Gurkha Bravery and Catholic Celibacy

When this story came out a couple years ago, I told it to my sons. Brief recap: a retired Gurkha soldier took on 40 armed train robbers when they tried to rape a young woman seated near him. Using only his Khukuri – a machete-sized knife – he killed 3, wounded 8 and drove off the rest.

If you don’t know about Gurkhas, check ’em out. These are manly men.

My embellishment on the story as told to my sons: given the well-deserved reputation for cheerful valor and daring-do of generations of Gurkas, I’ll bet when he got home and had a beer with the other Gurkha soldiers, they were all ‘Hmmm. Nice job. Can I buy you a drink?”, not “WHOA! DUDE! I DON’T BELIEVE THIS!”

When honor, bravery and martial skill are mandatory and traditional, feats of great valor are *expected*. Of course, they’d be recognized and honored, but more like a 50th wedding anniversary- not as an outrageous rarity, but what you’d expect under the circumstances. Thus, when our boys came back after WWII, they got parades and all that, but the general attitude among the men seemed to be: I was just doing my job. Their job just happened to be to risk death to save their county and their loved ones.

That you expect honorable behavior doesn’t make it any less honorable. In fact, honor is heroic, at least latently, at all times. Whether it’s spouses honoring their vows, a young man respecting a young woman, or a knife-wielding defender of the innocent clearing a train of thieves, honor requires heroism. The idea is that you’d choose death over dishonor, because there are many things more important than staying alive.

This got me to thinking about the current attitude among our culture-makers about celibate adults. We Catholics understand that the priests and nuns among us are making a great sacrifice by remaining celibate. In fact, given the attitudes and temptations of the world, remaining celibate is often heroic. We tell our kids that remaining chaste before marriage is a good thing, even when its difficult (and don’t go making it any more difficult than it already is! Oops, my dad persona broke through, there).

But to non-Catholics (of all kinds), celibacy is most often seen as simply insane – kind of like taking on 40 armed men armed only with a knife. I recall the author of the otherwise excellent book the Sparrow just could not bring herself to believe that priests could really remain celibate, and so almost destroyed the story by digressions into how all priest just masturbate a lot when they aren’t having affairs.  Does that happen? I imagine so, sometimes, but I also imagine there are priests that do, in fact, manage to master their sexual desires. It only becomes necessary to believe otherwise when your dogma demands it.

The current dogma is that, far from  sexual desires being something to master, they are, rather *who we are*. Choosing to learn and exercise self control is to destroy who we truly are. Thus, whatever you may happen to desire sexually becomes, not a factor to consider in light of other factors, but the true definition of ourselves. Being told in any way that your sexual desires are in any way wrong is the most vicious personal attack possible.

This paints a rather grim and limited picture of what it means to be human.

When big extended families were more common in this country, everybody had or knew of spinster aunts and unmarried uncles. Catholic extended families often included priests and men and women religious. These celibate people, who were about as cheery or miserable as anybody else,  put the lie to the claim that their lives were doomed to misery and worthlessness simply because of celibacy. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, the brother and sister farmers who adopted Anne in Anne of Green Gables, are doomed by modern thinking to be miserable, closeted perverts, or both. Rather, the story paints their personalities as completely believable, reasonably happy  – and completely familiar to anyone living up to a couple generations ago.

I’ve been blessed to know many good and holy priests and religious. I don’t know their personal struggles and failures, and I don’t need to know. But I do know their successes, how, fallible human beings that they are, they stuck with it. Nice job. Can I buy you a drink?

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: