Being a manly monk


I feel a strong vocation to monasticism, and I have found a monastery that is on the point of accepting my application, and is enthusiastic about my entering. I’ve had to put it off until next summer to do one more year of school (to please my mother, a prerequisite for entry :wink: )

I was on the phone today with one of my superiors. He had a few questions to ask me last minute. One of them was about my same sex attraction.

Context: I’m attracted to the same sex, and not to the opposite sex. I’ve never been sexually active, gone on a date, or even kissed anyone. I’ve always wanted to be a monk, and always been attracted to celibacy. My SSA is really not an issue at all.

Then, I was terrified on the phone. My superior asked me if I was manly. This is a very sensitive and insecure thing for me to talk about with anyone.

I confided in him that I was attracted to the same sex, and that it was just my sinful predisposition, which I’ve chosen not to indulge. He twisted my words into saying that same sex attraction was some confusion from my past, and that if I wasn’t discerning monasticism I’d have no problem marrying a woman and having a family.

Yeah, right.

I want to be honest with him, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to when he seems to uncomfortable with the idea of a person with same sex attraction being celibate and accepting that they’ll never change. As it’s really not that big of a deal, especially since I am celibate, I don’t care too much. I could be heterosexual for all anyone knows, because I don’t express my sexuality.

But then we got to manliness. Father said that he needed manly men in the monastery, and that he valued manliness and didn’t like effeminate men.

Obviously, I’ll need to be strong and not averse to hard work. Check. But manly? I don’t understand why that’s such a big deal.

He asked me if I was manly. I didn’t know how to respond. I guess I’m manly.

Are they going to accept or reject me based on my manliness? How I walk and talk, what movies I like, and things like that?

I want to join this community so bad, and give my life to Christ. Now, I’m afraid. I’ve come so far in accepting myself, too far to let someone make me feel like I’m not good enough because I’m not “manly.” I heard that enough from my dad growing up.

What are your thoughts? How manly does a man have to be to join a monastery?


It depends on the community. Forgive me, but I am really at a loss of an appropriate response.

I had to deal with a lot of homosexual/effeminate priests when I was pursuing the priesthood. I had difficult time because the homosexual priests did not like the fact that I was as far from effeminate as you can be.

I don’t know what to tell you. If they are looking for manly priests and you aren’t, then you are not looking into the right community.

Seriously - if you have a religious vocation and you are effeminate - you have it much better than those that are not. I would be quite interested in knowing what community you were interested in if you’d PM me. If you are not comfortable, I’d understand. I am just so used to deal with the opposite of your issue that I am quite amazed.


You bring up a really good point.

When I went for vocation discernment day at the seminary, most of the guys my age were extremely feminine. One could suspect that they were homosexual, certainly. I was surprised that they were permitted to attend by their vocations director. If that is what effeminacy is, I am not effeminate.

My situation is more along the lines of being too clumsy to play football, and enjoying to read by myself more than going to the pub with my friends. Maybe I’m manly enough after all! :wink:


First of all, I think that is an absurd question – not least because a really manly man would never say “I’m manly”. Second, because I don’t know what “manly” means. If it means grunting and playing football, then there’s no reason a monk needs to be manly.

If I were you, I would shake the dust off my feet and go elsewhere. You need to be part of a community that welcomes you, not a community that makes you play pretend. Now, it may be that over time you will grow in your masculinity – we all do, if we lean into the Father. But you need an environment that doesn’t pressure you in that respect, since pressure tends to push people the other way.


You must have been taken off guard with that question about being manly, it sounds completely inappropriate to me. The questions about SSA are valid but I have to admit it seems like they should be discussed in person and not over the phone. I hope that you will be able to set your desire to join this order aside for a little and look into others. I will pray for you to be able to find the place that God would have you in His plan for your life.


I am at a loss to know what advice to give you. I would be obedient to the decision of your future superiors.
I am afraid that the priesthood is a common hiding place for active homosexuals. Men such as you who accept your orientation, but still want to serve God in the priesthood must understand that, with the scandal within the church, many are worried about the active involvement of homosexuals in the clergy.
Speak openly with your superiors preferably face to face as the phone is not a good medium for heart to heart discussions at this level.
May the Holy Spirit guide your future endeavours and remember that if Christ wants you to be a monk, let Him find the way. Be open to His Spirit as you travel this next year.
I was in deep discussions with the local authorities on becoming a priest, and they considered me too much of a health risk with my bad asthma. Now after a lifetime of happy marriage and children, I thank God He wanted me to take the less lonely road.God Bless you in your discernment.


I’m a woman so maybe I just don’t “get it”, but to me, that’s about the stupidest question I’ve ever heard of. Have you met this monk you were speaking to before? If so, I think I’d have answered “What do YOU think–you’ve met me?” If you hadn’t met him, I think I’d have responded “That seems like a question with no right answer. I was born male, I have all my male parts, and I choose not to use them with a woman or a man either one. I am probably very manly in some ways and less so in others. How manly are you?” That sounds like one nutty monastery, frankly!


