Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 14, 2000
Buddhist monks and Catholic priests
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
My non-Christian friend has sometimes reproached me on the shortcomings of Catholic clergy. She asked me why our clergy seem to have such a problem with celibacy whereas Buddhist monks don't. She concludes they must be more "spiritual" than our priests. What can I say to her?
A few reflections on this topic may help you. Her statements are very much generalizations, as necessarily mine must be.
First, I'd like to say that there is a difference in media reporting of these events between the western world and in Buddhist countries where most Buddhist monks live. Therefore, it is difficult to verify the validity of such statements.
We need to realize that as a result of the intensive reporting and analysis that exists here, we might be left with the impression that most priests fail to keep their celibacy promise. But I would hope that the majority are faithful to their celibacy, difficult or not.
As far as Buddhist monks are concerned, we really don't know much about the celibacy required of them. Perhaps it is less severe - or more. But I do remember reading some time ago about some sexual scandal in a Buddhist monastery in another country.
Secondly, the cultural climate has an enormous influence on how humans live. I would think Buddhist countries still live a simply lifestyle (like our grandparents did) where the primary goals are food and shelter in the context of religion and close family relationships.
In this country, we have become a transient society so that many natural supports such as religion, family and life-long friends are too often lacking.
From what I understand, Buddhism is a prayerful system. And, there's no doubt, we Christians have a lot to learn about our own spirituality. We need to make God the centre of our lives, becoming aware of God's presence within us and within those with whom we live and work.
Then, everything we do becomes prayer. And, as Pope John Paul said "We need to find time each day to place ourselves before God to express our love but especially to let ourselves be loved by God."