Self Injury and the Priesthood


#1

I've been reading a book called "To Save a Thousand Souls" by Brett A. Brannen. First off, this is a great book to any one considering the Diocesan priesthood. Secondly, there is one part of the book that got me worried. It talks about how self mutilation, in any form, is an impediment to joining the priesthood. Now, I used to be a self injurer about a year ago, but due to group therapy, a lot of encouragement from friends, and my college Jesuit priest, I can be happy to say I have stopped self injury and have no desire to ever continue it. However, I did tell me local vocation director about it, and wants to talk with me about them. I think I am more worried than I should be, because it's not like I continue the habit. There are about 20-25 scars on each of my shoulders. I had self injured as a way of coping with a close friend's of mine suicide. Does any Apologist know if this is a permanent impediment to becoming a priest? And I've been looking into religious order priests as well, particularly the Jesuits, would this stop me from possibly becoming one of them as well?

I know in my heart that God is calling me to spread the His Word. I'm just not sure exactly how yet, (Diocesan or religious order priesthood).

Also, I don't know if this matters, I was permanently disqualified from joining the military (at one point I wanted to become a military chaplain) but was told that although I am "mentally stable" (they sent me to various psychologists that told me I had recovered) they refused entrance to me.


#2

Welcome to Catholic Answers.

Your spiritual director will advise you wisely and fairly so it is excellent that you have an appointment to discuss the matter with him.
It is also a blessed thing that you have overcome the self-harming with the help of psychiatrists.

Your spiritual director does need to be careful as a priest will encounter many sad occurrences, suicides, the bereaved, people suffering from and dying of painful and debilitating illnesses, parents distraught regarding their children's marriages, their loss of faith, their divorces, their drug or alcohol problems, parental abuse, and so on, as well as his lifelong battle with chastity and the lack of a family of his own. At different times any of these things may press more heavily during his lifetime...because being a priest is not just about sharing the gospel and the Sacraments.

This is why it is essential that a man be carefully assessed before being allowed to enter the priestly life. For the sake of his people and for his own sake he needs to be able to shoulder more crosses than he may imagine when thinking of becoming a priest. I remember once seeing a tear falling from the eye of the provincial of a Religious Order, a holy priest of around sixty. "Tessa?" I asked because he knew I saw the tear fall...yes, a middle-aged woman dying of a brain tumor. The priest nodded, without a word. Another priest, in his late sixties, in another parish, even after a lifetime of funeral Masses, trying to control his voice when officiating at the funeral Mass of a little baby who had fought for her life and lost, a wise priest who a couple of times was provincial of another Religious Order.

You need to be able to bear more than a friend's suicide and remain balanced and calm yet never lose your humanity, the humanity that is still enough to bring tears to priests who have passed through a lifetime of other people's sorrows. This is why your application must be considered wisely and carefully.

May God's will be done, and may God help you to live and share His truth in whatever way He desires for you and for others through you.


#3

This impediment can be removed canonically. Just takes someone willing to do the paperwork. I.e., of the vocation director thinks you are a worthy candidate they will do the work.


#4

Thank you for the response. I have seen a lot of things that a lot of people normally wouldn’t see as a young adult or kid. I have seen my mother and step dad go through a divorce, I had a 12 year old cousin of my die from cancer, an infant cousin of my die from drowning before she turned 1, two great grandparents pass away, one grandfather go on, and numerous other things.

I find that although I have been through “a lot”, that these experiences only help me allow other people to get through them. I have saved a couple of friends from suicide and self injury, I have spent a good time counseling other people as well for various causes. It took me a lot to get through my own battle through self injury. And trust me, I am not “over” the fact my friend committed suicide. And I was depressed not just because she left, but because the world had practically forgotten her because she was a homeless individual. I just don’t want my vocation director to see my scars and think I can’t handle the priesthood. I’ve been through a lot and helped as many people as I could. I just hope that my vocation director, and God willing, allows me the chance to become a priest. The more I talk about this the more it seems God is calling me to the priesthood.


#5

The professional Apologists on staff do not participate in these forums; here we are all anonymous Internet posters. If you desire a straight answer from an Apologist regarding your question, please navigate to the Ask An Apologist forum and follow the instructions there.


#6

[quote="Elizium23, post:5, topic:299389"]
The professional Apologists on staff do not participate in these forums; here we are all anonymous Internet posters. If you desire a straight answer from an Apologist regarding your question, please navigate to the Ask An Apologist forum and follow the instructions there.

[/quote]

Thank for the information. I'll repost this question there. I'm still learning this site and I'm sorry for asking here.


#7

I've been reading a book called "To Save a Thousand Souls" by Brett A. Brannen. First off, this is a great book to any one considering the Diocesan priesthood. Secondly, there is one part of the book that got me worried. It talks about how self mutilation, in any form, is an impediment to joining the priesthood. Now, I used to be a self injurer about a year ago, but due to group therapy, a lot of encouragement from friends, and my college Jesuit priest, I can be happy to say I have stopped self injury and have no desire to ever continue it. However, I did tell me local vocation director about it, and wants to talk with me about them. I think I am more worried than I should be, because it's not like I continue the habit. There are about 20-25 scars on each of my shoulders. I had self injured as a way of coping with a close friend's of mine suicide. Does any Apologist know if this is a permanent impediment to becoming a priest? And I've been looking into religious order priests as well, particularly the Jesuits, would this stop me from possibly becoming one of them as well?

I know in my heart that God is calling me to spread the His Word. I'm just not sure exactly how yet, (Diocesan or religious order priesthood).