Thank you all so very much for your answers. This was my first posts on CAF, and already I appreciate the blessing you all are.

In my situation, I always have to be sensitive to the previous generation, and the generations before it. My generation seems to have more of an openness to the breaching of traditional gender roles, and more open to more liberal understandings of sexuality. This man doesn’t have much experience with people like me, I imagine, and I understand and commend his concern. He did, however, forward me the lengthy application paperwork after speaking, so I don’t think this particular issue would keep me from entry after meeting and discerning some more.

As with preferring “manly” men, while I respect this man as my superior, I forgive him, because he prefers men who can get their hands dirty and assume traditional male roles. I can do this. However, were I in his position, I wouldn’t phrase it as “manly” but rather “accustomed or open to hard manual labor.”

I used to know a guy who constantly told me how I was effeminate in this or that way. He thought of himself as the poster child for manliness, and wasn’t to be seen without blue jeans, flannel shirts and cowboy boots. He is discerning the priesthood, and is a Republican. It came into the open a few months ago that he dates guys behind closed doors. He should NOT be discerning the priesthood, at least not until he makes a lifestyle change, no matter how manly he is.

The Church is still coming to her understanding of what homosexuality is. It is a predisposition to sinful activity that some struggle with. Just as with heterosexuals, there are the promiscuous, those who are open to relationships, and the celibate people of faith (like me.) Celibacy is no different for homosexuals as it is for heterosexuals, though I understand the man’s concern, totally.

Thank you, all!

I am going to follow my vocation to this monastery to its end, whether that means being denied entry because I’m not manly enough, or getting buried in the habit of the community. Really, it’s up to God, who gave me this vocation.


I just wanted to add - I come from a very poor family. I’m used to doing what needs to be done. I was taught that it wasn’t polite or humble to say “yes, I am insert quality trait}!” Because of this attitude I was brought up with, I have trouble saying that I am manly, strong, or whatever. I guess they’ll just have to tell when they meet me.


Let’s see… I’m attracted to and love Jesus Christ, who is a man, so I guess I too am attracted to men. I have a wife and three kids, two of which are boys and I love all my children. I also love my Dad, Father in law, and my grand fathers, so I guess you could say I have this thing about loving men. I do love my wife with all my heart and soul too though.

Do you have an X Chromosome and a Y Chromosome (like all males do)? If so, I guess you are a manly man.

YBIC - John


What the heck does he mean by “manly”?
Can you ask him to define this?

Because being manly doesn’t mean watching Action films or swaggering like a cowboy with a gun in his holster.
It sounds like he twisted your words because he wants you to say your SSA is a mistake…that you don’t really feel that way…not* really.*…you were/are just confused. He doesn’t acknowledge SSA as real.

This is a very unfair question he asks you.
I don’t recall that someone’s definition of “manliness” is a prerequisite to be a monk.

It’s odd if he is uncomfortable with a person with SSA being celibate, etc…because that is exactly what the Catholic faith says for someone with SSA to do. Why the heck would he be uncomfortable with it?

Why should he not “like” effeminate men? He is judging a person’s goodness and heart by their mannerisms?

He does not sound like a kind, wise person to me at all. Not at all.



I’m very “womanly” and I love to get my hands dirty and do manual labor.
This monk/priest does need to update his view on genders, as you say. Fer sure.

As you say…all sexuality could be considered “a predisposition to sinful activity that some struggle with” in the Catholic church–whether a person is heterosexual or homosexual.



The man I spoke with seemed like a very loving person, and he would be my spiritual father, were I to join. I am going to explain myself bluntly and honestly in an email to him within the next few days, so there is no confusion. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. He really seems like a very wise and holy man. We all have our faults. I debated whether or not I should say anything, but since this community looks very promising, I’ve chosen to be totally honest. God, and our Blessed Mother, will make everything work out. :slight_smile:

If this monastery turns out not to be my fit, I am going to discern at a Byzantine rite monastery. I know we have a couple here in the USA. (I go to the Latin mass, but I am a Ukrainian Greek Catholic.) I also have family in Kyiv, so if by change I win the lottery, I’d like to discern at one of the main UGCC monasteries there. :slight_smile:

I understand his concerns, and I’ve seen many problems with men who are active homosexuals discerning in places they shouldn’t be. But I’m celibate. People don’t seem to get that celibacy is what I’ve done all my life. I’m not suddenly going to start sleeping with monks or something, should I be admitted.

In the Eastern Church, we didn’t have that much of a problem. In Eastern Catholic communities, or at least in the Polish/Ukrainian culture I grew up with, homosexuality didn’t exist. If a guy liked guys or a girl liked girls, they were just celibate. It was a struggle for us, certainly, but it wasn’t nearly as a big of a deal as it seems to be in the Roman Church, and in western Christian society.

