In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience

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But frankly it's the same thing with people, I think, who enter right out of college.

I know a lot of people who entered very early on who wonder, you know, what it would be like to hold a job, what it would be like to have their own apartment, things like that. So I think in general people realize these days the more experience people have in all different parts of life, the better it is for them when they, you know, eventually become a priest.

Ministers, too, I think are usually, you know, expected to have a family. Can you imagine being a priest and being married? Quite frankly, I'm for optional celibacy. I think, you know, it's not for everybody, and I really don't think that it needs to be a requirement in the church. I think, frankly, the strongest reason for that is the fact that I know many people who are married, who feel called to priesthood. But really from the beginning it was never an issue of doctrine.

It was more an issue of sort of church law. And even as far back as the 16th century, the church said that it would be something that would be easy to change, unlike, say, you know, the doctrine of the Trinity or something like that. My guest is Father James Martin. He's a Jesuit priest and associate editor of America, a national Catholic magazine.

How I see the vows: then and now

There are several theories about how chastity might figure into the current sex abuse scandal. One theory is that young men who become priests who have no sexual experience also often don't have much sexual understanding. They haven't gotten that understanding through experience. The church doesn't usually teach human sexuality in an effective way. And these men, these young priests don't know how to deal with their own sexual urges and so those urges can get expressed in harmful ways. MARTIN: Well, I think that may have been the case 40 or 50 years ago, but honestly, I mean, in the last, say, 10 or 20 years, there's been an enormous amount of attention given to the education of seminarians and people in religious formation--that would be members of religious orders like the Jesuits and Franciscans and Dominicans--to ensure that they have a healthy understanding of their own sexuality.

And, you know, point of fact, I often, you know, tell my friends who are married that I think priests and Jesuits and whatnot talk about sexuality much more because we're constantly being sort of counseled and we go to courses and we, you know, read about it and we study about it. So I think that might have been the case 40 or 50 years ago, but certainly these days it would be very difficult for someone to go through a mainstream seminary or one of the larger religious orders without having to sort of come face to face with your own sexuality and the challenges that are really inherent in celibacy.

We also study sort of the history of celibacy. I think more to the point, it's a lot of counseling that goes on with your superiors. It's a lot of discussions that go on with your spiritual directors; that is, the person you would talk to about your spiritual life. You know, a lot of us will go to psychiatrists and psychologists to make sure we understand everything about our sexuality. So its pretty extensive. I mean, from the first year of my novitiate as a Jesuit, we talked about chastity and celibacy and sexuality a lot.

And the other thing is it's not something that happens in a vacuum. I mean, I speak with--I think this is the case for most young priests--you know, I still have, obviously, friends that I had before I entered the Jesuits and so I talk to them about their experiences.

I talk to married friends. I talk to single friends. So I think it's pretty in-depth; at least it was for me. I can't speak for everybody, but I feel that certainly, you know, the amount of time that I spent on thinking and praying about sexuality and chastity was a lot, frankly. I think it was more than we had talked about poverty, let's put it that way. GROSS: So you don't think that chastity is one of the major factors in the current sex abuse scandal in the church.

What are your thoughts about why there has been so much sexual abuse? It's a difficult question.

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I think I would point to a couple factors. First of all, it is the unwillingness of some of the people in the hierarchy to really confront some of these priests who have these problems. I would say that secondly there is just an awkwardness and a discomfort when it comes to speaking about sexuality among the members of the hierarchy who are, you know, in their 60s and 70s and I think just weren't brought up to talk about those kinds of things.

Third of all, I think that this notion of the hierarchy as always being right and people being unwilling to kind of challenge that. And fourth, just, you know, a desire, misguided, as we see, to protect the institutional church. And when you combine all of those things, and you combine that with some people who may have had a very unhealthy sexuality that should have been weeded out of the seminaries and the priesthood earlier, you know, you have this horrible problem.

And then there's also the tendency to, I think, be overly forgiving towards some priests at the expense of some of the victims. And once again, all those things thrown together make it, as we can see, or as we've seen, a very dangerous place. It's really devastating. I think unlike--some people compare it to the crisis that surrounded the publication of the encyclical on birth control, Humane Vitae, in , and the sort of reaction to that.

But I think the difference is this hits people, you know, very personally. It's your pastor who you know. It's a family who you know down the street. So it's a very personal and very sensitive part of a person's psyche that this is affecting. And I think that's making it all the more difficult for people. And, you know, I'm sad myself. I find it very disturbing. By the same token I think you have to understand that Catholics do not sort of place their faith, so to speak, in the hierarchy.

I mean, they trust in the hierarchy. That's a very important part of Catholicism. But their faith is in Jesus Christ, and their faith is in the Holy Spirit guiding the church. So I think most Catholics are sophisticated enough to be able to distinguish between the hierarchy and their faith, thank God. He's a Jesuit priest and the associate editor of the Catholic magazine America.

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We'll talk more after a break. He's also associate editor of America, which is a national Catholic magazine. He's the author of several books. Father Martin, you became a priest after about six years in the corporate world.