Also, I don't know if this matters, I was permanently disqualified from joining the military (at one point I wanted to become a military chaplain) but was told that although I am "mentally stable" (they sent me to various psychologists that told me I had recovered) they refused entrance to me.


#8

[quote="dreamurlife, post:6, topic:299389"]
Thank for the information. I'll repost this question there. I'm still learning this site and I'm sorry for asking here.

[/quote]

No worries, you posted in the right place for anonymous advice, we are happy to help you. We just can't say anything official on behalf of Catholic Answers.


#9

[quote="dreamurlife, post:7, topic:299389"]
I've been reading a book called "To Save a Thousand Souls" by Brett A. Brannen. First off, this is a great book to any one considering the Diocesan priesthood. Secondly, there is one part of the book that got me worried. It talks about how self mutilation, in any form, is an impediment to joining the priesthood. Now, I used to be a self injurer about a year ago, but due to group therapy, a lot of encouragement from friends, and my college Jesuit priest, I can be happy to say I have stopped self injury and have no desire to ever continue it. However, I did tell me local vocation director about it, and wants to talk with me about them. I think I am more worried than I should be, because it's not like I continue the habit. There are about 20-25 scars on each of my shoulders. I had self injured as a way of coping with a close friend's of mine suicide. Does any Apologist know if this is a permanent impediment to becoming a priest? And I've been looking into religious order priests as well, particularly the Jesuits, would this stop me from possibly becoming one of them as well?

I know in my heart that God is calling me to spread the His Word. I'm just not sure exactly how yet, (Diocesan or religious order priesthood).

Also, I don't know if this matters, I was permanently disqualified from joining the military (at one point I wanted to become a military chaplain) but was told that although I am "mentally stable" (they sent me to various psychologists that told me I had recovered) they refused entrance to me.

[/quote]

DreamurLife
A true call is identified by mutual discernment between the alleged vocation and the community he wants to join. It is not sufficient that "you are sure in your heart" as feelings can be deceptive.

In practice your recent case of self-mutilation will go against you. Regardless of whether or not you are not doing so at the moment it is a sign of an intrinsic constitutional weakness under stressful conditions. Religious or priestly life is not for the weak these days. Especially an order such as the Jesuits.

So I am sorry to say that this, if you have the eyes to see it, is a fairly clear sign that you may not ready for such a calling - and may not be for a long time. One year is nothing.
A wise director would probably not consider accepting you for at least another 5-10 years without incident.

How old are you by the way?


#10

Praying for your future and hoping you will be happy wherever you land.


#11

Have you become involved in a Parish ministry? Working as a lay person seems to be what you need to do in the moment while you are seeking spiritual direction. By the grace of God, you have been healed of the desire to inflict bodily harm on yourself. It is what we all need to do-if there is something keeping us from truly loving and giving glory and honor to God, we need to, through prayer, overcome it.

I am praying for you, that God's plan for your life will come to fulfillment. Jesus said to the Apostles, "Leave everything and follow me." If you are being called, God will let you know. Try going to a retreat and go to the vocation seminars.

God bless you.


#12

I am 19 years old. So I wouldn't be entering the seminary for some years any way. I still have discerning to do. However, the life of a priest is not anything new for me. And a year without self injury is a long time to not self injure. Especially at the place where I am now with it. I am not weaker than anyone else these days, self injury is a way of coping, granted a very negative way, but it is in no way a form of suicide or "giving in". It's almost impossible to explain to someone who has never done it before. It is like trying to explain the Bible to a Muslim, it just won't click unless you live it.


#13

I posted it in the Apologist section, but it got moved back here... :/


#14

So in the other thread, someone had asked me my age, which is 19. I won't be entering seminary for some four years or so any way, so that will give me plenty of time to solidify my discernment. Someone (I can't remember who made the post because it got deleted) but had wrote that a year not self injuring is not that long. That is actually an extremely long time for someone not to self injure, it's hard to describe self injury to someone who has never done it, because in itself it is a unique type of personal battle. This is like an alcoholic can't fully describe alcoholism to someone who has never drank a beer or glass of wine.

I don't think this should bar me from the priesthood forever, especially if it is what I feel called to do. I think because of my past with it, I may be able to relate to someone who self injures a non-self injurer never could. And that could potentially mean saving someone's life that no one else could.


#15

[quote="dreamurlife, post:13, topic:299389"]
I posted it in the Apologist section, but it got moved back here... :/

[/quote]

The Apologetics forum is an open forum like this one.

To ask an apologist, this is the link that you need:
forums.catholic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=4

An apologist may perhaps not respond immediately or even for a few days, as many questions are directed towards them.


#16

I was reading into the finer print of Canonical Impediments out of curiosity and discerning the priesthood. I realize this answers comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia and is consequently not definitively answering the question. It defense of New Advents information, the citations belong to Canonical and respected sources. Any ways, the answer:
“Mutilation, in the canonical sense, is the separation from the body of one of its principal members or of some part of the body having a distinct office, as a hand or a foot or an eye. He, therefore, who cuts off a finger is not a mutilator, unless it be the index finger or thumb, which, for a priest, are accounted principal members. Those who mutilate themselves or procure mutilation without just cause incur irregularity.”
newadvent.org/cathen/08170a.htm


#17

However, I must agree with several other people who commented that one year is a very short time to pass judgements on emotional and psychological stability. I realize that years have passed since that original post, but for any one who is looking into canonical impediments as I was may appreciate any insight.
My prayers are with you and those discerning priesthood.


#18

It’s not a permanent impediment, so long as you have stopped doing so. It is of course a concern, (and not to denigrate your personal struggle) but I have heard worse stories from my fellow seminarians, I assure you.


#19

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