My old spiritual father was a wise old monk who had a very bad past with his same sex attraction. He had no one to guide him, and ended up in prison for his wrongdoings. He founded a monastery, is a monk, and helps countless young men with our same sex attraction. There’s nothing perverted or deviant, but that seems to be assumed in the west, which makes me so mad I could spit.

Also, effeminate men are still men. They can be wonderful people. Men seem to be uncomfortable with femininity, and I dislike that. Like you say, I just wish I knew what he means when he says “effeminate”. Does he mean wearing designer clothes, having a bunch of product in one’s hair and being afraid to ruin one’s nails? Or does he mean the way one walks and talks?

God loves every part of me, and through Him I’ve found peace. I’m not going to buy into being made to feel that I’m wrong for being just because someone doesn’t like certain parts of me.

In Ukraine, men doing ballet is considered athletic and “manly.” They’re beautiful dancers. I wonder if they’d be considered manly by this guy’s standards?


The “manly things” really puzzles me, and from some of the posts here, it sounds like I am not alone.

I like to cook, I enjoy hunting for antiques, and I like classical music…and I am a man, does that indicate that I am effeminate? I also like to shoot guns, listen to classic rock, admire my wife and go camping too… so what does that mean (I know, I’m all messed up).

I guess I don’t know what the good Brother is looking for. The one thing I keep coming back to though is what does monks doing manly things have to do with worshiping God and serving Him? Do you need to take up boxing, jumping out of airplanes, climbing mountains, arm wrestling, rescuing ladies from burning buildings and being a crime fighter to be a Brother?

I guess they can set their own criteria for who they accept into the program, but frankly, I think if it were me, I would look for another brotherhood to enter as this one just doesn’t sound right. Possibly that is because I had a long day and I am tired and maybe not seeing the logic in all this.

On a more comical note, when I hear that “manly things” comment, all I can think of is the “I’m a Lumberjack” song by Monty Python :eek:


This ‘manly’ thing sounds quite ridiculous. Some people should remember that many figures in the Bible weren’t really that manly. Jacob compared to Esau, Joseph who were sold by his brothers was quite soft I think, & David when he was picked as a king was still young & ‘reddish’. But then God guided them to govern people.


I think I might have stumbled upon something in Tanquerey’s Treatise on the Spiritual Life. I think there may be a misunderstanding of the term used. “manliness” is used as a term in the spiritual life to refer to “strength of character” whereas society uses the term to refer to whether or not someone is effeminate.


Honestly, it sounds to me like what the supervisor is saying between the lines (but not so under the surface), to be blunt, is that he does not want men with SSA on his team.
His words about wanting “manly men” and not liking “effeminate” men etc…say it all without saying it.

He sounds afraid and he doesn’t understand about SSA at all, as you and others have said.

I don’t know how loving and wise he is, as you say, if he makes such a statement as to say he “doesn’t like” effeminate men. He’s generalizing about a large group of people that he hasn’t even met or know in his heart.
He’s* rejecting* people outright because of something on the surface.

Sure, there can be problems when “active homosexuals” go into a monastery where they shouldn’t be. But there can be problems with active heterosexuals in that same respect, too.

Yes. Explain all to him thoroughly. Let’s see what he says and good luck to you!



Frankly, after thinking about this for a day or two, it occurs to me that I’d question the sexual preference of the monk who made such a remark. In my experience, it’s often the guys with closet homosexual interests who worry the most about how manly other men are!


That’s always been my experience, too. Some people can take out their frustration about their insecurities on others, and it’s no good, especially in this context.

I’m taking things slow, and we will see how things progress over the next few years. I’ve decided I’m definitely finishing college first (sorry if I already said that!)

I know that God loves and understands who I am, and perceives the sacrifice I make for Him, and the struggle it entails. Even if I never go to a monastery, I’ll still be a monk in my heart, trying to live my life for Him, and not for me.


Dear all,

thank you for your help. I didn’t see some of the red flags in my conversation with this monk until you pointed them out. I still feel I may have a vocation to this monastery, however it is still early days, and I have years to look into other communities.

By God’a grace, I’ve found another that is just the sort I’m interested in.

There are two factors in my discernment that are rather big deals for me. First and foremost, I need to have the Traditional Latin Mass. Nothing wrong with the Novus Ordo, but if I’m going to spend the rest of my life some place, I want to be able to connect, spiritually. Secondly are habits. I love them - the more traditional, the better. I want something that looks nothing like worldly clothing, nothing I can be vain about. I’d even be fine with making sure I don’t trip when I go up stairs.

I’m so happy to have found another. The first was a Carmelite monastery, this one is Benedictine. I had no idea that there were traditional Benedictine monasteries in the USA.

For some reason, the monasteries doing things the more traditional Monastic way seems to have more potential monks than they can hold, while the more modern monasteries seem to be lacking in vocations. I just hope there’s room for me when my time comes - I know God will work this out. :slight_smile:

Thanks, again, for your help!

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