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Why did you leave the corporate life to become a priest? From GE to the priesthood is a big lifestyle change. There is a short answer to that question, and the answer is I was miserable. I was working for GE for six years, and I remember thinking at the time that the logic of my life was rather circular. I worked so I could make money so I could buy clothes and food and support myself and so I could work, which didn't seem to make too much sense.

And I was working more and more. I was working human resources with GE Capital, which is their financial services arm, and getting more and more disenchanted with the way that my life was going and was getting very stressed out. He, too, had, although in the s, given up, you know, life in, quote, unquote, "the world" to enter a Trappist monastery. And that just appealed to me. And I started reading more about religious life, and one thing led to another and I entered the Jesuits, quite frankly with very little reflection as I look back on it, but it worked out.

Most of the people that I entered with were--I entered when I was 28 years old, and most of the people in the novitiate were peers or older. One guy entered was a college professor. One guy had been in the Air Force. Another fellow had been in the priesthood, actually the Diocesan priesthood, before he entered the Jesuit. So, you know, a lot of different types of experience, what I think makes for healthy priests, quite frankly, and priests that can understand the challenges that, you know, people face day to day.

GROSS: I've seen so many old movies in which the mother cries out of happiness because her son is becoming a priest and she so much wants one of her sons to be a priest and she's so proud. You say that when you decided to become a priest your mother cried, but that's 'cause she was so upset. She really didn't want you to do it. Why not? I think that's the case for some guys today.

She saw me as, you know, giving up a family, I think, the fact that she wouldn't have grandchildren, although thank God my sister has had a child a couple years ago, so that made her happy. Yeah, and also people don't know priests these days. There are fewer and fewer of us around, and so there's a lot of mystery about what the life of a priest is really like.

I remember my mother, years later, telling me that she thought she would never see me again, that, you know, I'd be sort of locked up. And quite frankly my friends were just as shocked and horrified. A lot of them thought I was crazy, and some of them And, you know, I always tell people I was running away from some things. I was running away from the corporate world that I thought was for me very deadening, and I was running towards something that, you know, I really hoped would give my life more meaning.

Interestingly, most of my friends who were reluctant to sort of accept the fact that I was entering the priesthood only really understood it when they met other Jesuits. That was the thing that helped them understand what I was doing. And now they're all, you know--really, all of my friends from college and from work are used to it.

And, you know, I do a lot of weddings and baptisms and things like that, which is great. And they keep me sane and they keep me honest, too. You know, it's very hard to be sort of overly pious and overly spiritual among, you know, people who saw you get drunk during college. Something you say in your book "In Good Company" really struck me 'cause I have a feeling it's true of a lot of people, although we don't necessarily think of it in these terms.

You say that your religious education stopped when you were about Can you elaborate on that a little bit? And, you know, if you don't go to a Catholic high school or a Catholic college, your religious education pretty much stops. And you are equipped with, as I said in this "In Good Company" book, this basically, you know, fourth-grade understanding of what is a sin, what is a sacrament, what does it mean to live a good life, you know, which is fine when you're in fourth grade. But when you're, you know, in your 20s and 30s it doesn't work very well.

I often tell people, you know, it's like ceasing your education in mathematics at fourth grade and, you know, being expected to kind of, you know, be in the real world and, you know, understand things. It just doesn't work.

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But I think that's the situation for a lot of Catholics, and I think that's why, you know, Catholics have such a hard time sometimes grappling with issues of papal infallibility, of doctrine, of dogma, of, you know, what it means to be a Catholic because frequently their education as Catholics stops at, you know, childhood. I find this a lot of times in the confessional, without revealing any secrets. People will confess something. Yes or no? GROSS: And is there anything that you think you can do to contribute to a more adult understanding, a more in-depth, complicated understanding of Catholicism?

I've always thought that what the church really needs to do is--I mean, this sounds really banal--but, you know, more adult education and inviting people to learn more about their faith and to sort of reflect on their faith and reflect on moral questions.

Illuminations: From ruthless corporate life to peace as a Jesuit

But it's a very difficult thing to do, I think, because once someone has that idea of Catholicism in their mind as this sort of black-and-white, yes-or-no faith that's cemented in them as a child, when you talk to them about nuance, and when you talk to them about church teaching and, for example, church history, sometimes they get upset and they feel that you're trying to, well, excuse things or you're trying to, you know, deny what they've learned.

So, for example, if let's say we're going to talk about celibacy in a married priesthood, if someone was taught in the fourth grade that, you know, this is the way it's always been, when you talk to them about church history and say, for example, look at the early church, look at St. Peter, they feel like you're trying to, you know, sort of undermine what they've learned and what they see as their faith, which they find sometimes very threatening.

So it's very difficult. I think it's a question of kind of inviting people to more adult reflection through education, books, things like that. At what point did you really have confidence that you'd made the right decision? As a Jesuit you have about 11 years of training before ordination, and I think it's sort of a gradual process. I spent two years helping refugees start small businesses.

