Chapter

Sex, Celibacy, and Identity

Peter McDonough and Eugene C. Bianchi

in Passionate Uncertainty

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780520230552
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930773 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520230552.003.0005
Sex, Celibacy, and Identity

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This chapter focuses on a pair of concrete changes. One concerns attitudes toward celibacy as a condition of priesthood. Some Jesuits regard celibacy as dispensable for the priestly vocation, and express doubt about its religious value in general. The delegitimation of celibacy reveals the moral and cultural fracture that has created a crisis of identity in the priesthood. The chapter examines the perceptions of and attitudes toward sexual orientation, in particular, homosexuality. The growing visibility of a gay subculture within the Jesuit order reflects the drive to establish a distinctive identity as traditional moral guidelines and old bases of social belonging have eroded. The study analyzes the causes and consequences of the ascent of a sexually defined subculture in religious groups such as the Jesuits. The emphasis is laid on the collective manifestations rather than the individual dynamics of the gay subculture in religious life. The gay subculture heals part of this break in the Society of Jesus.

Keywords: celibacy; sexual orientation; homosexuality; Jesuits; identity

Chapter.  9346 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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