified of any feelings and attraction they have for men. This terror that women have may even be behind some females' desire to identify as males.
Married people don't notice the alienation of the sexes as much as single people do, but every Catholic, especially priests and bishops, should be concerned about the decline of marriage and the alienation of men and women. It is not all about pornography.
Does it have to be spelled out? Fewer marriages mean fewer children, fewer people at Mass, fewer priests and sisters, fewer Catholics, not to mention fewer people to do the work of civilization which is already facing a serious population decline. Read P.D. James' prophetic The Children of Men. Again, every Catholic should be concerned about this problem.
The Catholic faith needs more marriages, morseo than it needs more priests, certainly moreso than it needs more sisters. In these times only fools, or parallel churches interested only in themselves or in league with the aforementioned Great Deceiver (Satan hates marriage.), would want to turn the Catholic Church into a celibate sect like the Shakers, to draw strong pro-life, pro-family Catholic women out of the marriage pool.
Unfortunately the "single vocation" also comes in handy for priests who put a premium on being nice and give "I'm OK. You're OK" advice: So you're single. You shouldn't feel bad! It's a vocation!
This is why I believe the single vocation/consecrated virginity are merely excuses for women who are scared of men and sex.
The second phenomenon is the rise of secular institutes. These are described in CCC Paragraphs 928 and 929 as institutes of consecrated life who "work for the sanctification of the world especially from within" and “to order temporal things according to God and inform the world with the power of the gospel.”