And I experienced this wonderful sense of just being in the right place and in the right time and doing exactly what I should be, which was the opposite of my experience at work where I felt that I was in the wrong place. So I remember it came very powerfully one day that you're in the right place and, yes, this is where you should be. And that was, for me, you know, a wonderful confirmation of my choice. We'll talk with Eugene Kennedy about why he made the decision. My guest, Eugene Kennedy, left the priesthood to marry. He believes that celibacy should be optional, and that priests should be allowed to marry.

He's thought a lot about sexuality and the church, including the current sexual abuse scandal. Kennedy is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University. Think I'm doing better at one than the other? How did getting married win out over staying the priesthood? How did you make that decision? KENNEDY: Well, when we speak about love in the English language, we say you fall in love, and that's a very interesting way of putting it, because you can't inch your way into love, you can't talk your way into it, you have to fall.

You have to let go. And if you are in love with someone, as I was fortunate enough to fall in love, that, as an experience, caused me to come into conflict with the priesthood, which required me not to be married. I was very happy as a priest, and actually in many ways my life didn't change very much. I was still a professor, still a writer and a lecturer, and while I regret that choice had to be made, I am not at all unhappy that I made it. The general American culture was intact. The Catholic culture within that general American culture was very close-knit and gave great support to those who entered the seminary and came back to serve their people in the priesthood in one way or the other.

The change in the general culture, and in the Catholic culture, of course, have had a big effect on the culture of the priesthood since that time. I feel that I enjoyed being a priest. I would continue to enjoy being a priest. But the prospect of marriage was not one that within that culture, and within the general American culture, seemed nearly as attractive at the time I was in the seminary as was pursuing the ideal of the priesthood. KENNEDY: Well, celibacy has been an ideal of various kinds throughout all of history, and it's certainly been identified in the early days of the church, especially in certain monastic settings and so forth, or certain very special forms of life.

But the first pope, of course, was married, and that is not at all outside the tradition of the popes. There are many popes who have been married, and a whole Eastern Orthodox Church is part of the Catholic Church, but its priests have been married. So it's a long history that, in the Roman Church, was changed by the pope known as Hildebrand, who introduced this is a discipline required of all priests, not so much for acetic reasons, although it not without its acetic properties, even in secular appraisals of it, but in order to control the passage by inheritance of lands and prevent that from happening in the way that priests might hand down what they would gain during their lifetime to their children, and so have it pass out of the control of the church itself.

That is why it's called a discipline. It is to control a problem that was economic and sociological rather than to bring some sort of spiritual additive to the priesthood. GROSS: When you became a priest, what was your understanding of the reason that celibacy is demanded of priests? KENNEDY: It was proposed in the seminary not as it was found in history, but as that which made you available to more people than you would be available to if you were married and had a family to whom you had to return every evening and whose concerns would naturally preoccupy you during the day.

That is the kind of ideal that Cesar Chavez, the famous farm worker leader whom I knew, spoke to me about once. So there are many aspects of it that are very honored in the way that good priests live this life, and that was very much the emphasis that it was given, that it wasn't that you were giving up human relationships; is that you were giving them up in a certain specific way in order to be able to relate to the whole family of the community that you would be serving in an intimate way.

And many people who've fasted over a long period of time say that it can help you achieve an almost altered state, an almost mystical state. Dissatisfied with the corporate world, he became more deeply involved in the Catholic Church and decided to enter the Society of Jesus more commonly known as the Jesuits in During his studies to become a Jesuit priest, Martin earned a M.

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In addition to his work at America magazine, Martin has written or edited more than 10 books, many of which are largely about his own experiences. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review. On September 13, , Martin appeared on Comedy Central 's The Colbert Report to discuss Mother Teresa 's fifty-year sense of abandonment by God which had much coverage in the media at the time.

On March 18, , Martin was invited to the program in the wake of Glenn Beck 's suggestion that Catholics run away from priests who preach "social justice". In the Gospel of Matthew He says that the way that we're going to be judged at the end of our lives is not what church we prayed in or how we prayed but really Martin has written about anti-Catholicism in the entertainment industry. He argues that, despite an irresistible fascination with the Catholic Church, the entertainment industry also holds what he considers obvious contempt for the Catholic Church.

He suggests: "It is as if producers, directors, playwrights and filmmakers feel obliged to establish their intellectual bona fides by trumpeting their differences with the institution that holds them in such thrall. The publication of Martin's book Building a Bridge in has led to controversy among Catholics. In May , Martin served as commencement speaker at St. Louis, and Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania.

He received an honorary degree from each school as well. In May , Martin served as commencement speaker at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and received an honorary degree. In November , Martin was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Regis College , the Jesuit theological college at the Toronto School of Theology.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other people named James Martin, see James Martin disambiguation. The Reverend. Retrieved August 7, April 12, Retrieved May 2, America Magazine. Martin deserves respectful criticism, not trash-talking". Catholic News Agency. September 21, Retrieved August 8, December 2, Philadelphia Inquirer. Available at www. Archived from the original on October 9, Retrieved January 21, James Martin, S. J The Huffington Post.

The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, LAByrinth Theater Company. Archived from the original on October 19, Retrieved April 9, The Colbert Report. Comedy Central.