‘Society Men’: An exchange

Grown-Up Men

Barry Gault’s article “Society Men” (April 22) raises thoughtful questions. Does Catholic priesthood, as it is actually lived today, promote certain kinds of extended adolescence or boyishness among its members? “A man can stop being a child without becoming a husband and father, but it isn’t easy.” Gault then raises the intriguing metaquestion of whether that extended boyishness, resulting from “the Catholic clergy’s incomplete personal entanglement in the perplexing challenges of full adulthood,” might have positive as well as negative effects on their character. Among its negative effects, Gault seems to count pedophilia, which I find a dubious linkage—but then, I guess he is the shrink.

As a former priest, now married into an extended family heavy with Lutheran ministers, I have had many occasions to ponder the boyishness of Catholic clergy compared to the Lutheran ministers I see—and how that boyishness might be both good and bad. Most of the Lutheran ministers I know (all decent and well-intentioned men, God bless them) seem to accept uncritically all the givens of conventional middle-class life in America, in a strikingly untroubled way. They send their sons to war and join the Rotary with nary a second thought. Does this mean that they have grown up or that they have...

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