Human sexuality is one of the most fascinating part of being human. I say this with a grin, because throughout my high school career, the closest I ever came to a sex-ed class was a classroom study in romance led by a priest. In my Catholic private school, this was the closest we would come to learning about sexuality. We understood that the journey would be self-led.
It may seem strange to some people to acknowledge that a priest, clergy member, or minister can struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors, but from my new knowledge of this subject, it is not strange at all. In fact, many individuals struggle with sexuality, no matter their religious preference. It is the most intimate, sacred part of who we are.
Our culture, however, is obsessed and hypercritical about sex. We use sex to sell everything from cigarettes to Swifters. When terrible sex crimes occur, there is a maddening outcry against the evil and the tragedy suffered by the victims. But there is also a keen interest in the details.
Crossing the Taboo Lines
The hypocrisy of our culture borders on the insane concerning matters of sexuality. If someone crosses one of the taboo lines related to sexual behavior, he or she often gets locked away. I heard of a story recently, in which, a 17 year-old female and her 21 year-old boyfriend had sex. The parents did not approve but also knew it was silly to force them apart—the couple was in love. However, the boy’s guardian found out and contacted the authorities. The young man was then charged with a sex crime, did some jail time, and is now a registered sex offender. Is this right? I think not.
What does it mean to think about sexuality? How does the Gospel interpret sexual brokenness? Well, I can honestly say I have no idea. In my humble opinion, God created man in the likeness of Him. It seems to me then that our sexuality is God-given.
Do Most People Struggle with their Sexuality?
How often do we think about sexuality? According to Phillip Zimbardo, boys watch porn on average of 50 video clips per week. The porn industry makes 15 billion, annually. According to Zimbardo, boy’s brains are being re-wired for change, excitement and novelty. This is a problem. How does one teach intimacy?
A survey, from Lifeway research, of over 350 men at evangelical men’s retreats in the early 90’s indicated 64% of respondents struggled with sexual compulsion. 69% of pastors agree porn has adversely affected the lives of church members. The majority guessed less than 10% of their members actually view porn on a weekly basis.
Why Don’t These Clergy Members Leave the Church?
Clergymen and women learn how to counsel individuals for a living, visit sick people in hospitals, and pray with people who are struggling. They believe this is their calling: to serve god. If they are so good with people and their heart is wide open, why the compulsive acts? Why is there intimacy impairment?
These individuals have learned to compartmentalize the spiritual world from the personal world. And because the church is so unforgiving of compulsive sexual behaviors, clergy members live deep inside the holy walls which were constructed to keep intimacy out.
What Does a Sex Addict Need?
As we know, there is a chemical imbalance to this world of addiction. Compulsive sexuality is no different. Addicts need something stronger than self will—something greater than an inspirational message. They need honesty, community, support, love, and a reintegration into a new, healthy life. This is where most stories end. The church is too often the last place where the clergy will find what they need. As counselors, however, we can do so much more.
How Can We Help?
- Assist with eliminating underlying emotional distress
- Help them Make a life plan
3. Honesty-explain that this new life will take some getting used to.
Lifeway Research (2011). Retrieved from http://www.lifewayresearch.com/
Zimbardo, Phillip (2011). The Demise of Guys. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge
Adina Silvestri is a licensed professional counselor, researcher, and counselor educator who works with adults and children in her private practice, Life Cycles Counseling.It is her passion to work with individuals with addiction through counseling, research and advocacy efforts with the hope of raising awareness to the lack of gender specific treatment and recovery programs. Read more about her at www.adinasilvestri.com